Russian Putin scores eight goals in All-Star hockey game

SOCHI (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin hit the ice in a hockey game on Friday in which he showed off his puck-handling skills and scored eight goals – a display that bolstered his image as a man of action.

A black belt in judo, Putin has long been keen to show off his athletic prowess, including training with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, hitting the ski slopes in Sochi or diving to the bottom of the Black Sea.

Skating alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian hockey greats such as Pavel Bure and Igor Larionov, Putin helped his team to an emphatic 14-7 victory in the Night Hockey League.

As a centre-forward, Putin had plenty of chances to score from his teammates and met little resistance from the opposing team’s defence.

Putin, whose popularity has plummeted in recent years as Russia struggles with economic woes, periodically plays hockey with government officials, businessmen and former National Hockey League (NHL) stars ) during matches broadcast with fanfare on national television.

After opening the scoring unassisted by beating the goalkeeper 2 minutes into the game, the 66-year-old added seven more goals, making him the top scorer.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alison Williams

Catherine J. Martinez