After the 10/12 match between Ak Bars Kazan and SKA St.Petersburg, played exactly in Vilnius, the interest in hockey in Lithuania has grown at a frenetic pace. More than 6000 spectators followed that match, won by SKA thanks to a shoot out goal by Maxim Sushinsky, and as soon as the match ended many wanted to point out a possible involvement of Lithuania in the KHL. Even if Lithuania isn’t a top notch hockey nation it looks like many have been hooked and that the realization of a new team is possible. What was really unexpected is that such team might play in the KHL starting from 2010/11 season.
On saturday there will be the official creation of the new team, that will be called Vetra, just like the local football team. It will happen to the press conference hall of Vilnius football stadium right after last Vetra’s last home match of the season, at the local 4 PM. Of course it’s still a long shot. The only notable Lithuanian hockey alumni are Darius Kasparaitis and Dainius Zubrus, but probably both are off limits for the new team. Probably they’ll get the needed sponsorships from the football team’s financing group, even if it’s hard to think right now that they might collect the money straight away to compete in such a demanding league like the KHL. Differently from Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan, Lithuania doesn’t have a big tradition in hockey, being this country more suited for football or basketball (they produced former NBA star Arvydas Sabonis and many more).
The hockey team’s GM should be Alexander Kharlamov, which was quite of disappeared in the last years, while at the press conference will be present also Roman Stasauskas and Anton Treushnikov Vetra’s football team president and vice-president. The latter is also the president of OPI Group Plc, who at this point is supposed to be the team’s main financial sponsor.
While all this is still a long shot, on Saturday we will know definitely more and nowadays the expansion of the KHL to Lithuania too seems really probable.