Today St. Petersburg celebrated the triumphants of the Gagarin Cup. Dmitriy Runkov went to Dvortsovaya Square to see the trophy and its owners.
Players of SKA bring out of a branded bus - squeezing through a crowd - something that St. Petersburg had never seen before. The 19-kilogram Gagarin Cup - silver in color, but golden in essence. The trophy earned in intense battles on ice across the entire continent is lifted by its winners.
The batallion of armymen from Neva recieved back-up in real military machines, with a fire horse - the team’s mascot - drawn on the armor. Fans meet the parading team with pure jubilation. The crowd ran the entire 3-odd-kilometer distance from the Oktyabrskiy Concert Hall to Dvortsovaya Square.
Dmitriy Runkov, reporter: «The St. Petersburg behind us motto received a real sense today. Depsite the rain, thousands and thousands of residents went into the streets to greet the winners. It seems that this moment has been anticipated for an eternity. And, finally, the Gagarin Cup is on Nevskiy Prospekt»
Even public transportation on the city’s main avenue was suspended for an hour, construction sites froze and bank clerks rushed outside - leaving clients and credits aside - to see the country’s best ice hockey players.
- We’ve been waitinig for this for so long, SKA are champions!
- I used to play for SKA, so this victory is so special for me
- We love SKA! Who’s the champion?
- St. Petersburg is the city we will always support!
The armymen were met by a horde of fans at the Dvortsovaya Square. The stars of SKA - just like ordinary witnesses of the extraordinary occasion - trying to capture that moment of universal jubilation for personal archives. For the team’s striker - Artemiy Panarin - this day also marks his last with SKA. Next season he’s heading overseas to the NHL.
Artemiy Panarin, attacker, HC SKA: «I didnt expect such a turnout. It seems the whole of St. Petersburg is here»
Dmitriy Runkov, reporter: «Will you put champagne into the Cup?»
Artemiy Panarin, attacker, HC SKA: «Maybe something stronger this time, the season is over».
Guard of Honour brings out the Gagarin Cup onto the stage - now it bears the three-later engraving so sweet for everyone in St. Petersburg. SKA. Players are thanked for their work by governor Georgiy Poltavchenko. Wearing the team’s jersey, the city’s boss encouraged the team to keep the Cup in the Northern Capital next year.
Georgiy Poltavchenko, governor of St. Petersburg: «We - in Leningrad and St. Petersburg - have been waiting for this for 70 years! It happened now - SKA are champions! The city has been feeling that this victory was close and it is here. Well deserved. Its very symbolic that our club achieved it after a Russian manager, a true armyman Vyacheslav Bykov took charge. They believed and they won, Leningrad-style»
SKA’s Head Coach Vyacheslav Bykov already knows the taste of victory in the Gagarin Cup. 4 years ago he brought the cup to Ufa. But its the first time - he says - that he has seen such incredible support from the whole city.
Vyacheslav Bykov, HC SKA Head Coach: «Im very happy and its hard even to express all emotions when i see all these fans who have come here despite the rain. Who are the champions today?»
Before the start of a celebratory concert at Dvortsovaya, all players received their personal champion rings. Those were presented to them by the club’s president Gennadiy Timchenko.
Ilya Kovalchuk, attacker, captain of HC SKA: «The club only employs people who love SKA. Our fans have been the best all season. Happy victory to SKA! Happy victory to Zenit! St. Petersburg rules!»
Today Head Coach Vyacheslav Bykov admitted - his already thinking about the next season. Replacements for departing players have been found, new tactics to surprise opponents are being worked on. But its all kept secret. Now the team has a much harder task - to show that this wasnt a blip and retain the Cup.