* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
I know that today is the start of the new season for the amateur hockey league, which is also known as the night hockey league because the teams rent the ice in the evenings: first, because all the members have day jobs, and second, because the evening rents are cheaper. This is an excellent initiative and I want to thank all of you for supporting it. We have been giving high priority to promoting sports, particularly among children and teenagers, and young people in general, but there has not been enough support for this kind of projects that encourage adults to take up sports. This is a very useful initiative and I am sure it will promote healthy living, which is important not only for young people (although perhaps it is aimed at them first and foremost), but also for adults who enjoy sports, remember their past interests or discover new activities, as some of us here.
I am very pleased that our outstanding players — and hockey is certainly one of the most popular and loved sports in our country – have seized this opportunity and support the initiative on the ground, giving their time, travelling around the country and meeting with people. I've said this many times and I want to repeat once again that your every visit to the regions is a source of strength and inspiration for the local people because many of you are positive role models for millions of sports fans. I think that is very important.
I am sure that the new season, which starts today, literally in an hour and a half, will be a great success. Last year, over 2,000 people took part in the final part of the festival – more than 100 teams, including several women's teams. I am confident that this year will be just as exciting.
As planned, next year’s festival, which will take place on May 1–8, like this year, will not be held in Moscow but in the new Olympic stadiums in Sochi. I think this will be a landmark event and both the athletes and the spectators will find it very interesting.
I think that we should meet you halfway with regard to reducing the participants’ age and creating a special group of younger athletes. Last year, most of the players were over 40, and there was a suggestion to create another division, so to speak, where younger people will play.
Let’s discuss all of these issues.
I want to congratulate you on the start of the new season.