Firehorse first appeared in Saint Petersburg on the 22nd of February 2009 in a SKA game against Metallurg Magnitogorsk. On that day SKA won 3:0, and it became clear straight away that fans will love the mascot just as much as the team. Ever since then, SKA and Firehorse have become completely inseparable.
After deciding not to come up with another idea, he was left as Firehorse. You can't compare him with anyone else, and the number 46 is kept off the team sheet especially for him.
SKA's talisman is without a doubt a very energetic, playful and gentle natured kind of being. As a tradition he always skates out on to the ice before everyone else to greet the players. During the game Firehorse charges around the arena, celebrating goals with the fans, and in match breaks he can be spotted playing about with fans of the younger generation, helping them to win special prizes. He is always taking photos with the fans, and messing about with SKA's cheerleaders.
— Firehorse has already been able to become a big part of SKA, with him being a fascinating object of interest for all fans. The official SKA magazine Zvezda SKA sat down with Firehorse, who in real life is known as Nikolay, and found out that the actual person is just as warm as the talisman himself.
— How did you become SKA’s official mascot?
— It was a complete coincidence. I was sitting with my friend in the kitchen, and she started to ask me if I can ice skate. I said no, of course I can't, I've only being playing hockey for sixteen years! Then she said immediately that I will become SKA’s talisman. The previous SKA mascot couldn't actually skate, and I agreed to the offer without hesitation.
— Tell us more about your own hockey career...
— I managed to play in SKA a little bit, but not for long. After I had picked up an injury I went to Spartak, and it finished there. Overall I spent around 17 years in the sport.
— What was your position?
— I was a centre forward. The last successful tournament that I had was back in 1996: the Golden Puck cup. I scored a lot of goals! We got to the final, and that match turned out to be a bit strange. In the first period I just couldn't get the puck past the opposing goaltender. However at the end of the stanza, I finally managed to find a hole. I struck, and the goalkeeper just crouched down. I began to think that now he was afraid, and I managed to score 14 goals in two matches. But then when the netminder took his mask off, I saw that it was actually a girl. I was very embarrassed...
— How do you feel about horses overall?
— They’re nice animals. At one time I regularly went to the south of Russia, and rode horses for a long time.
— Do you remember your Firehorse debut?
— I remember skating out on to the ice for the first time. Before that I had travelled to the arena to try on the costume, and to understand how to skate in it, as you can’t see an awful lot in the costume, especially when looking down. You can barely see the stick, and the puck is practically invisible. Still having spent so many years playing hockey, it’s instinct. But when shooting, it’s basically guesswork.
— Did your first game go without any mishaps?
— Yes, I had been practising a lot. I spent around an hour and a half skating around in the costume as to get used to it, and the stadium greeted me really well on my first appearance, I couldn’t have even imagined such a start. When I was a young boy, I dreamed of standing on the blue line and listening to the national anthem. Although I didn’t become a professional hockey player, I now stand with the team every game and listen to the national anthem. My dream has come true! And I even have my own number – 46.
— Last year probably another dream came true – you played with the team at the season closing ceremony...
— It was unforgettable. I was sitting on SKA's bench, and all of a sudden the coach told me to go and play. I didn't even know who he was talking to. Then one of the other players forced me on to the ice. I replaced Viktor Tikhonov, and well, what can I say. You can’t compare those emotions to anything else.
— You’ve been in the Ice Palace for already four years, but people always want to take photos with you...
— More and more people want to have their photo taken with me. I have a good memory, and I can say that new fans are coming to the arena every game.
— Are there people who know you outside of the Ice Palace?
— Everyone has known my name for a long time. After I featured in a TV interview, people recognise me on a regular basis. Also after being on national TV, I even had to wear a hood when in the metro.
— At games who shows more interest – adults or children?
— Adults, although children are always bouncing around too.
— What relationship do you have with the girls who are in the SKA cheerleading group?
— Only a working one. I have a family: a wife and a young daughter. I can swallow up the girls during games with my big mouth, but nothing more than that.