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Magnitogorsk has enviable track record

by Dan Rosen
Metallurg Magnitogorsk is one of the most-decorated teams in all of Europe, and General Director Gennady Velichkin has been the man behind all of the success since 1991.
Velichkin took time out of his schedule to answer some questions from via e-mail. Of course, the main topic of discussion was the upcoming historic GV: "If it is truly just an exhibition game, let’s put away the glorious name -- The Victoria Cup. An ordinary exhibition game cannot have such a big name, can it?" The IIHF wants the Victoria Cup to become an annual tradition, do you agree that it could be and will it add value to the global game of hockey?

GV: "No doubt, it will. And, the IIHF’s intention to make the Victoria Cup an annual tradition is another thing that speaks loud: This is NOT just an exhibition game. It’s the beginning of a new history." Do you think your players can compete at the level of the New York Rangers, or the NHL in general?

GV: "We’ll have a more or less clear idea of this at 10 p.m. Oct. 1, after the game is over. For now I can just say: Why not? Players both in New York and in Magnitogorsk are professionals. They can skate well, shoot well, they can play the offensive and the defensive. In fact, there will be many details that will decide: physical conditions, mental concentration, motivation, etc. The result is unpredictable and the chances are 50-50, I guess." What does playing in this international game do for your organization in terms of marketing and fan support?

GV: "This international game is a great event in terms of hockey history first of all. We cannot create a big marketing program on the basis of one single match, I’m afraid. On the other hand, the name Metallurg is already well known in Europe since we’ve won several titles and trophies on the continent. So we have many fans in different European countries -- Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic -- and we hope to have many more after Oct. 1." Can you give us a history of the franchise, such as championships?

GV: "Metallurg joined the top Russian league in 1992 and in about three years became one of the leaders of national hockey. In 1998, the team finished second in the regular season and won its first Cup of Russia. In 1999 our club had a "hat-trick." We were the best team in the regular season, won the playoffs and gained our first Silverstone -- the Euroleague trophy. In 2000, Metallurg finished third in Russia and won its second Silverstone; in a few months the team also became the European Supercup holder. There was another Russian championship in 2001. In 2002, Metallurg finished third. In 2004, the team was second in Russia, and third again in 2006. In 2007, Magnitogorsk regained the Cup of Russia after a six-year break. And, in January of 2008 our team won the European Champions Cup in St. Petersburg. This season, we’ll compete for another continental trophy -- the renewed Euroleague tournament starts in October."

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