Putin Celebrates His 63rd Birthday Playing Hockey

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday by taking to the ice and leading a hockey team of retired stars against a side of amateurs at the Olympic ice rink in Sochi, independent news agency Interfax reports.

Putin's team won, with the president scoring seven goals, beating his personal best from a similar game played last year, by two. The president's side included Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu and took place after Shoygu had updated Putin that Russia had carried out its first naval strikes in Syria, that occurred earlier today.

The two were joined by Soviet-born hockey legends Pavel Bure, Viktor Shalimov, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Katasonov and Alexander Yakushev. The opposing team featured officials and notable Russian businessmen including Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and his brother Arkady Rotenberg. All three are close friends of Putin's and have had personal sanctions imposed on them by the EU and U.S. as a response to Russia's involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

The match opened the Night Ice Hockey League, an amateur tournament held in Russia, and was broadcast on Russian television. At the end of the match, the crowd started chanting "Happy Birthday" to Putin.

Although the Russian President's love for hockey is no secret, his previous celebrations have been arguably more exotic.

Last year, in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, the Russian president decided to take a day off for his birthday for the first time since he becoming president in 1999, according to state news agency Itar-Tass. Putin spent the day in the middle of the Siberian taiga, 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the nearest village, according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov. On his return to Moscow, Putin told ministers he had spent most of his time hiking.

In 2013, Putin was lucky enough to be at a summit in Bali on his special day, drinking sake with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and, by his own admission, offering vodka to the officials in attendance.

Putin chose to spend his 2008 birthday launching his instructional judo film, titled "Learning Judo with Vladimir Putin," at the royal palace in St Petersburg, where he was also given a Siberian tiger as a present, although Putin did not reveal who had given him the animal, according to the BBC. He later donated the tiger, whom he named Masha, to a local zoo and once grown she joined other Siberian tigers in a wildlife reserve in central Russia.