Meet Elmar. He is the voice of Neftekhimik Hockey Club. Elmar can be heard at every home game announcing the play-by-play moments – every goal, assist, penalty and referee’s decision, Elmar is the man who describes the action to the fans in attendance.
However, Mr. Abdullin is also the master of ceremonies for the entertainment side of things during intermissions and game stoppages. He is an intricate part of the atmosphere at the Nizhnekamsk Ice Palace, and is responsible for the smiles of many. An enjoyable hockey evening in Nizhnekamsk wouldn’t be the same without Elmar Abdullin.
So how did it all begin?
“Well, first of all, I was always a fan of the club even before I started working here. I’ve been at Neftekhimik since 2006, so coming up to 13 years. I was actually involved in the grand opening ceremony of the arena they currently play in. Before that, I regularly went to watch the team play at their old arena. My responsibilities here began in the role of an on-ice host. I remember I used to walk out onto the ice before a game started and I would throw chocolates to the fans. Gradually, my duties moved to the foyer. Initially, most of the entertainment was done on the ice, with very little to do for visitors in the foyer. We wanted to change that. We wanted there to be options for fans to enjoy themselves. We wanted people to move around the stadium with the knowledge that they would see something different and interesting wherever they went.”
At some point in 2008, Elmar travelled to the city of Ufa to watch a friendly game between Neftekhimik and Salavat Ulaev. This trip essentially became an inspiration to make additions to the foyer of the arena back home.
Elmar described what he saw in Ufa:
“Honestly, I was in awe of everything that was going on in the foyer of their arena. There was so much to see and do. Ufa had many merchandise shops and points of entertainment.
I was impressed by how much they had on offer for children. A day out at the hockey can be wonderful family time, but children aren’t always interested in the game itself from start to finish. They need to be entertained by some other means, and I saw that the arena in Ufa had many options for them – They had an entire children’s complex with full supervision. Parents could leave their children and enjoy the hockey game with piece of mind.
Our club’s direction currently is to attract the next generation of supporters. We understand that a supporter’s loyalty and love for their chosen club starts at an early age. First impressions are everything, even for kids. If they come to hockey for the first time and enjoy it, they’ll look forward to coming back again”
Now, the foyer of the Neftekhimik Arena boasts a stage for musicians, performers, special guests and competitions for the fans. There’s a virtual reality hockey simulation where fans can play with their favourite stars. There’s a penalty shoot-out area for children.
I myself have witnessed dozens of special guests for the fans to meet and greet during intermissions, including the Kamaz Master Truck Rally team and professional billiards players.
One of Elmar’s very own introductions to the entertainment program at the club is the karaoke competition during second intermission. The format is very similar to the karaoke based TV show Don’t Forget the Lyrics.
It’s certainly fun to watch, and the host adds an element of humour to the proceedings.
Elmar describes the karaoke competition:
“It’s actually a lot harder than you think to select willing participants. I’m standing there in front of up to 5500 people and the majority of them are shy and reserved. They don’t want to walk out onto the ice where thousands of eyes will be looking at them. I have only a few seconds to select three people for the competition to begin.
I like to have a bit of fun with the participants. I intentionally feed them the wrong lines to a song so that they get confused. Even if it’s a song they know and have heard hundreds of times before, when an arena full of people is staring at you, and then I’m intentionally confusing you with incorrect lyrics, sometimes your mind will draw a blank. But, if they’re successful despite my efforts, then they receive two free tickets to the next home game.”
Between hockey games, Elmar is a full-time master of ceremonies. He hosts weddings, social gatherings, official city functions, grand openings and banquets. His vocal style and delivery consistently incite a smile on the faces of his public. A consummate professional, Elmar Abdullin’s services are always in high demand.
A Neftekhimik home game just wouldn’t be the same without him.