Today, an important press conference convened at the headquarters of the Hockey Federation of Ukraine to mark the commencement of the Ukrainian Hockey Championship 2023/2024, with the inaugural round slated for October 1. Below, we provide an overview of the key highlights from the event.

Distinguished speakers at the press conference included FHU President Georgiy Zubko and representatives from five participating teams (excluding Dnipro).

As is customary for the leader of the organization overseeing this prestigious competition, Georgiy Zubko began by recapitulating the previous championship’s outcomes. He shed light on the nuances of preparations for the imminent season and shared his expectations:

This upcoming season marks the second consecutive year overshadowed by the specter of a full-scale invasion. The backdrop of sirens and rocket explosions has regrettably forged an unparalleled backdrop. It’s safe to say we’ve learned to play hockey amidst the chaos of war. While we sincerely hope that the 2022/2023 season remains an anomaly defined by wartime, the experience has afforded us invaluable insights into the complexities of conducting hockey competitions during such times.

The previous season saw its share of challenges, with matches frequently halted and postponed. Thankfully, no matches were canceled, a testament to the resilience of our sport. Our success in the previous championship was significantly bolstered by the unwavering support of international sponsors and partners. We cherish ongoing initiatives like the ‘Hockey Can’t Stop Tour,’ initially launched by Gord Miller in Canada, which continues to flourish. We also fondly recall Dominik Hasek’s visit to Ukraine, a moment that rallied the hockey community.

Our sport encountered significant hurdles due to issues with ice arenas, but today, our focus shifts to the plans for the forthcoming season. The Kyiv Sports Palace will once again serve as an ice arena, home to three teams simultaneously during this championship. Furthermore, hockey will reclaim the Odesa Sports Palace, and the ‘Kharkiv Berserkers’ club will find its base in Vinnytsia. It’s heartening that top-tier teams continue to believe in the growth of Ukrainian hockey, aligning their course with ours. We also hold hope for the attendance of fans, including those from our military and political leadership.

One of the highlights of the conference was the insight provided by Yaroslav Panchenko, a prominent striker for the Kyiv Capitals. He expressed his eagerness for the season ahead:

Our foremost goal is continual improvement with each game. With a new team, we’ve undergone rigorous training, preparing ourselves for the challenges ahead. Although we didn’t fully realize our potential at the Cup of Ukraine, I am confident that in the early matches of the championship, we will demonstrate our true capabilities.

Returning to the Ukrainian championship brings me immense joy, especially because I hail from Kyiv. Of course, my decision to return to Ukraine involved extensive discussions with my family and girlfriend, but we found common ground. The compelling offer from Head Coach Vadym Shakhraichuk and the club’s management was pivotal, but the paramount factor was my desire to return home. There’s simply no place like it.

During the press conference, journalists had the opportunity to pose questions to the federation’s head. Here are some notable responses:

The quest to attract spectators:

The presence of spectators in the stands is essential for any sport. Games with and without fans offer vastly different atmospheres. We have been advocating for at least a limited audience since last season. We have addressed such appeals to the relevant authorities, mindful of bomb shelter capacity. We continue to send these letters and hope for a positive response. The desire of fans to attend matches is evident, yet we have not received substantial justification for their exclusion. We observe various cultural events taking place with substantial crowds. We will continue our efforts to welcome fans back to hockey matches.

Championship format:

The season is set to commence on October 1. Each team will participate in 30 regular-season matches. In contrast to the previous season, tours will not be paired. Each game week will feature two matches, intensifying the sporting dynamism. Subsequently, we anticipate a playoff stage involving four qualifying teams. Each series will require one team to secure four victories for progression.

Hosting matches for three teams in Kyiv Sports Palace:

We do not foresee any issues with three teams sharing this venue. On the contrary, we are delighted to witness an abundance of hockey within the sports palace. We hope that Ukrainian fans will quickly adapt to this new dynamic. Depending on demand, this arena will accommodate either two matches a day or staggered scheduling, such as daytime and evening fixtures, which will debut on October 1.

The Kyiv Sports Palace is set to host Kyiv Capitals’ debut match in the Ukrainian Hockey Championship against “Dnipro” Kherson next Sunday, with the face-off scheduled for 14:00.

This season promises to bring unparalleled excitement and anticipation as Ukrainian hockey continues to fight. Stay tuned for electrifying action on the ice!