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Story of the TeamEdit
In early 1970's, when the construction of the Meteor Ice Sport Palace began in Dnepropetrovs'k, Ukraine, rumors started that soon it will become a home to a substantial hockey team. Alas, the management of the rocket plant, Yuzhmash (the owner of the complex) preferred to support and develope figure skating, and it sure did - many known skaters came out of it, including 1994 Olympics Gold Medalist, Oksana Baiul .
Nevertheless, in 2002, thanks to the U.S. businessman, Edward Sartan, ice hockey "tree" was first planted at the Meteor Ice Palace in Dnepropetrovs'k anyway. Originally team debuted under the name "Meteor" in the Ukrainian Championship First League, then in 2003 was promoted to the Ukrainian Championship Major League and changed its name to "Dnipro Wolves" ("Dneprovskie Volki") "Dnipro Wolves".About the circumstances under which in the Ukraine a second after Sokol professional hockey club appeared and of its objectives, told the correspondent of "2000" Weekly Newspaper in the 2005 interview the President of the club, its first Captain and the President of Dnepropetrovs'k Oblast Ice Hockey Federation, Edward Sartan.
-- I arrived in Dnipropetrovs’k five years ago, when the agency office of Tradepoint was established here and I became its chief -- says Mr. Sartan. About a year later I learned that on a practice rink of the Ice Palace, hockey enthusiasts get together and from 6 to 8 in the morning play their beloved game, but using a ball. Such early practice time was determined by the ice time commitments of the rink, and to play with a puck was forbidden to them out of fear that it can hit someone or break something - many of the boards were missing and there was no plexiglas or netting.I am in love with hockey from childhood and that is why this information was of interest to me. I soon met the players. We started skating together. Some time later, our amateur group was invited to a tournament in Odessa, organized by the local oil and fats plant that had their own amateur team, Solnechnaya Dolina (Sun Valley). After the matches in Odessa and full of excitement from the experience an idea was born to organize a similar amateur tournament in Dnipropetrovs’k. We met with Meteor Ice Palace management, rented the rink for five days, bought the missing equipment and two and a half years ago held the debut of the Tradepoint Cup. Six teams participated in the competition, and as guests of honor we invited to Dnipropetrovs’k two Soviet hockey legends, participants of the famous USSR vs. Canada series, Vladimir Lutchenko and Viacheslav Anisin . The famous veterans liked our city so much that they promised to personally come out on ice and play an exhibition game during the next tournament. Last year the Second Tradepoint Cup was opened with a friendly game between Meteor and the veteran team, Russian Stars. Onto the ice arena came out such legends of Soviet hockey as, Yuri Blinov, Alexander Gusev, Victor Shalimov, Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Bodunov, Yuri Lebedev, Yuri Shatalov, brothers Alexander and Vladimir Golikov… Only Lutchenko could not come, because at the time he was working as a Scout for the NHL club, New York Islanders. This time, nine teams participated in the tournament itself.
-- This is probably when you got the desire to organize a more serious team in Dnipropetrovs’k?
-- Yes, we participated in Division 1 Ukraine Championship, but in the final match for the right to play in the majors lost to Khimik from Severodonetsk. Although, at the least we were not weaker than the other team.So before the next national championship we were psyched only for victory. In order to further popularize hockey in our region we decided to hold the Division 1 Championships in Dnipropetrovs’k. We made a deal with the management of the Ice Palace – the main arena was rented and the ice rink frozen. Incidentally, it was the first time the main arena was used for a hockey game. This time the key objective – to win in Division 1 – was fulfilled.
-- Then prior to your debut in the majors you considerably reinforced the team. At the same time, in accordance with the registration rules, you acquired the status of a professional club.
-- We made these decisions deliberately. Someone, for example, may not like it, that we signed professional contracts with 13 players from Kiev at one time, who previously played for Sokol, HC Kiev and abroad: Dmitriy Tikhomirov, Oleg Synkov, Alexei Bernadskiy, Alexander Mukhanov, Sergei Chumak and others. But this was an unavoidable step. Today it’s not possible to create a team, that could handle serious objectives, using homegrown players.
At the same time, in the future, the backbone of the group will be made up of local players. To achieve this, in September of last year we opened our own youth hockey school, where at this moment more than 40 kids are skating. I am confident, that in 5-7 years one of them will become the leader of our team. Regarding the registration, it is true, we became the second after Kiev’s Sokol professional hockey club in the Ukraine. This year, HC Dnepr-Meteor went through licensing and now adheres to all criteria of a professional club. Currently, Dnepr-Meteor consists of two teams: professional – Dnipro Wolves, which had already successfully debuted in the majors, and the amateur – Meteor (this team enrolled into Division 1 this season). As I already mentioned earlier, we have our own hockey school. Also, the club has an office and a legal address. We are in the process of developing an official web site. We will be improving the infrastructure (for now, we are renting ice from Meteor).
-- What objectives are set for Dnipro Wolves this season?
-- The team will have three intermediate goals: first, win (finish first the regular season) the Ukrainian Major League Championship, then, pass all play-off rounds, and ultimately, try and defeat Kiev’s Sokol in the final champion title match.
-- Will the major league home games be conducted on the main arena of the Ice Palace?
-- At the auxiliary rink for now. It also has good ice, it is not inferior to that one in Kharkov or in Kiev’s ATEK, the only disadvantage – small number of spectator seats. I clearly remember, that the final match of the Division 1 Championships, between our team and Dnipro from Kherson, there were 3000 spectators on the bleachers of Meteor Ice Palace. But to freeze the rink of the main arena specially for each calendar match – troublesome and expensive task.
-- During the last season, you yourself skated for Dnipro Wolves. Are you planning to continue to play at this season’s higher level?
-- I clearly understand that at 46 it is objectively difficult for me to compete with younger players. But that feeling of coming out onto the ice and all the hockey emotions... Therefore, I hope that the Head Coach, Vladimir Voloshin may let me out once in a while. Meantime, I would like to note, that the line-up decisions are strictly his prerogative and I never interfere in it.
-- It is not a secret that today Ukrainian Championship leaves much to be desired. Can we say, that in time your club is intending to move to a higher level?
-- If already in this season we win the national competition, in the next season we will try to debut in Belarus Open Championship. But to achieve this, we require a better financial base – just for our company alone to pull the club on such a level is hard. That is why, in the nearest future we will try to get few more sponsors involved in the financing of Dnipro Wolves. If we succeed in implementing our ideas, I am confident, that hockey club in Dnipropetrovs’k will not become a “one-night stand”. We have all the opportunities to become competitive team and play just as well as Kiev’s Sokol.
Home games plays at Meteor Sport Palace (5.500) or at Meteor-2 Ice Rink (300).
Official site: www.hockey.dp.ua