Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday marked 65 years of Russian hockey, hailing the country's role in popularizing the sport and supplying the world with generations of elite players.
The inaugrual Soviet championships began on December 22, 1946, and the country went on to develop a first-class hockey program that bred world beaters. In time since, Soviet and Russian teams have won 25 world championships and eight Olympic crowns.
"The hockey history of Russia dates back to the first national champions, to the splendid beginnings of the country's best teams," Putin said in a congratulatory telegram to the head of the Russian Hockey Federation and legendary national team goaltender Vladislav Tretyak.
"We are proud of the triumphant pages [of Russia's hockey history], and recall the legendary names of masters and coaches. Our hockey has received deserved international recognition, and its alumni have long been part of the elite of world sport," Putin said.