Russian Rink Rattled by Meteorite, May Affect KHL Playoffs
Many hockey observers felt that Traktor Chelyabinsk would need a severe jolt to make noise in this year's KHL playoffs.
However, a meteorite blast probably wasn't what they had in mind.
Founded in 1947 with a polar bear mascot chomping hockey sticks long before San José's Men of Teal taught a shark to do that, the team never gave the city of Chelyabinsk reason to get excited. Back in the Soviet days, when local life was particularly depressing, it got to the national finals only once, losing to perennial power CSKA Moscow. That was about it. Nothing earth-shaking.
This season, though, holds some promise. A tenacious grip on second place in the Eastern Conference's Kharlamov Division has its fans hopeful of a long playoff run; KHL teams need a top-four finish in their divisions to make the post-season. Now, the immediate priority is to have an arena to host them. They've got a week to get it sorted. It's easy to see that some windows got blown out, but there is no clear indication that any structural damage occurred.
This brings to mind the old Russian joke during the Cold War satirizing the Soviet systems unreliable construction standards:
Q: What do you get if an earthquake strikes Leningrad?
A: St Petersburg!
Fortunately, this arena was built only four years ago, with a capacity of 7500. The KHL's popularity in general and Traktor's in particular is such that attendance this season is 98% of capacity, with demand so strong that the city, with the federal government's assistance, had approved the development of a new 20,000 arena complex earlier this year.
Details are still pending, but after today, it's certain to be meteor-proof.