By John Harrison
Early on Sundays at 9.30, when most of us are appreciating a good lie-in, a group of lucky children are having a lot of fun honing their ice-hockey skills up in the impressive Megasport stadium near Dinamo. Kelly Allin, a partner at Deloitte & Touche Moscow who is one of the Canadian communityâs founding members, and has been here for over 15 years leads, inspires and organises an ice hockey group for mainly, but not exclusively expat children. The ice-hockey group âkeeps me goingâ Kelly says, and it also, thanks to Kelly, serves the incredibly useful function of helping children learn ice hockey in Moscow through having fun.
Why did you start to organise this?
I got involved around eight years ago because I wanted my own children to have the opportunity to learn how to play ice hockey, but could not find an opportunity for my children to play, that fitted with our schedule. A couple of Canadian friends of mine had similar ideas, and we created this âgroupâ.
Before that I used to play Broomball in Moscow, but always preferred hockey. I realized I needed to make a choice with my limited free time â broomball or hockey. By coaching hockey, there was the advantage of playing hockey and spending time with the kids.
I looked into some of the local hockey programs, but the times that Russian children skated, was during our school day, which didnât work out for us. There is another aspect â the Russian ice hockey programme for children is three to five times a week and very intense, and this would have been hard for our children to manage. So we decided to start some lessons ourselves. We had 6 children to begin with, which meant that hiring a rink for 90 minutes was very expensive. This has got a lot easier now as we average about 20 to 25 children, which means that the yearâs programme is still costly, but most people can handle it.
Do you organize competitions?
No, when we invite people our disclaimer â if you like â is that we create a non-competitive environment, in which children can develop their skill and love for the sport. Having said that, when the opportunity comes up for a friendly game, such as with the French school, which has a team, we will play a game, but the main thing is fun and learning skills.
What age group do you cater for?
Originally, I tried to bookmark it according to my kids, who at the time were in the 5-10 group, now there are more children in the 11-14 group, but we welcome children at any of these ages.
Are the children mainly expats or Russians?
They are both, and what is nice about this program is that there is the hockey but there is also the social side, as parents usually accompany their children and they can have a cup of coffee and socialise during the games. Thatâs the one part of being on the ice that I sacrifice, as Iâd like to spend some time socializing with the parents, but being on the ice and training is the most fun.
We advertise through word of mouth. About one third of the people who come through my work contacts, and most of the others are children of friends of friends.