A Hunger for Hockey


With winter approaching, it is perhaps sad to face the reality that warm weather, outdoor activities and long durations of sunshine are almost at an end.

A common phrase you might hear in Naberezhnye Chelny is “there’s nothing to do here in the winter”. My own personal experiences suggest that such an opinion couldn’t be further from the truth.

One of my favourite things to do in the winter is going to watch live professional ice-hockey, and I suggest that everyone staying in Chelny, or the nearby cities, does the same at least once.

If you are unfamiliar with the sport of hockey, don’t worry. You don’t need to know all the rules to enjoy the show… and what a show it is!

Near Naberezhnye Chelny is a city called Nizhnekamsk. It is about an hour’s drive away. Their hockey team is Neftekhimik. This team enjoys moderate success in the KHL: Russia’s top hockey league – which is basically Russia’s equivalent to the NHL in the United States.

Watching a Neftekhimik home game is an exciting experience. For about 500 rubles, you will witness hockey played at an international standard of quality. The stadium sits 5500 people.

As well as the game itself, an evening at the stadium includes entertainment in the form of cheerleaders and mascots. During intermissions there are many places within the stadium to take photographs, including the trophy section and some amazing hockey-inspired artwork on the walls.
Regular competitions and prizes create an interactive community atmosphere for the fans before the start of the second or third period.

If you want a memento of your experience, the merchandise kiosks are always filled with the latest official attire including jerseys, t-shirts, scarves and hats.

The atmosphere and adrenaline one feels during the game itself is something special. Hockey is a much faster and more dynamic sport than football, for example. The noise, the music, the dancing, the cheering, the suspense and the drama provide everything one will need for an unforgettable evening out.

But wait! There’s more! You don’t need to drive all the way to Nizhnekamsk to watch live hockey. There’s a club right here in Naberezhnye Chelny.

Admittedly, HC Chelny aren’t as good as Neftekhimik. Nor do they play in the KHL. They play in the VHL which is the nation’s third division.

The Ledoviy Dvoretz (Ice Palace) stadium in Naberezhnye Chelny sits 1500 fans, but these fans are vocal and loud enough to create a wonderful atmosphere just like their neighbours in Nizhnekamsk.

Tickets for a HC Chelny home game cost as little as 100 rubles. To put that into perspective – that’s less than the price of a Big Mac. For just 100 rubles you can experience the thrills and hard hits of local hockey at a professional level. In this writer’s opinion, it’s well worth it.

I found my love for hockey after watching just one live game. I hope my readers will too.

For further information, please visit the clubs’ official sites:

hcnh.ru – the website of Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik Hockey Club hcchelny.com – the website of Naberezhnye Chelny Hockey Club

Also, if you would like to learn about the short but interesting history of the VHL, their website has an English option. Visit - vhlru.ru/en/


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