Thursday, December 30, 2010

Y'all ready for this?

Even though I live NEXT DOOR to the arena where the Mytishi Atlant play, I had yet to go to an actual KHL game until December 27th. My friend Hannah had hooked me up with a fellow LL teacher, a Brit named Adrian, who loves sports and makes it his mission to go to as many sporting events in foreign countries as possible (and he always buys a scarf in the home team's colours...a very cool idea because, as he explained, they're a great way to instantly bond with students on the first day of class. He decorates the classroom with all his scarves, which automatically prompts some hopefully good-natured discussion and debate over team rivalries!)

Bonus: One of Adrian's colleagues in Mitino gives private lessons to a major sponsor of the Mytishi team, so Adrian managed to score us free tickets!

What exactly is the KHL? For the best explanation for hardcore hockey enthusiasts, check out Nathan's blog - he does a MUCH better job than I ever could. For people whose knowledge of hockey comes from reading People magazine interviews with Carrie Underwood, well, all you need to know is that the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) is pretty much the Russian version of the NHL. With mullets.

Some American and Canadian players switch over to the KHL from the NHL, or get their start in the KHL, which is why I brought my Canadian flag - former Leafs and Canucks player Kyle Wellwood plays for the Mytishi Atlant, and since I've decided we need to be friends (Canadians need to stick together and all, plus I may have some Carrie Underwood aspirations myself...just sayin'), I thought I'd attract his attention by waving a big red Maple Leaf from the crowds. This, however, failed to work because I didn't see him at all! Maybe he wasn't playing that night. Regardless, I did manage to catch the eye of some Russian boys...

I'm not sure why, but so far the only Russian males I have managed to attract have been either very old (this is a story...or a blog post...for another time) or were babies while I was trying to sneak out of the house in eye shadow and listening to the Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue cd.

These two little boys and their friends were somewhat obsessed with me over the course of the game. It started when they saw my flag - the whispering and soft, shy smiles in my direction began. Then I noticed one of them clearly working up the courage to say something to me - in English nonetheless! I was impressed, and completely charmed by how cute they were. Adrian thought this was hilarious.

"You do realize that to them, you're the most exotic girl in the world?" he pointed out.

"Exotic???" I beamed. Being exotic has been one of my life goals since, oh pretty much when I first realized I was a boring Canadian.

"It's ironic though because you are literally the girl next door!" he laughed. It's true - I was supposed to meet Adrian and my friends Michael and Dina in front of the arena at 6:30. I left my flat at 6:29 and I was still early.

Anyways, the boys kept talking to me, asking me questions about Canada, what my favourite Canadian team was (I blanked and said Detroit...but that's because I honestly don't have a favourite Canadian team! I am vehemently - and traitoriously, I admit - anti-Leaf), and then they told me that number 17 on the opposing team (the Chekhov Vityaz, or Warriors) was Canadian. Sure enough, the last name on the back of #17's jersey was саймон = Simon (check out his wiki page...I'm not too impressed with his track record of violence and using racial slurs. He stayed out of trouble the night I saw him play though).

Anyways, the entire experience was amazing, and the night was so much fun! The crowd was very enthusiastic, and the energy was infectious. It reminded me a lot of going to OHL games back home, with the same music ("C'mon, feel the noise", ACDC, Billy Idol, "I Wanna be Sedated", and, inspiring the name for this post, the classic pump-up jam "Y'all ready for this?") and funny movie clips to get the audience laughing. Most of the movie clips here were in Russian, so I didn't really understand them, but one that was definitely impossible to misunderstand was of Ah-nold saying his classic, "Hasta la vista, baby." However, this being Russia, he was dubbed over a second later by a heavy Russian voice saying the exact same thing. It was hilarious!

The arena is very nice - huge and airy and bright. It was built in order to host the 2007 IIHF championships, and the arena is obviously very proud of that fact. There were a lot of pictures and commemorative plaques around the arena from the games, including some Canadian memorabilia:

Other things from the game that were interesting:

The zamboni getting the ice ready 15 minutes before the game

Just in case there were any doubts. Welcome to Russia.

Adrian, Michael, and Dina - it was Michael and Dina's
first hockey game EVER!

Me with the Atlant mascot - after debating whether it was a
wolf or a bear between us for a few minutes, Adrian and I asked the
experts - some Russians - and found out it is, in fact, a dog. Who knew?


The final score!! 3-0 for Mytishi Atlant!
We won!

(Weird how I'm now referring to the Atlant as "my" team, huh?)

It was 1-0 for the first two periods and 18 minutes of the third...which was ok, but kind of disappointing. You know you want a more exciting game than that. Especially when you consider that Mytishi is ranked #5 in the Western conference of the KHL, and the Vityaz are...last place. Plus, the Vityaz have a reputation for fighting a lot, so we were expecting a more action-packed game! However, bar one bizarre somersault/mid-air flip that a player did, the game was pretty tame (uh, just wait till I get to the exotic, cheerleaders though...) Finally, in the last two minutes of the game, the Atlant scored TWO amazing goals...and the crowds went WILD!!! That "woo hoo" song came on and everyone just started jumping up and down and screaming - it was so much fun!!

Ok, a note about the aforementioned cheer-strippers...sadly, or perhaps not too sadly, I do not have photographic proof of these girls. You'll just have to take my word for it. But seriously. There were two platforms high up in the stands where EXTREMELY scantily-clad girls danced with Russian flagpoles and did dubious "gymnastic moves." They changed their outfits (outfits? If that's what you call a bra and panties, sure) between periods. This was sooooo weird and creepy and just bizarre for me - there's no way something like this would fly back in North America. But oddly enough, the only people who were actually paying any attention to these girls were us foreigners - Adrian, Michael, and I...and Dina, who is Russian so it wasn't new to her, but she wasn't too happy about Michael looking at them, that's for sure. I was pretty scandalized, especially considering the little kids in the crowd, but for some reason, I was more exotic to those little boys in front of us than the dancers! They didn't look at them once! Maybe it's because they're used to it...I don't just seemed so strange. I've heard that North Americans and Brits are a LOT more prudish than Europeans in general - is that a good or bad thing?

Anyways, cheer-strippers aside, the game was amazing and I definitely can't wait to go to another one! On the way home, I made a detour to the perekrestok and met up with a huge crowd of Atlant fans (mostly teenage boys around my brother's age), who stormed into the shop waving huge Atlant flags and chanting, "AT-LANT, AT-LANT!" while they bought up some celebratory beers. Everyone was so excited and giddy, it was awesome!

I really loved getting to see another side to my fellow Mytishi citizens, and I want to keep going to more sporting events not just while I'm here in Russia, but anywhere else I'm lucky enough to travel to. It's such a fun way to get a feel for the country, or the city. And now I am proud to declare myself an Atlant fan for life...I just need to get a scarf for myself now!


  1. I a working on a documentary film for CBC about winter. We will be filming in Moscow next month and are looking for Canadians currently living there. Could you please send me your email so I can provide you more info about our film and what we are looking for?


    Terri Foxman
    Film Researcher in Montreal

  2. Obviously I need to be going to these hockey games with you! Teenage boys are my niche!!!

  3. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.