The club may have lost some positions in recent years, but HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper is still the most successful Estonian side in Baltic Handball League with three trophies in their club house. Furthermore, together with their domestic rival Serviti Põlva, they are the only two teams, who are about to start their 20th consecutive season in BHL.
Kehra is the smallest town in this season’s BHL with just little over 2500 inhabitants, but very few of those have no connection to handball. Since 1960’s has the game been played in Kehra and today’s club was founded in 1991 on initiative of the legendary player and coach Jüri Lepp.
Domestically, Serviti has taken over some records in recent years, but Kehra is still 11-time Estonian champion and 10-time cup-winner. Club’s most successful season was in 2005/06, when they added the first BHL trophy to a domestic double and reached second round in the EHF Cup-winners’ Cup. Kehra achieved two more BHL titles in 2011 and 2012 – last time any Estonian club has won the competition.
“Back in 2006 I was a 13-year-old fan, but I do remember how strong was our team with Marius Aleksejev, Kristo Järve, Roman Glinkin and others. With our assistant coach Jaan Kauge – who was part of that great team – we often discuss those times, especially what was done then and how intelligent were the players,” shared Kehra’s head coach Mart Raudsepp.
Moving on 15 years to present day, Kehra is preparing for another season. Three-time BHL winner played two games in Finland and participated at Põlva Cup, where Kehra beat SK Tapa and SK Latgols Ludza, but lost to VHC Šviesa Vilnius and in the third-place play-off to Celtnieks Riga by 33:32.
“I got a very good picture where we stand right now. Younger guys got more responsibilities, as key players Vladyslav Naumenko and Janar Mägi are coming back from injuries. Attack-wise the youngsters did good, but defensively and tactically there is a lot to improve,” summarized Raudsepp after returning from Põlva.
Kehra lost one of their main players from last two seasons, as Latvian international right wing Uvis Strazdinš moved to Swedish side AIK Handball. Otherwise the team will remain almost unchanged from last season, as the only new face is experienced playmaker Mihkel Vaher, joining from Aruküla/Audentes.
“Mihkel will bring experience and competition to our back line. But with left-handed players it has been tough. We negotiated with five-six local players, but did not manage to get them. So we are waiting for two Russians to arrive and after quarantine we will see, if they are the ones we need,” explained Kehra’s head coach the situation.
“I believe the new BHL is very positive development. Looking at the results and matches in recent tournaments in Klaipeda and Põlva, I am sure it will be an exciting season. There are four or five teams, who can win the BHL and if we get our squad completed as we want, I hope Kehra is among them,” assured Raudsepp.
HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper
Best domestic results: 11-time Estonian champion (last 2013/14), 10-time Estonian cup-winner (last 2015)
Best European results: reached 2nd round in Cup-winners’ Cup 2005/06 and EHF Cup 2008/09
Best results in BHL: winner 2005/06, 2010/11 and 2011/12
Head coach: Mart Raudsepp
Key players: Janar Mägi, Dmytro Yankovskiy, Vladyslav Naumenko, Viktor Nikolaev
Opening match in BHL: 02/09/2020 HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper – Viljandi HC
On photo: 18-year-old Sergio-Silver Kreegimaa (on the left) was Kehra’s top scorer with 23 goals in pre-season Põlva Cup. (Photo: Helin Potter).