After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was not immediately a significant area on the hockey world’s map. Due to its not very suitable climatic conditions and almost zero tradition, hockey stood in the shadows even though it was quite popular among many Kazakhs.
Talented players born in Kazakhstan very soon left to play for Russian clubs. The era of the independent national team started the same as for other newly independent post-Soviet countries – they had to play in Group C of the World Championship – but Kazakhstan managed to move up the ladder quite quickly.
The Winter Olympic Games in 1998 in Nagano were one of the first peaks, when the whole world could be convinced of the strength of Kazakh hockey. The Kazakhs got themselves to the main tournament there and could size up their skills for example with the Czech Republic, Russia, and Finland – even making it to the quarterfinals of that Olympic tournament. A few months later the World Championship was held in Switzerland. In Basel and in Zürich, the Kazakhs experienced their first trip to the elite Group A. But all did not go well, they finished last of the sixteen teams and were relegated once again. The Kazakhs will have their second chance among the world’s best at this World Championship in Prague.
Even though Kazakhstan’s international contacts are quite fruitful, they play the world’s best teams rarely. And from time to time they play a match with a real hockey minnow – at the Asian Games, Kazakhstan often goes through something like a light work-out with, say, Thailand or Mongolia.
The year 1998 was a breaking year even for Junior hockey in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh under-twenty team was introduced themselves for the first time at the World Championship Group A in Finland, and they even advanced to the quarterfinals leaving Slovakia behind in their group.
Seven teams played in the domestic league last season, using a system where each team played one another over four rounds. Substantial differences between quite financially strong teams and amateur clubs have arisen – even in this domestic competition. The champion Kazzinc Torpedo Usť-Kamenogorsk lost only one point in twenty four rounds, while on the other hand, the last place club Jesil Petropavlovsk lost every game and on top of that, their goals against average was over eleven. In spite of such predictable results in league games, spectators in Kazakhstan go to hockey games in great numbers. Even in spite of the fact that not all Kazakhs can afford to pay the ticket prices regularly. A glance at the team roster, which moved up to Group A of the World Championship testifies to the fact the role the league champ Kazzinc Torpedo Usť-Kamenogorsk plays. This team alone has delivered seventeen players to the national team…Even in games for the Continental Cup this club’s indisputable quality can be seen.
But the very best players play in Russia, for instance, the brothers Jevgenij and Alexander Koreskov, who have not been missing from any important tournament in which Kazakhstan has taken part over the past few years. In the last World Championship Jevgenij was the team’s total points leader at the tournament and Alexander was fourth. In addition, Kazakh hockey has one real superstar but they can only hope that he will play with them again. Years ago San Jose Sharks goalie Jevgenij Nabokov played for Kazakhstan in the World Junior Championship. Then, when he wanted to switch and play for Russia as a senior the IIHF would not allow him to. In spite of this, it seems that Nabokov wishes for an exception to be made so that he can eventually play for Russia – so he probably won’t be seen in a Kazakh jersey soon. But then again, anything’s possible…
The Kazakh Hockey Federation has no official Web site.
You can find the results and the calendar of 2003/04 season HERE
The Kazakh national team has never won a medal at either the World Championship or the Olympic Games.
PLAYERSTop players: Jevgenij and Alexander Koreskov.
The team, which advanced to Group A of the World Championship
Goalies: Tambulov, Zinovjev, Kolesnik.
Defense: Savenkov, Sokolov, Tregubov, Kovalenko, Argokov, Bystrjancev, Kuzmin, Nevstrujev, Kuzmin.
Forwards: Kamencev, Cyba, Troščinskij, Semjonov, Komisarov, Kozlov, Polišuk, J. Koreškov, A. Koreškov, Krjažev, Jesirkenov.
Coaches: Nyšagin and Kyslicin.