The Loop

Russia By A Million

Youth hockey training in Russia includes full-contact fight practice, because of course it does

February 19, 2021

Forget baseball and the U.S. and soccer and Brazil. Forget rugby in Scotland and cricket in Australia. There is no more symbiotic relationship between nation and sport on God’s beautiful green earth than hockey and Russia. The cold. The toughness. The anger. The violence. The insular reality forever at odds with world-dominating ambition. It’s the perfect fit and we don’t want to hear a peep out of you, Canada. Sit down and shut up.

But if you don’t believe us, we’re happy to provide some references. Exhibit A. The team that started handing out AK-47s as player-of-the-game trophies. Exhibit B. This new footage of youth hockey training in Russia, which places a heavy emphasis on the sports’ most important phase of play: Fighting.

To quote The Loop’s own old-school scholar Chris Powers, this is why the U.S. gets silver and says thank you, sir, may we please have some more? In Russia, you wake up, get punched in the face, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. There are some downsides to that—CTE, PTSD, crippling social anxiety, etc.—but when the puck hits the ice, these kids are ready to rumble. Especially that big kid in yellow. After Coach Drago steps in to demonstrate the proper technique on one of his pint-sized puck wards, he starts throwing haymakers. We don’t specifically know what the “X Factor” is, but this kid has it.

This is all sort of in jest, of course. We’re not suggesting American youth hockey leagues start holding daily head-punching practice. We’re also guessing there’s plenty of Russian parents who saw this and were like WTF (only in Cyrillic.) But for now, we’ll just stick to the clumsy generalizations. In Mother Russia, fist punches you.