Expat Attendance Takes Flight At Soviet Wings Hockey Games

Stuck on a Saturday afternoon for something to do? Head over the Soviet Wings hockey games.

This is exactly what Jennifer Templeton, marketing director for the Soviet Wings, and Amerigo Tatel, who works for the American Embassy Community Association, had in mind when they decided to get expatriates more involved in local sporting events.

The two have organized family outings on weekends to see a Soviet Wings hockey game and go ice skating afterwards.

"It brings the families together," Tatel said at the Wings' game Saturday, which the Wings lost 3-1 to Lada Togliatti.

Shuttle buses leaving from the U.S. Embassy take families to the Soviet Wings hockey rink.

The outings have drawn up to 800 expatriate families on some weekends to watch a game that's not always entirely familiar to them, espcially those who hail from warmer climates than Moscow's.

"I had never seen a hockey game in my life before coming here," said Kathleen Gulledge, who came to Moscow from California. "We come to every game, I just love it. It makes the winter bearable."

The Soviet Wings team, which is now in sixth place out of 24 teams in the Russian Hockey League, has attracted numerous corporate sponsors who view the team's performance from boxes high above the rink.

"I started watching hockey games when I was working in Germany," said Yasuo Mishiro, a sales and marketing manager for electronic manufacturer TDK, whose logo is displayed on the Soviet Wings uniforms. "I really enjoy them now."

A family day package costs $40, which includes shuttle service, VIP tickets, a large pizza from Tulio's and beverages from Coca Cola, lunch and one hour of ice skating afterwards. A regular ticket costs about $7.

Tatel said he would like to organize more sport outings, such as basketball matches, for expatriates to attend. Templeton of the Soviet Wings said she also has plans to organize a corporate amateur hockey league.