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Kazakhstan celebrates 150 years of Canadian Confederation with star-packed Hockey Days

Canada and Kazakhstan share a love of hockey. On May 20 and 21, 2017, the Embassy of Canada to Kazakhstan (ASTNA) staged a hockey festival to honour that mutual passion and celebrate two milestones: the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation and 25 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Kazakhstan. ASTNA invited a number of hockey legends, including Ken Dryden, Igor Larionov, Billy Bridges, Dennis Maruk, Sami Jo Small, Sergei Nemchinov, Robert Kron and Brian Propp, to join Ambassador Shawn Steil at this festival, called Canada 150 Hockey Days in Kazakhstan. The festival evoked Canadian excellence and values, and raised money to support youth hockey programs. Canadian, Kazakhstani and other international partners spent more than a year planning Canada 150 Hockey Days in Kazakhstan. Other activities took place leading up to the May event as well.

Under a Canada-Kazakhstan “United by hockey” logo, the Embassy of Canada in Astana, Kazakhstan, created the largest celebration of Canada-Kazakhstan cooperation in 25 years of bilateral relations. Canada 150 and our national winter sport brought Canadians and Kazakhs together for two days of “first ever” events. Through a shared passion for hockey, these events highlighted Canadian values of inclusion and diversity, engaged youth and demonstrated Canadian technological excellence. The events reinforced Canada’s position as a preferred partner for Kazakhstan.

ASTNA celebrated Canada 150 along with 25 years of bilateral relations with Kazakhstan and many hockey milestones under a “United by Hockey” banner.

Canada 150 Hockey Days in Kazakhstan kicked off with a Gala Fundraiser dinner that featured a keynote speech by Mr. Dryden, who recalled the 1972 Summit Series. The dinner also featured the best of Canadian food and drink, a musical performance by the Juno award-winning band The Sheepdogs, a lively auction of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia, an exclusive one-on-one on-ice session with Mr. Larionov and more.

The following day’s events were held at Barys Arena in Astana and included a pancake breakfast for 1,200, served by hockey legends, Ambassador Shawn Steil and First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin. During the day, visitors viewed a commercial exhibition displaying the best of Canadian innovation at work in Kazakhstan and took part in a raffle of exclusive Canadian fashion, including a Fendi mink coat.

A Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit curated for Canada 150 Hockey Days in Kazakhstan by the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Craig Campbell and Phil Pritchard, the official keeper of the Stanley Cup, included the Canada Cup and items from Canadian and Kazakh men’s, women’s and para hockey. This exhibit helped inaugurate Kazakhstan’s new national hockey museum.

On the ice, hockey legends led master classes for local youth teams. Ms. Small led a clinic for Astana’s only women’s team. In support of the Kazakhstan Paralympic Committee’s efforts to launch a national sledge hockey program, Mr. Bridges brought in two new sleds in order to teach the basics. Following these friendly scrimmages, fans heard a fitting video message from the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Canada’s Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and were energized by Canada 150 giveaways and prizes, live performances from The Sheepdogs and a custom-made Canada 150 Hockey Days 3D video projection on the arena ice.

All this created much anticipation leading up to the Heritage Cup match. Team Canada was represented by former NHL stars and Canadian amateurs, with sledge hockey legend Billy Bridges serving as “secret weapon,” international and Olympic women’s hockey champion Sami Jo Small between the pipes and hockey great Ken Dryden as head coach. Team Canada faced off against former national team stars, politicians and imminent personalities representing Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s First Deputy Prime Minister clinched the winning goal in an overtime shootout for a 5-4 victory by Kazakhstan. The country’s Minister of Education and Science, meanwhile, was named “best amateur.” The victors received a trophy designed by the Canadian embassy and custom-made by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

At the post-game award reception, invitees dined on Canadian food and drink. After presenting player of the game awards, Ambassador Steil declared that “friendship was the real winner.” The approximately $25,000 raised during the two-day event will support opportunities for under-privileged boys and girls to experience the joy of hockey. The funds raised also leave a living Canada 150 legacy in Kazakhstan. The Heritage Cup will find its permanent home in Kazakhstan’s hockey museum in the Kontinental Hockey League Barys Arena, a symbolic reminder of friendship, diplomacy, inclusion and the shared passion for hockey that unites us. These were themes that resonated not only in Astana, but in other parts of Kazakhstan and in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan during a Central Asia outreach tour by Mr. Dryden following the events.

To learn more, watch this short video about Canada 150 in Kazakhstan and follow reaction on the Embassy of Canada’s Facebook page.

A gala dinner featured a number of hockey celebrities, including Ken Dryden and Igor Larionov. Wayne Gretzky Estates wine was served.

From left, hockey legends Ken Dryden and Igor Larionov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin and Canadian Ambassador Shawn Steil serve pancakes with Canadian maple syrup.

Ambassador Steil, Ken Dryden, First Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin and Igor Larionov officially open the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit as part of the inauguration of Kazakhstan’s national hockey museum.

The Juno Award-winning Sheepdogs brought their talent and enthusiasm to three performances in Astana, including a live radio interview and a performance.

Craig Campbell (left) and Phil “Keeper of the Cup” Pritchard (right) present the Heritage Cup (made by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) to the Kazakhstan Team Captain, First Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

#UnitedByHockey #Canada150 #ForTheLoveOfTheGame

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