Hockey Fan Abroad (Moscow)
Editor's note: Introducing a brand new special series called Hockey Fan Abroad where we catch up with readers that get the opportunity to see hockey abroad. To get this started up, we sent reader Jordan Letkeman to a Dynamo Moscow game in the good ol ex-USSR. Here is his report.
On a late November day, in the fine cold autumn air in Moscow, there is hockey to be played. Luckily, I am here in Moscow ready to go see some of the best players play against a bunch of farm league-level comrades who hopefully are stepping their game up in front of their big brother NHL studded opponents. The game is Dynamo Moscow versus Severstal which proved to be a great match overall. It was Nicklas Backstrom's birthday and there was no doubt in my mind he would play up to the crowd of 5701 (yes, I was able to count every head in the place). The venue was definitely small and a little more than half full and was much quieter and calmer than what I am used to back home. Let's start with just getting to the match.
Navigating the stadium was quite easy since entrances were clearly marked on the outside of the building. For example we were in A1 so we knew which corner of the arena to enter. The people selling swag were good enough with their numbers to be able to say the price of items, and ordering my Nestea (dry stadium it seems) was simple enough since everything is on display as a sample so you can just point and they figure it out. The tough part however was getting tickets to begin with! Our hotel was able to reserve tickets and we got the driver to take us to the box office even to pick up the tickets prior to the game. This was insanely unmarked and even with a Russian translator it took us about 30 minutes to sort out where and how to get our tickets. An older woman who was trying to scalp us tickets finally understood we had already paid and helped our driver get sorted out. Signage was minimal so give your self some time and bring a Russian speaking person with you. Also go to the arena at least an hour before the game to watch the warm up. Nobody is in their seats and you can get right down to the ice. We stood right beside the bench for Dynamo and we got to talk to the coach (Oļegs Znaroks) briefly and my boss bumped fists with Alex on his way to the bench.
Video from the pre-game warm up
It had started off with Severstal going up 3-0 which made me eye a couple bottles of vodka that people were drinking in the stands, but I had to stay laser focused on making sure that through telepathy, I could some how will Dynamo's hockey sticks to start scoring. That's how it works, right? Whatever happened, Ovechkin scored a goal to start the landslide that was 5 unanswered goals including a goal and three assists from the birthday boy, Nicklas Backstrom. Dynamo didn't have much intensity in the first period but really picked up their skates more in the second and third to make it great hockey to watch. I really thought the game would be more physical when compared to NHL hockey, however, it seemed very civil and there were very few penalties and no fights broke out.
Maybe I am used to how often NHL players were sitting in the penalty box so I had a distorted sense of reality, but all in all they played the puck more often that the NHL. There were a handful of Russians wearing NHL jerseys and other attire. Obviously Caps stuff was the most popular, however, we saw saw a Toronto jersey and while walking out at the end of the game we actually saw a guy dressed up in a full Winnipeg Jets track suit getup from the 90's. We had to stop and say hi to him and asked him if they did any autograph signings. He mentioned the area and we just now had to remember to go there after the match.
Video of Ovechkin's first goal to start the 5 goal run.
In terms of the entertainment throughout the match, there were rink girls/cheerleaders that were cheering the team and those foreigners in the stands on. I don't know if the cheerleaders are double agent KGB but I guarantee that any one of them could have gotten any secret out of me in no time! Not going to lie, they were a great distraction during television breaks and play stoppages...we may have moved seats to be closer...just maybe...The ones I talked to had pretty good English and were very nice girls. So nice that when I asked her for a picture she was wearing a team sweater and when she agreed she just whipped it off revealing her much approved skimpy top. Such nice people the Russians can be and God bless their genetics!
Fans were enjoying the game but seemed a little less emotional when tensions were high. The one fun part about the crowd was the soccer style chanting, songs, and waving of scarves and flags. This was quite interesting and happened at every stop of play. Once Dynamo had locked in the win and the game had ended with a score of 5-3, the fans sang happy birthday to Backstrom after the handshakes of the players. After the game had ended we decided to head over to where the players come out. We were given directions to where they leave for the bus and parked it there for the next 45 min or so watching players leave.
While we were waiting for autographs out by the bus, Backstrom came out and was presented with a cake and we sang again. It was a great time and he was very involved with the crowd. Shortly after, Ovechkin came out and walked on the outside of the barriers and took pictures with lots of people and signed lots of items. My boss got a program and a shirt signed and we both got pictures. He easily could have gotten right into his car, but was pretty good about pictures and autographs. He ended up driving himself off in his white G wagon in a style that only presidents typically get. Full throttle out of the parking lot with a black G not 5 feet behind his bumper the whole way. Two more AMG SUV's were split behind him at a more reasonable pace but not reasonable speed. As a car guy that was actually quite fun to watch.
All in all we really enjoyed the game! It was great to see hockey again and I'm lucky enough to be out that direction in February and will make sure to catch another game. Until next time, safe travels from a hockey fan abroad!
If you get the opportunity to travel to another arena that's not the Verizon Center to catch a game, let us know! We'd love to chronicle your adventures! Email us at email@example.com!