BRATISLAVA – The Continental Hockey League’s (KHL) Western Conference won the league’s All-Star game for the first time in six years, defeating the Eastern Conference 18-16 in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Jan. 11 in front of 10,000 fans.
The All-Star game, which is more of an ice show than a match, featured Astana Barys stars Brandon Bochenski and Talgat Zhailauov, who contributed 5 points (goals plus assists) between them to the Eastern Conference effort. Little attention was paid to defence during the match, with players on both sides instead endeavouring to score as many goals as possible.
All-Star players, including the Barys stars, took part in different skill competitions before the match. Zhailauov won one of the skill competitions on speed and puck handling with his teammates. He also had one goal and one assist in the match. After the match, Zhailauov confessed to being nervous about playing in his first All-Star match, but felt that his hands and feet hadn’t let him down.
“This feeling is hard to express, when fans give their votes to you among dozens of other excellent players,” he said.
Bochenski also underscored that he wasn’t the only Barys player in Bratislava.
“This was an amazing, fun day [and] a great game, where for the first time in four years, Talgat Zhailauov and I, we both got to play in one line, were voted to play the All-Star game and even scored a couple of goals,” he said.
Bochenski, as usual, finished the game with two goals and now has five goals in the two All-Star games he has participated in.
“We just enjoyed this hockey night celebration together with the fans that were there and those who watched the game from a long distance,” he said.
Barys players have played in the All-Star game before, but this was the first time a Kazakh citizen took part in the famous match.
A press conference was held prior to the match, where KHL president Alexander Medvedev told the media that the All-Star game might come to Astana.
“A new 10,000-seat arena is under construction in Astana. As far as I know, it is due to be finished by the 2015-2016 season. And it is highly likely we will hold the All-Star game in the capital of Kazakhstan in the 2016-2017 season. The government has already bid to host it,” he said.
Barys fans at the match were few but united and mostly included the staff of Kazakhstan’s diplomatic missions in Bratislava, Vienna and Prague.
Prior to the match, the Embassy of Kazakhstan in the Czech Republic and Slovakia printed a special brochure, “Barys on Ice in Bratislava,” in Slovak, English and Russian. The publication detailed the development of hockey in Kazakhstan and told stories of the exploits of Bochenski and Zhailauov and other Barys players voted to play in All-Star games in different years.