Hockey Club Sokil Kyiv (Ukrainian: ХК Сокіл Київ; English: Falcon Hockey Club), commonly known as Sokil Kyiv or HC Sokil, is a Ukrainian Professional Hockey League team based in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. While their home arena is located in the city, the team also plays out of Brovary, still within the Kyiv region.
They are a founding club of the Professional Hockey League of Ukraine, and have formerly competed in the national leagues of Belarus, Russia, and the Soviet Union. Until 2014 Sokil remained the oldest and most accomplished team in Ukrainian hockey, winning 12 of the 19 Ukrainian Hockey Championships held since 1992. The club’s senior team was inactive from 2014 to 2020.
The club was founded in 1963 as part of the Dynamo sports society, and adopted its current moniker in 1973. They are the second major-professional ice hockey team to represent the city of Kyiv, preceded only by its short lived predecessor, also named Dynamo (founded in 1953). They are the most successful Ukrainian team to have competed in the Soviet Championship, finishing as high as third in the highly competitive circuit (1985) and producing several award-winning players. In 1986, Sokil managed to become the first and only Ukrainian-based team to compete in the Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament, where they would finish 2nd. They also became the first Ukrainian team to win an international league championship, doing so in the Eastern European Hockey League consecutively in 1998 and 1999.
Sokil is accredited with developing a majority of the country’s top young hockey players, producing NHL All Stars such as Dmitri Khristich and Alexei Zhitnik, and Stanley Cup Champions Ruslan Fedotenko and Anton Babchuk.
The team was founded in the summer of 1963 by the Deputy Chairman of Sports of Ukraine, Adrian Miziak, under the name of Dynamo Kyiv. 1963 may be the official birth date of the team, but it was a decade earlier that a Dynamo team from Kyiv would play in the Soviet Cup, making it as far as the second round of the playoffs. The current incarnation, however, would begin its hockey operations in the second tier of Soviet ice hockey, holding its first game on 27 October 1963 against SKA Kuybyshev. The team’s first head coach was Dmitri Boginov. Forward Viktor Martinov would score the first goal in club history two minutes into the match, and the team would go on to win the game at a score of 4:1. Martinov would go on to lead the team in goals that season with 16. Though the team would finish 6th in its inaugural season, they would go on to have the best record in their division the following year; earning a promotion to the top level of competition in the Soviet leagues. To open the 1965–66 season, Kyiv would boast the second largest arena in the Soviet Union. However, while competing at the top level, Dynamo struggled. During its five years of competition in the league, which included playoff qualification each year, the team would exhibit sub-par play. Sokil’s Soviet Cup playoff run in 1968 would prove to be a highlight in otherwise disappointing campaigns. Their elimination by SKA Leningrad in the quarterfinals would be the furthest the team would finish in the tournament for nearly a decade. In the following season, Sokil would finish the first round of competition in 10th place of 12 teams, resulting in a temporary demotion to the second-tier of competition. This would last the remainder of the season. They would finish 6th in this group of 18, and 12th of 24 in the record books. This poor showing would not prove a motivator for the following year, though the departure of coach Boginov would not help either. He would be replaced by Igor Shichkov, the team would finish dead last in the 1969–70 season, and once again become subject to outright relegation. The final three years under the Dynamo name would show gradual, albeit slow improvements; each season finishing one place higher in the standings.
For the club’s 10th anniversary in 1973, the club would drop the Dynamo moniker, a move which would have a lasting legacy. The historical white and blue colors of the Dynamo sports society would be kept intact, but the team would adopt the name of the “Falcon”, or “Sokil” in Ukrainian. Though Sokil’s play would remain inconsistent throughout the 70s, the hiring of Anatoli Bogdanov as head coach in 1976 would have an immediate impact on the team’s fortunes. By the 1978 season, the team would finish 2nd overall and re-ascend to the top of the Soviet league. In their first season back, great goaltending by Konstantin Gavrilov managed to overcome a poor offense, and ultimately allowed the team squeak into the playoffs, bypassing Avtomobilist Sverdlovsk by a mere point. This foray into Soviet Cup playoffs would prove to be one of the best runs in the team’s history, making it as far as the semifinals where they would ultimately fall to the legendary CSKA Moscow team. Unfortunately for the team, the Cup playoffs would not be held again for another 8 years. During this period of emphasis on regular season performance, several stars would begin to emerge from the team’s ranks. Between 1981 and 1990, six players would be named to the league’s 34 man All Star selections, 5 of whom were multiple time recipients.
Sokil would remain competitive, but the addition of homegrown forward Dmitri Khristich and defenseman Alexander Godynyuk in 1985 and 1986, respectively, would elevate the team to new heights. Their 3rd-place finish in 1985 would remain a franchise best, Ramil Yuldashev would claim the league award for most hat-tricks this year with 2, and Nikolai Narimanov would lead the league in goals with 26. The following year in 1986, Sergei Davydov would follow up on Yuldashev’s success and win the hat-trick award. Sokil would be invited to the Spengler Cup tournament where they would continue their success as finalists, succumbing only to Team Canada.
Winning the Tampere Cup in 1989 marked a turning point for the franchise, which would be a victim to the Soviet Union’s collapse. The coming down of the Iron Curtain would allow the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League to draft rising local talent and Kyiv teammate Alexei Zhitnik 81st overall in the 1991 NHL draft. Zhitnik would remain the highest drafted professional Sokil player to this day. Not all talent was affected, however, as Yuldashev would lead the league in goals in 1990 along with points in 1991, and Valeri Shyriaiev would be named the league’s top defensemen in both years as well. Following a 15th-place finish in 1992, the lowest in team history, the team and coach Bogdanov would part ways. This would also mark a change in the team’s official name to accommodate a new sponsor; the club competed under the name Sokil Eskulap (Ukrainian: Сокіл-Ескулап, Russian: Сокол-Эскулап) for only the 1992–93 International Hockey League (IHL) season. Bogdanov’s dismissal did little to curtail the franchise’s downward spiral, with the team reaching new record lows with head coach Alexander Fedeev at the helm. He would hold the position until 1996, which also marked the team’s parting of ways with the newly formed Russian Hockey League.
A positive product of these troubled years is the continued development of local talent. Future Olympian and Stanley Cup champion, Ruslan Fedotenko would leave the team in 1996 to pursue his NHL dreams. Kyivans Anton Babchuk and Nikolai Zherdev, products of the Sokil junior development program, would later be recruited by Elektrostal scouts in the Russian Major League. They would later be drafted into the NHL, both in the first round.