Hockey Fans Hit the Streets to Cheer World Title

APFans celebrating Russia's victory in the final of the World Hockey Championship on Manezh Square on Sunday.
Hockey fans poured onto the city streets late Sunday night to celebrate Russia's first World Hockey Championship since 1993.

Ilya Kovalchuk's power-play goal in overtime for the 5-4 win in Quebec City, Canada, came just before midnight, but that didn't stop fans from holding an impromptu parade in the city center, where many had watched the final in bars.

The streets were filled with cars honking their horns and waving Russian flags. Some revelers set off fireworks, and the last metro trains of the night were full of fans chanting "Ro-ssi-ya!"

Fans gathered in the center around 1 a.m., causing a traffic jam from Okhotny Ryad to Belorussky Station, said one fan, Nikolai Morozov, who had watched the game in a sports bar. "The people were incredibly happy. Every second car was flying the Russian flag."

Morozov was hoarse as he described the match on Monday. "My voice has gone, like everyone else's who was cheering," he said.

City police said the street festivities were good-natured, and there were no serious incidents reported.

"Everything was fine," said city police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev. "The people celebrated victory and came out on the streets. There weren't any arrests."

President Dmitry Medvedev telephoned head coach, Vyacheslav Bykov, after the game, the presidential web site reported.

"The president congratulated the team and wished them further success, emphasizing that success would have been impossible without the willpower and dedication of the Russian hockey players," a statement on the web site said.

"Medvedev said the victories in football, hockey and other sports we have seen were possible because of the successful development of the country in recent years."

The president called to congratulate St. Petersburg soccer team Zenit after it beat Glasgow Rangers in Manchester, England to win the UEFA Cup final last week.

State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov praised the players' patriotism.

"We saw how our hockey players gave their all," Gryzlov said, RIA Novosti reported. "It was the highest degree of dedication, the highest degree of readiness for victory, it was the highest degree of patriotism toward our country."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent a message of congratulations after watching the game on television, Interfax reported.

The city's bars did good business as fans came out to watch the game together.

"It was very busy, of course. People came to cheer," said Andrei, a supervisor at the Sportland bar on Novy Arbat, who said he was not allowed to give his surname. "The whole bar was full. There weren't any empty seats, everything was booked in advance."

Yulia Soldatova, an administrator at the Kruzhka bar on Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, said spirits were low after the Canadians built a 4-2 lead at the end of the second period.

"At first, everyone was upset," Soldatova said. "They didn't believe Russia could win."

But the crowds became more excited as Russia scored two third-period goals to send the contest to overtime.

"The fans sang the Russian anthem and waved flags," Soldatova said. "There was really great support."

Kovalchuk's overtime winner brought an outburst of emotion from fans, who have suffered with the team through some lean years since it last took the title, in 1993.

"Everyone had tears in their eyes," Soldatova said. "Everyone was crying and hugging each other."

The team, which did not lose a game in the tournament, was scheduled to fly into Moscow on Tuesday, said Irina Ponomarenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian Hockey Federation.

The players will be met by fans and reporters at the airport before going to a reception held by Medvedev at the Kremlin.