Why Iím going there, and some are coming back. September 4, 2007.
Since childhood Iíve dreamed of playing in the NHL. Why? It can be explained with a trite but true phrase: itís the best league in the world. For me itís a real challenge.
Yes, I know that many guys are returning now to the Russian league. Some due to age and injuries. Iím talking about Alexei Yashin. Oleg Saprykin just returned to CSKA, and from Ottawa, where Iím headed. What was his reason, I donít know. Perhaps he didnít get along with someone. But I looked over his stats, theyíre good. He was playing and scoring.
At any rate, Iím sure Oleg will be back. If not now, then in a year. Heíll play here and get a decent invitation. I think he had problems with someone there.
I also donít know why Alexander Perezhogin returned. Looks like he spent too much time in the farm club. Perhaps they didnít trust him enough. But when I think about the fates of my countrymen in North America, I see Nashvilleís Alexander Radulov as an example. Because he left long ago and went through all the stages and is playing on the big team. And it wasnít smooth for him. But he went through it with clenched teeth and hard work. He set a goal for himself and reached it. Others did not endure as long, but I donít blame them, of course.
Who else came back? Alexei Kaigorodov. I heard heís got back problems. Maybe that was the reason, but as far as I know they were happy with him. Enver Lisin shouldnít have even returned. They were letting him play there, but somehow he ended up in the farm club. And he didnít like that. I believe Enver made a mistake. At any rate, heís gone back to the NHL now.
Certainly they pay a lot of money now in Russia. And to be honest I was offered a contract that was higher than that of the Senators. But for now moneyís the last thing on my mind. Iíll get that later, probably, but my chance now is the trip to the NHL.
I havenít even mentioned contractual bonuses to the team. Iíve got a two-way contract. I fully allow that I may get sent down, and Iím ready for such a challenge. Only I have to know that Iím playing for the farm team with the prospect of making the big club. Otherwise Iíll return to CSKA where theyíre waiting for me.
Many people are asking me whether Iím scared. Iíd have to say no. The main thing is to get there. The flight is a really tough one, with two stopovers, in Frankfurt and Toronto. In Ottawa, though, Iím sure everything will be fine. Theyíll meet me, lodge me at a hotel. And it should get easier from there. By the way, Ilja Zubov and Anton Volchenkov are already in Ottawa. I hope theyíll help me out, especially since my English is not so good. I know some things, tried working with a tutor, but to study a foreign language during the season is very difficult, as you can imagine. Hopefully Iíll quickly catch on during training camp.
I only know the plans going forward in very broad terms. I think itís practicing until September 13, and then all the prospects are gathered. There will even be three games. Oleg Saprykin says they show the fastest hockey in the world during these games. Everyoneís flying, showing themselves off. Twice as interesting.
I kept thinking here about what sets the National Hockey League apart from others. Probably it’s that if you’ve made the team, it’s because of you. Doesn’t matter who your agent is or who your father is. They don’t pull strings over there. You get your spot in the lineup yourself, without anyone’s help.
I didn’t take a lot of things with me to North America. Some clothes, my laptop, some equipment. Not everything, of course, but it’s better to have your own skates and shin guards. Took a couple of sticks, but obviously also ordered some in Ottawa. But what if they won’t be there right away? You still have to skate.
Don’t know how I’ll cope with acclimatization. First time in Canada, I can’t imagine what awaits me. And there’s a practice on the day I get there. Maybe they’ll let me just skate around and not ride me too hard right away.
My CSKA teammates for the most part were really good about my leaving. They joked, of course. Denis Parshin and Sergei Shirokov, my linemates, ordered a bunch of things and said to come back quickly. Not that they wished I’d fail, but we’ve really gotten used to one another. Finish each other’s sentences. Too bad our line’s breaking up.
By the way, Denis ordered a jumpsuit. Gave me his size. If I come back, I’ll definitely bring him a present. I want to stress that I’ll return only to the CSKA. It was very important for me to leave the team on good terms with everybody. And we settled everything with the team president and the head coach. When will I be back? We’ll see how it goes. Maybe in time for the New Year, but I’ll reiterate that my goal is to secure a place in the Ottawa organization.
I feel confident, however the only thing I lack is the physical part. But everyone who went through the North American system says I’ll pick up on that in no time. The physical conditioning will improve, the shot will become more powerful, endurance will rise. The rest is pretty much in order.
Also it’s curious just to live in another country. Everyone says Western people have a different mentality. Not that many NHLers played for the CSKA. Peter Skudra, David Nemirovsky, but they’re almost Russians. As far as actual Westerners, only this year Dragan Umichevich, a Swede, arrived. I didn’t have a problem communicating with him. We attempted conversation. I was using my mixture of English and Russian. Yes, English is a weak point for now. But I’ll try learning it. Perhaps in October my girlfriend will arrive, she’s fluent in English. She’ll help.
I’ll be staying at a hotel for the time being. If everything goes well, then certainly it’s possible to start thinking about real estate. But that’s really far off.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 02:18 PM.
As expected, a team representative met me at the airport. Started saying something in English very rapidly. Obviously, I didn’t understand anything and shied away a bit. My girlfriend helped: I phoned her and she translated. Turned out it was nothing serious. We had to wait for somebody else.
What that means is that I need to work on my English as soon as possible. The first day I had a physical. Ottawa’s defenseman Anton Volchenkov helped there. Thanks to him for that. By the way, Anton is training on his own for now. The training camp for the big club hasn’t started yet.
We’re staying at this five-star hotel, a very nice one. I’m sharing a room with Ilja Zubov, who arrived in Canada earlier and has become accustomed to the local way of life. So he’s helping me. Ilja describes his first impressions of being in Canada and they’re similar to my own. He too was in shock from the practices and games, but then got used to that.
Certainly, to better learn the language, it’d be best to room with a Canadian, but, truthfully, I don’t think I could do it. We wouldn’t understand one another and just not talk, basically. That would be tough.
Haven’t been out to the city yet. Absolutely no time because of the prospects tournament. And our rink is located in the suburbs, and the hotel is nearby. I hope there will be time to see the city, though. Right after the prospects tournament.
Visitors to the blog are asking if there is interest here in the Super Series between Russian and Canadian junior teams. To be honest, I haven’t noticed any excitement. And no one’s asked me anything.
We don’t have practices as such. Prior to a game we skate a bit, and not even every time. Before the Pittsburgh game they let us sleep. And before that the practice was a simple one: we worked on shooting the puck and entering the zone. Nothing supernatural.
Haven’t made friends with any of the locals as yet. Spend all the time with Kasper from Latvia (Kaspars Daugavins), my linemate, and Ilja Zubov. By the way, Kasper speaks Russian and English well. He helps whenever any problems arise. And another curious detail. We’ve played three games, but I haven’t met any other Russian players. In Ottawa it’s just us two, and that’s it for now.
I saw that the visitors to the blog were asking about my chances with Ottawa. Said I couldn’t count on the first two lines of the roster. Let’s wait until the main training camp starts. Undoubtedly, it will be extremely hard but I’ll try to make the team. Even on the third line. That’s still not bad.
Want to say to Denis Parshin that I haven’t gotten the jumpsuit for him yet. Let him cope on his own, there’s no problem in Russia with it. I’ll buy it only in case I’ll have to go back. And I wouldn’t want to go back; I’d really like to cement my place in the NHL.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 02:14 PM.
Already playing, already scoring.
September 12, 2007.
Had just one practice with the Ottawa prospects and then started playing right away. We’re having a prospects tournament. We’ve played three games. The first game was against Florida and we lost 2-1. Then our opponent was Toronto. We won 4-2 and I scored a goal. The first in the NHL. Speaking of which, Ilja Zubov scored two. The third game was against Pittsburgh. We won 3-0 and I had a goal and an assist.
I have the same linemates. Daugavins the Latvian and Donati the Canadian. The defensemen constantly change, there are no set pairings.
In the first game we played on the third line. But then for the next two were considered the first line. They let me play on the power play, but different players are out on the ice for the penalty kill.
I certainly was warned that these prospects games are very different from Russian league games. But so much? I have to say I was in a state of shock at first. But then got used to it. It became easier, and I’m used to the speed.
But the hockey’s really primitive here. Guys enter the neutral zone and dump it in right away. Why not make a pass? I don’t understand that at all. Instead of playing with whoever’s closest, they just dump it. That’s not my style, and I try playing smarter and more technical. The coach doesn’t say anything to me, so I assume he doesn’t mind. By the way, the head coach of the farm team is behind the bench. And he’s giving me some advice, Kaspars Daugavins translated. He suggested how to better take the body and skate.
I can’t gauge yet if my chances of making the big team have improved. It’s just that it’s really impossible to judge anything based on these games. When the main training camp begins with the big club, then we’ll see.
But overall everyone that took to the ice was in good shape. Everyone’s trying, running around. Guys are 20-22 years old. It really sticks out that they’re all real big.
Taking into account separate moments, one-on-one I think I’m as good as anyone else. And, if needed, I take the body. It’s clear that you have to be composed all the time. In Russia, at times, you can collect yourself, calm down.
Fights occur during games all the time. But only the tough guys fight and only among themselves. So one such guy from Pittsburgh fought twice with two of ours and lost both times.
Lastly, I’ll tell about the first goal of my North American career. We played it out with Donati the Canadian, my linemate. By the way, a very serious guy. He was born in 1986 and had 120 points last year in the junior league. So, anyway, I entered the zone and from a bad angle made a pass to him, going to the far corner, got the pass back and put it in. It was nice. Donati also set up the second goal. He sent Kasper and I out on a two-on-one and we fooled the goalie.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:50 PM.
“Shoot more,” Heatley told me in Russian.
September 18, 2007.
The most important period in my life has begun, the training camp with the big club. After the prospects tournament, which we finished with a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh, they announced that eight people have been cut and the rest are moving on. There was no discussion of the previous game, I guess the result didn’t much interest anyone.
Prior to the start of training camp everyone was called in for an individual interview with Bryan Murray’s assistant. I went with my buddy Kaspars Daugavins so he could translate. But it was short. I was told that I will remain with Ottawa and train with the big club. Keep doing what you did in the prospects tournament, and so on.
Right now we have about 40-45 guys skating. We’re split into two teams. I’m the only Russian on mine, since Anton Volchenkov, Ilja Zubov, and Kaspar are all on the other one. But this split is obviously arbitrary. If only because Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza are on my team.
We do have the first exhibition game at Philadelphia. I won’t be playing, and won’t be making the trip. But Ilja’s going. I’m not worried about this. Nothing wrong that I didn’t make that team. The head coach has to see everybody.
Pre-season training in Ottawa is very different from what I’ve experienced in Russia. The schedule is compact. At 10 AM we hit the ice, then it’s the gym, 45 minutes at max, and that’s it. Then you’re as free as a bird, do what you want.
On-ice activities also differ. Everything’s on a fast pace, there’s virtually no time to rest between exercises. We practice two-on-one and one-on-none breakaways, but not like in Russia. The speeds are really fast. Much faster than during the prospects tournament, but I already wrote how surprised I was by how quickly the guys race up and down. The easy part is that there’s just one practice a day. But still we skate an awful lot. You can tell that the best have been selected here. Each can make passes and receive them, and all at high speeds. No one’s an odd one out, which is also surprising. It’s a whole different level.
We haven’t had any cross-country. We haven’t been on the ground at all yet, actually. I think since the exhibition games have started, then we won’t be running anyway. Another curious moment is working out at the gym. In Russia we use the weights to set records. Lift some kinds of kilograms. In the NHL there are totally different exercises. I’ve discovered so many new things! How to perform balance exercises and work on your mid-section. I never did that. It wasn’t easy at first, but I’m used to it now.
I’m on a line with these two guys. One of them is Jim McKenzie, who was also at the prospects camp with me. The other one I don’t know. Haven’t really gotten to know my partners yet, and there are problems with English. It’s obvious that neither is a tough guy and both are playmakers. By the way, a guy came to camp for the “policeman” role. He used to be in cage fighting. Square kind of guy, huge. During the intra-squad game he fought a local colleague. Had a good battle. A few punches were landed.
During the intra-squad game I couldn’t really distinguish myself, although our team won. I took a penalty shot unsuccessfully, the goalie got it. Couldn’t say who he was, but definitely not Emery. He doesn’t skate with us at all. During the game I tried to take some plays upon myself, but it’s rather tough so far. I’m not as fast as most, but I’m working on that. I’ve got to keep trying. Especially since Ottawa has too many centers as it is, six or seven, I think. And roster spots on the main lineup are limited.
During the first practice I met Heatley and Spezza. Turns out Dany speaks a bit of Russian. He knows three phrases: “How are you?”, “Good evening,” and, what’s remarkable, he hinted, “Shoot more.” Probably learned from Ilya Kovalchuk.
Spezza skated up to me and began talking about my stick blade. He really likes it, and plays with the same kind, only right-handed. Jason started explaining something, but I said I don’t understand English. He said “Okay” and skated away.
Too bad I don’t chat with anyone in the locker room. I can ask how it’s going, and reply that everything’s fine. But I also understand more and more now. Speaking is really hard. That will come with time.
All in all, things are relatively good. I decided not to think about my chances of making the big team. Must concentrate on the training - then come what may.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:35 PM.
Ottawa reminds me of Yaroslavl.
September 19, 2007.
A day’s schedule, as I wrote before, is very democratic here. The ice at 10, then the gym, and from then on you’re free. What am I doing? Well, nothing in particular. After lunch a mandatory nap. Then I either just stay in the hotel room, or we go out. Once in a while we have sushi with Ilja Zubov, there’s a restaurant close by the arena.
I watch television, talk to my girlfriend on the phone, and browse the Internet. I’m following how the guys from CSKA are doing. I see they lost the last two games. But that’s all right, I’m sure it will be fine as they play on. It’s very tough to keep in touch with friends. I send text messages to Sergei Shirokov but they either don’t get there or get there too late. And my girlfriend complains about it. It’s like there are no messages for a long time and then a lot of them come. Tried phoning Denis Kulyash. No result.
I’m watching the sports channels on TV, obviously. Especially the one where they broadcast football, baseball, and hockey. I like football the most. I even understand the rules now. There is action, collisions, battles. Not rooting for any team yet, haven’t really sorted out what teams there are.
But baseball looks a lot more interesting in short segments. If you’re watching the whole game it becomes boring. Nobody’s running anywhere, everything is slow. I almost fell asleep once trying to follow a game.
I don’t go to the movies. What would I do there with my bad English? When it’ll get a bit better, then I’ll go, if there’s going to be a good movie out. I’ve already located a theater nearby.
I’ve been to Ottawa itself, but can’t get out there very often, because it’s thirty minutes by car from where we are based. What can I say, it’s a quiet city. Lots of small buildings. As far as Russian cities, it probably looks like Yaroslavl. Lifestyle is calm. Nothing like Moscow, especially as far as prices. After the Russian capital everything everywhere appears underpriced. But I won’t be getting a car yet. I don’t even need one here. We get picked up from the hotel on a minibus.
I haven’t met anyone from the organization. There hasn’t been any need and there are no unsolved problems. The only thing I have to do is apply for a credit card. But my agent is helping with that. I didn’t get a paycheck from Ottawa yet. The first one’s expected in October.
Another detail that’s different in Ottawa from Russian teams is that there are no team meals. You have to figure out yourself where to have lunch or dinner. Looks like it’s different on the road. But in the locker room during practices we have everything: coffee, tea, cocktails, fruit.
And we don’t worry about the equipment here also. We have two locker rooms. One adjacent to the ice, another adjacent to the gym. After practice you don’t think about your things. The next day they’re washed and in your locker. Maybe someday they’ll figure that out in Russia, too.
Reporters haven’t approached me yet, and I wouldn’t have anything to say to them. But obviously there are reporters present during practices. They come into the locker room after we’re done and interview Spezza, Heatley. I was told it’s the norm to be interviewed prior to a game in the NHL during morning practice. I haven’t had to do it yet, but I’m not used to talking to reporters before games. I mean, everyone prepares for a game differently. I like to concentrate beforehand.
Even though I was told they pull pranks on rookies here, that hasn’t happened to me yet. Most likely it will happen when the main roster for the season is settled. But Ilja Zubov has been a victim of a prank already. They put shaving cream into his towel and he got it all over himself. A typical American joke. Moderately funny and absolutely harmless.
And also I was scared into believing that in Ottawa they have a bad attitude towards Russians. I haven’t felt that yet. If you work hard and give it your all, then probably nobody cares about your nationality.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:07 PM.
I’m not taking faceoffs for now, they tear the puck away.
September 25, 2007.
So I’ve played my first games for Ottawa. And even though it’s just exhibition, I still had an amazing experience. The first game was against Alexander Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals.
Can you imagine, a sellout crowd for an exhibition game! I’m playing on a line with Daniel Alfredsson! I had about 12 minutes of ice-time. So little because I wasn’t out to kill penalties. Had one shot on goal, but didn’t have any other scoring chances. Just had one moment and I tried scoring.
There was no setup for the game. And game assignments are not really common practice here (or discussing a game, we just talk for about 5-10 minutes). It’s pre-season training, so people are getting used to things, and so am I. And I had to get used to everything: the speed, the physical battles, faceoffs.
That last element needs serious work. It’s very tough to win a faceoff in the NHL. I’ve got to work on my arm strength, since they just tear the puck away from me, and that’s not good at all, obviously. As a result I sometimes didn’t even skate up to the dot, the wings took the faceoff.
But I think I’ve gotten used to the speed. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, your concentration here must be extremely high, you can’t let up for a second. Everyone’s very good at keeping the puck. I’d like to point how quickly teams switch from offence to defense. I have to work on that as well. As far as reaction time, I was on the same page as everyone.
I also have to tell you about Alfredsson. Obviously, I’ve never played with a partner like that. A hockey player of a tremendously high level. If you make a pass to him, you can always get it back. And he gets open very well, and invites a pass. Never noticed a mistake from him. And about Spezza I can also say only the most positive things. But really, all this is difficult to put into words, you’ve got to see it. There are no set defense pairings. They rotate, so it’s possible to play with any of the three pairs.
The second game was against Montreal, but I played very little in that, only nine and a half minutes. Again had one shot on goal. Seemingly was in a good position, we had a two-on-one, the goalie deflected it, and then there was havoc in front of the crease but we couldn’t stuff it in.
I’m told to shoot more, and I’m ready to do so. But what am I supposed to do, shoot from behind the net? I’m trying and will attack at every opportunity. But I have to be in a good position. And I still enter the zone like I was taught as a kid, not just dumping the puck in. Although, sometimes that’s better. There is no rule about that, you just have to act according to the situation with the best result in mind.
The second period of the Montreal game was especially good for me, I was often out on the ice. Against the Canadiens I was on a line with Chris Neil and Denis Hamel. Yes, linemates constantly change, but for me the most important thing is playing, being on the ice. It’s a bit early to start choosing partners.
Looking at the physical conditioning, everything’s noticeably improved. I think I’m on par with everyone. I take the body. But obviously there are true masters of a whole different level here. It’s felt in everything, in every episode.
To return to the faceoffs, what also hinders me is that I’m playing with the stick I had during the first pre-season game with CSKA. All others broke, this is the only one left. I mean I don’t have one with the same blade I’m used to. I’d take Spezza’s, but his grip is different. They said I should get some this week. If this last one breaks, I have no idea what I will play with. I’ll have to take somebody else’s, I guess, but that’s a bit uncomfortable.
But there’s no real pressure. Everyone had a friendly laugh at Anton Volchenkov during the Montreal game, for example. He took all the pucks, wasn’t very lucky. Blocked about seven shots.
I haven’t been penalized a minute yet. You can tell hockey is cleaner here. There’s little hooking and it’s called right away. Most penalties are for that, and also for slashing the arms or grabbing your opponent. Everyone hits and that’s allowed. But I didn’t really have many chances to break the rules. Didn’t take part in any fights either.
I must say we have amazing goaltenders, yet they say there’s no number one yet. I really liked Martin Gerber. He’s so calm. And Jeff Glass is just as good. Looks like there are no bad goalies here at all.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:17 PM.
Will be breaking through the farm.
September 26, 2007.
After the Washington game eight more guys were sent down to the farm club. It’s strict. Now there are six units of five with the team. Still a lot, certainly. My new buddy Kaspars Daugavins left Ottawa. They sent him back to the juniors. Obviously, he was upset. He was counting on playing at least for the farm team. Well, it’s okay, he’ll try it again next season.
I heard the General Manager, Bryan Murray, said in the media that the contract they agreed upon with me allows me to return to the CSKA if I don’t get a roster spot on the main lineup. That is correct. But I have decided to remain in Canada even in case I’m sent down to the farm club. I’ll try breaking through from there.
But for now I don’t want to think about that. I’m enjoying working with a new team, learning, analyzing. By the way, my language problem is gradually, if very slowly, being solved. I’ve memorized a few phrases. Say some things myself. Greet my partners, ask them how they’re doing.
You can tell right away what hockey means to Canadians. It is astonishing! Montreal has a crazy area. I’ve never seen anything like that. They started making noise right from the pre-game warmup, and I even got so anxious the puck was sliding off my stick blade. Same thing in Ottawa. I was told people there read my blog and wish me luck. Thank you. Support of the fans means a lot to me.
Speaking of which, there are no fan sections here like there are in Russia. The whole arena yells, makes noise, chants. They wear the team’s jersey and support the team with such passion as if it’s the Finals. And it’s just pre-season games. But in our country, even if the arena is filled, they don’t root for their team like this.
After the game they wait for the players at the exit, ask for autographs. I’m rarely approached. But have already signed something. I have no idea where the person got my card from the world junior championship. Where did he find it?!
I’m not ready to speak with reporters yet. As soon as they hear I can’t speak English, they go away. But that’s all right, that will pass. I’ll be speaking no worse than others.
Although we played against teams with other Russian players, I didn’t communicate with them at all. Didn’t have a chance to talk, for instance, with Alexander Ovechkin. Also didn’t see Alexei Kovalev and Mikhail Grabovsky. I don’t know them personally, anyway.
I’d like to say a few words about our coach. John Paddock, it seems, has never raised his voice in his life. He’s always calm and kind.
After Kaspar’s departure, Anton Volchenkov helps me with translating. Or Ilja Zubov sometimes.
Ilja’s also coming along quite well. Plays with the team, looks good, tries hard. All the time between practices and games we spend together, obviously. A couple of days ago I bought a game console to pass the time. And we’re playing hockey. At least we can work on our shots there, if it’s not always possible to do that during games. By the way, Zubov plays hockey on the console better than me.
Games and the training process are organized on the highest level here. It’s enough to just say that we were given out schedules for every day until the regular season at the beginning of training camp. And everything is followed.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 02:26 PM.
I’m in the farm, but hopefully not for long.
October 2, 2007.
My girlfriend read recently that John Paddock has no complaints about my game and is happy with my work. But he’s still sending me to play for the farm team. And we’ll begin the season together with Ilja Zubov there. To be honest, I was counting on a spot on the main roster. And I believe I can be of use to the Senators. And I won’t lie, I’ve gotten used to the team, adapted to the style of play. But the main trouble is the lack of English. The coach insists it’s a serious problem. He’s unable to suggest anything to me, to get his thoughts across.
Clearly, it’s no good that the coach communicates everything through Anton Volchenkov, to whom I am thankful for the help. For now I can only catch certain fragments, like when to go pressure, how to skate. It was harder during the first practices. I didn’t even know which exercises to do. Nothing like that now.
What to do? Now I will be breaking into the main lineup from the farm team. I want to start playing in the NHL very badly. I’ve said it numerous times on this blog and I’ll repeat it again: my main goal is to make my way into the world’s strongest league. And I’m not planning to retreat.
Hard days now await me. I’ll have to become used to a new team again, a new style of play. In addition, I’m seriously committed to learning the language. I will hire a tutor. I will be attempting to speak for myself. Even now I understand a bit already and remember words. But it still takes time.
The main thing is I need to know that my demotion to the farm team won’t be prolonged. That soon I will be re-called, that they’re counting on me, and I will be back on the main roster of Ottawa.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:17 PM.
They hit you even if you’re without the puck.
October 3, 2007.
Since I haven’t started playing for the farm team yet, I want to tell you about how we flew to Toronto where Ottawa played a preseason game. Before that I’ve only been to Montreal, we rode the bus there, didn’t spend a lot of time on the road, and everything went fine. But the trip to Toronto…
We got to the airport and went into the plane right away. To board the charter we didn’t have to show any documents, no one checked anything, which was unusual, obviously. I’ve never seen such amenities, as on the team’s plane. It’s not even business class seats, it’s better. You could lie down to rest during the flight. And the food is better than at a restaurant. But that wasn’t the end of my positive experiences. At a hotel in Toronto I was given a room with an ocean view. We sat there, looking at it.
But during the game with Toronto I wasn’t that effective. It just didn’t come, it was hard. I don’t even know why. The Maple Leafs are an unpleasant team for any opponent: solid, tough. They constantly hit. Even though some time has passed since you’d gotten rid of the puck, they still hit you. Maybe it was hard because of that.
I was on a line with Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil. I had a scoring chance, shot twice on goal. But the goalie played it well both times. All these chances were in the first period for me, and then the game didn’t come. I couldn’t do anything.
But with Philadelphia I had my best game, I believe. I played a lot, assisted on a goal, and could’ve scored myself. There was at least one scoring chance, but I have only myself to blame. I drew a penalty twice.
As I said, I was part of a rush on goal. I passed to Neil who shot at the net, and Shean Donovan scored. I was given the assist. In Russia they probably would also give that to me, though sometimes they do not.
My faceoff stats have improved. In the Philadelphia game I was at 50 percent. Six times I won at the dot, and six I lost. Maybe it will improve with experience. But it’s still tough, I have to work on this element. Against Toronto I won one faceoff out of seven. But I don’t even feel like remembering that game. Didn’t have enough strength.
But I am getting used to the battles and the speed, anyway. I even kill penalties. During the Philadelphia game I was on the second unit. As you already know, there was a tragic event during this game. I’m talking about Steve Downie colliding with our Dean McAmmond. Truth be told, I’ve never seen anything like it. A horrific sight. Dean also unluckily hit his head on the boards. Yes, you can’t let up for a second here. But McAmmond, I think, didn’t even see the opponent jump at him. But it looks like he’s doing well.
After the games there were discussions. Ilja Zubov and I were called in by the coach, we were shown moments, told what was wrong. So, there was an episode where the opposition had a three-on-two breakout. In Russia, for instance, I remained at center, waiting for the third guy. Here it’s different. I must drive to the player, catch up to him, and the defenseman stays in the center. Sounds hard? Well, perhaps for some. I adapted rather quickly. And now execute everything automatically.
And finally I want to answer a question posed by my readers. In the blog comments people were wondering what I think about the new jerseys by Reebok. I must say, they’re excellent. They never get wet. They don’t retain water. I like them a lot.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 02:26 PM.
I’m living in the USA now, where Ottawa’s farm team is located. The move went rather smoothly. Ilja Zubov and I were provided with a car and a driver and we were on our way to where the team was. Got there in four hours, crossing the border was quick. Just checked our passports.
Didn’t really need to get used to the new group much. The same guys that were at the prospects camp are here. I know them all so it was easy getting into it. Ilja Zubov and I were given a hotel room, but in about two weeks we’ll move to a rented room or house. Binghamton is a small town, it’s hard to say what the population here is. Probably not more than of Cherepovets. But overall good impressions: it’s a compact, quiet town. A five-storey building is the tallest.
But the arena here is beautiful, seats five thousand spectators. No qualms regarding locker rooms, either. Everything’s like it is in Ottawa. The training process is set up well with either team.
The only serious trouble is the lack of sticks I played with all my life. The last one I broke back during a preseason game with the Senators. I have to use others. At the farm you can play either with CCM or Reebok stick. Good sticks, but I’d rather play with my own. Should have them delivered this week.
The first game of the AHL season we played against Albany, Carolina’s farm team. We lost 3-1. Again I was struck by the speeds. They skate faster than in the NHL here. Perhaps in the major league the thought process is bigger. After all, the level of players there is higher. The first period and a half I was just getting into the game. And was not happy with myself, and the coach had cause for criticism, too.
He commented that everything was good, as usual, but then stated that some things need to change in my game. The main problem is that I skate too much. Which is true, and in the third period I made a mistake because of that which led to a goal being scored on us. We pulled the goalie, I went in as the sixth skater. And I skated past a player in our zone who then made a pass and we were scored on. My fault. But, on the other hand, CSKA’s Vyacheslav Bykov asked different things of me. I had to maintain the speed, always remain mobile. It’s tough to switch right away. I won’t totally change my style, but I must adapt. I must really get used to the relentless collisions. And these constant dump-ins from every position are also not my thing.
But in this game our line also scored the lone goal. It was Ilja Zubov, who was moved to the wing. We played out a good power play setup. By the way, we’re often out on the power play, but rarely for the penalty kill.
I’m gradually learning English. I’m attempting to speak for myself. The club’s manager approached Ilja and I and told us Tuesday they’ll assign a tutor to us and we’ll begin studying the language seriously. For now, though, I can only say several phrases. I can ask where my sticks are. How to perform a given exercise. Understand a lot.
We have a good team. I’m told the club played poorly last year. But this time we should finish in a better position. There are lots of fine hockey players here: forwards Tyler Donati and Jim McKenzie, goaltender Jeff Glass.
There’s also another player from Eastern Europe, a Czech defenseman Tomas Kudelka. He knows a Russian counting rhyme: Raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’ — vyshel zaichik pogulyat’. And some other words. It’s all right, I’m sure with time he’ll have a large vocabulary.
Monday was Columbus Day in the US, a national holiday. There’s music everywhere, fairs. But most likely we’ll just stay in and relax. Because we don’t have days off, every day we either practice or play. Have to conserve the energy. I’m still not losing heart, despite being sent down to the farm team. I believe it will be easier to adapt to the North American style of play here, to understand what is being asked of me, to learn.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:10 PM.
Feels like I’ve played the whole season here.
October 16, 2007.
Finally I scored my first goal in North America. It was during the game where my Binghamton played Syracuse, a game we lost, unfortunately. It was a hard-working goal. I shot from the hash marks, the puck hit the pipe and bounced back to me. I shot again, and got it in the net.
Naturally, they retrieved the puck and gave it to me as a gift. And overall that game turned out to be very interesting. I have to say we should have been winning. We had a lot more opportunities than the opponent, but didn’t capitalize of them. For example, I could’ve scored about five times. And then we failed to kill a penalty, and broke down, I guess.
Also interesting was the game against Hershey. The Bears are a very technically sound team. There are fine players in the lineup that can also play physically with the best of them. But here things were different. We scored a very timely goal and finished the game with a win.
I’m playing a lot, can’t complain. I’m out on the power play all the time, they trust me. Though I’m out rarely for the penalty kill. Was out just once and we were scored on right away. So if I’m better when we’re up a man, then that’s where I’ll play.
I’m getting used to the fact that each game is a new challenge. And you must give a hundred percent in any game. But talking strictly hockey, I’m feeling very confident, as if I’ve been playing here all season long.
For two games Ray Emery tended our goal. He played quite well. But I didn’t see anything outstanding, although, of course, he’s an excellent goalie. We do not have poor goalies here, anyway. Ray brought our game up, no doubt. They say he fights, too.
Speaking of fighting, there were a couple of scraps in the game against Hershey. Our tough guy Jeremy Yablonski showed himself off in the best of lights. It all began when he selected as his opponent a guy four times as big as him. Since Jeremy doesn’t look that strong on first sight, his opponent looked huge. But Yablonski won, I thought. Landed a few exact punches. It was a rough fight, all in all. Even though the game turned out to be rather physical with lots of penalty minutes, I didn’t take part in any of these scrums.
I want to note that the last two games I spent with different partners. In the game against Syracuse I was with Tyler Donati and Cody Bass, and against Washington’s farm team I was with Josh Hennessy and Niko Dimitrakos. I don’t mind the constant switching, it doesn’t hinder me. You see, almost all the guys here are of the same level. And we quickly find common ground. So, in both games I picked up points.
Though whatever Cory Clouston, the head coach, is telling me I don’t understand yet. I know he’s trying to give me some tips. No, there’s not a problem during the post-game discussion. We watch video and I have an idea of what’s going on, but during actual conversation it’s still hard to understand words.
One thing I understood is that he was really upset after the loss to Syracuse. Not because of the loss itself so much, as with the unsuccessful performance on the power play. We didn’t shoot enough, though we worked on this during practice.
At least I’m happy that my favorite sticks have arrived, the ones I’m so used to. And I scored my first goal with one of them. I hope it won’t be the last in the AHL, and, in the future, in the NHL.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:11 PM.
Ilja and I went to the English teacher for the first time, and we have to confess, we did not like it. Spoke for an hour about nothing. We were taught simple words: “table”, “door”. Generally speaking, what we already knew.
What we want to understand is how to make phrases, sentences. Learn how to talk about everyday things. Now I don’t even know what to do. We’ll go once more, of course, but if it will continue like that, then we’ll look for another teacher. We were expecting something else entirely.
But now for something pleasant, because we played golf here! The team had a night out with the sponsors, went to a special place. It was my first encounter with this new sport. I liked it. Should there be another occasion, I’ll play again. Although I didn’t have any success yet. Didn’t get it once in the hole. And I couldn’t make the long-distance shots every time. Didn’t hit it with the first swing. Often I either missed, or gotten a piece of the green. Good thing experienced guys suggested which club to use. It’s all right, the first step is always the hardest.
Playing golf is a bit of diversity. Because my day goes by simply: practice, lunch, nap, dinner, sleep. We almost never go out into the town, and it’s a really small one. Very few places to take a walk. So mostly just stay in the hotel. Also, Ilja and I finally went the movies. It was the horror movie Halloween. Knowledge of English was not really required. It was still pretty scary without the words.
Looks like soon we’re going to be moving to a house or an apartment, haven’t decided. But Ilja Zubov decided to buy a car. Obviously, he’s right, it’s convenient with one. But I won’t be doing that yet. But there’s nothing else to spend money on. Although, as you know, salaries of NHL and AHL players differ substantially. But I don’t have any financial problems, everything is great. First paycheck was on October 15.
I want to get back to our golf party. After the game we went to a restaurant, had a team dinner. Some speeches were said, though, obviously, it was hard for me to understand what they were about exactly. So Ilja and I just sat there together through it all. But there was no team dinner in our understanding, when rookies are responsible for paying for the food.
I’d like to note another detail. In the CSKA, and also in Ottawa, we would warm up before games with a soccer ball, kicking it back and forth between guys. They don’t do that in Binghamton. Everyone gets ready for a game by themselves.
During games here our mascot walks the arena stands. But I have to admit I’m at a loss as to what kind of animal it is. Though he’s very good at getting the fans excited. And if they like it, then everything’s all right. Now, after three home games, we’re going on the road. Very interesting how it’s done here.
So, all in all, I’m doing great. Looks like my parents and girlfriend will visit me only in Canada. And that’s an additional incentive to make Ottawa as soon as possible.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:12 PM.
Danny Bois and Greg Amadio, my teammates, are renting a house together. And they decided to invite Ilja Zubov and me over. Asked us what we’d like to eat. We chose beef and shrimp. The guys said okay, and set the time.
Had a good time, a good meal, and watched hockey together. Ilja was more involved in conversation. After all, he has a better grasp on English. I tried saying some things, didn’t shy away, but it’s not coming out that well yet. But we’ve established normal relationships with all the guys on the team.
I was told that during some teams’ practices sometimes even fights happen. We don’t have that. Why do they mostly occur? Somebody played someone else too harshly. Or shot the goalie in the mask, for example. But you come up and apologize, and everything’s fine.
I’m studying English. Remember I was saying how we went to the English lessons and didn’t like it much? Well, it’s all right now. We’re going to the same place, we have no complaints now. We’re being taught what we need. They make us learn a phrase, first by speaking it, then explaining its meaning.
Trying to learn how to write and read. I’m having an easier time reading. They don’t write much about the team here. Well, just report news. By the way, when we arrived in Binghamton the local newspaper printed our photo on the first page. I didn’t save the newspaper, but Ilja Zubov has a copy somewhere. And recently they wrote that a tough guy from the big team we sent down to us. He’s got an arm injury, and he’s recuperating here.
And from our team two guys were sent away, Tomas Kudelka and Jim McKenzie. It happened so fast. They were called in, something was explained to them, and they were gone. For the practice the guys weren’t there. At first I didn’t even notice their absence. Ilja Zubov told me about this later.
Also I want to get back to our trip to Norfolk, the farthest for our team. I have to say, we never even saw our baggage. We don’t carry it around, don’t do anything with it. We get to the locker room, all the stuff is ready. Amazing.
The days are still monotonous. Practice. Then sleep. We go out for dinner someplace, for lunch. But no real entertainment. With my first paycheck that I received October 15 I bought an iPhone. That’s all I really need. Speaking of which, the next payday is October 30. Do I need to say that there are no delays here?
We watch television. Not too closely, it’s there in the background. Although whenever baseball starts, we turn it off. It’s a very boring game. But we do watch football. I still haven’t picked a team for which I could root. I watch impartially. Read news on the Internet, and that’s about it. Whatever is happening in the country, aside from hockey, doesn’t interest me. Why should I worry about unnecessary problems?
My favorite thing to do now is practice. I await them and always participate with great attitude. It’s interesting to me. To be honest, I get a little sad when the practice is over.
I was told they don’t like Russians in the Ottawa system. They were scaring me with this when I was going over. But I have noticed nothing of the sort. You play, you give it your all, and people have an excellent attitude towards you. Perhaps someone had different situations. But I’m happy with everything. The only thing remaining is making it to the NHL.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:12 PM.
A few games ago I was injured. I was about to pull off a wrist shot at the net, raised the stick, and was hit in the back. To be honest, I barely finished that game.
For the next game it seemed like the pain dulled, and I was on the ice again. But during the game I unfortunately collided with an opposing player and fell awkwardly on that very spot where I was hit.
Sharp pain; I couldn’t breathe. Turned out to be damaged ligaments. I couldn’t finish that second game, and went to the locker room.
I only missed two games and then was back on the ice. Through the pain, through the uncomfortable feelings, but I went for it. Interestingly, they don’t give you anesthetic shots here like they usually do in Russia. How do they treat you? With massage. No pills, nothing. When I decided to resume playing, they wrapped the damaged area and off I went onto the ice.
Nobody rushed me into coming back. But they asked, of course, if I could play. Once I declined, because I couldn’t even make one good stride. Let alone shooting or physical play. Inhuman pain. I was even taken for an x-ray. They thought it could be a broken rib. But, thankfully that didn’t prove true. Only the damaged ligaments. Still, I didn’t miss practice. I skated individually.
Now I’m fine. Obviously, some discomfort remains, but I want to play so badly and not sit in the stands. Especially since Ottawa’s general manager Bryan Murray came to watch us. Not like there was anything to see. We haven’t scored a goal in the last three games.
But I can’t say we’ve been playing worse. We just can’t score, that’s all. Plenty of good moments in each game. I hit a post in the last game against Philadelphia. Just bad luck.
During the time off with the injury I was watching the games from the stands with the other players who weren’t dressed. I have to say our team is looking good, which means that these bad breaks are temporary. Without me Binghamton won two games, once coming back to win after being down by two goals. It was interesting to watch, too. Very dynamic hockey in the AHL.
But it’s a wholly different thing to watch a game from the stands. You want to take part. Another reason I sped up my return to the ice was the realization that it would be tough for me to get back into the rhythm. Even after two games it felt difficult, but if I were to take it easy I’d spend more time later getting back into the lineup.
The injury didn’t change my place on the team. I’m on the first line. I’m playing the same minutes as before. But the partners sometimes change. On the one wing it’s always Denis Hamel, but on the other it was Greg Mauldin the last game. Now, if we could only score.
Though I haven’t noticed any nervousness due to the losing. The coach is calm, and the guys also realize we need to fix things. We had a players meeting where the veterans spoke out. We talked, analyzed mistakes. We weren’t spared the slogans, but I think even without them everyone realizes that it can’t go on like this. Mainly it was Amadio and Dimitrakos who spoke. And others over 25 years old.
Now that I’m completely used to the team, I’ll say that our group is fine. Oleg Saprykin was talking as if everyone’s by themselves in Ottawa, nobody to talk to. But I don’t have these problems. And when you have a good group of players, then the wins will come.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:13 PM.
Zubov’s no help around the kitchen.
November 16, 2007.
My main activity outside of hockey is studying English. Ilja Zubov and I still go to the lessons like clockwork. And, I must say, there is noticeable progress. I can already exchange a few phrases with my teammates. They help me, by the way. They make an effort to say words slowly so that I can understand everything. And I respond. Though I still don’t understand the coach’s pre-game speeches. On the other hand, he says the same things every time. Everything’s clear without translation.
The atmosphere within the team is good. There was a team dinner. Binghamton took part in a charitable affair. Threw paint all over the ice. To be honest, I didn’t get the point. Though it was clear it was a benefit for children from an orphanage. And I got the paint all over me, although, thankfully, it washes off easily.
And in other news: Ilja Zubov and I have moved to an apartment. We’re sharing the rent. Big hall, two bedrooms, kitchen. If anyone’s wondering, it’s $850 a month. Prices are incomparable with Moscow’s. We have some guys that rent houses for $1,500.
What’s better in an apartment? You can cook something. But it’s mostly me around the kitchen. I can make borsch, fried eggs, spaghetti. And Ilja Zubov can’t cook. And can’t help out in the kitchen at all. Nothing to hide here.
The apartment is close to all the supermarkets. But totally empty. It only came with beds and a refrigerator. Had to buy everything ourselves, from bed sheets to spoons and forks. However, that’s normal. Several guys rented furniture, bought TVs.
We have a TV, but we don’t watch it. We’re waiting for the cable to be installed. We’ve set up an appointment, but the technician still hasn’t come. Though there wouldn’t be any Russian channels anyway. We aren’t hiring a maid, we’re keeping it clean ourselves. No problems with that.
I heard that the soccer season in Russia is over. And Zenit is the champion. Amazing! Though I haven’t followed the playoffs, don’t even know how anything transpired. I’m not crazy about soccer, I could watch Barcelona, maybe. Plus, in America you stop being used to soccer. They show some highlights on TV here, only rarely.
Ilja Zubov finally bought a car. A Porsche, but not new, though in great condition. We drove to New York City, met Gennadiy Ushakov, the agent. It’s a four-hour drive to New York City. We even encountered a deer on the way, running by calmly. Cool.
New York shocked me. I think even Moscow traffic is more peaceful. Or did we just catch the rush hour? Noise, clatter, signals everywhere, everyone’s running, cutting everybody off. Same thing in Moscow on Tverskaya at 6 PM. Anyway, drove to the airport and back. Didn’t see the city. And we’re not likely to go back, too far away.
You have to relish the off days. Recently we had a day free of practice. We went to visit Zubov’s relatives. Ilja’s sister is married to an American, they live here. We spent the evening with them.
Looks like slowly but surely things are moving along with my girlfriend Natasha’s visa. It’s a real hassle here with paperwork, but we’ve straightened it out now, sent off the necessary forms. I hope they give her the visa.
Our leisure time hasn’t changed. Practice, lunch, nap, dinner. Now we have road games close by. In the morning we skate on our own ice, then board the bus and drive to the game. Afterwards back in the bus and home.
Ilja and I wanted to go to the movies. However, looks like there’s no theater in our town. We searched but didn’t find one. And the guys on the team couldn’t remember if there are any in Binghamton. Just amazing.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:13 PM.
They even brought in a psychiatrist.
November 22, 2007.
I don’t even know what’s happening with us. We’ve lost five of the last six games. Interestingly, there hasn’t been much cause for the hard luck. We didn’t become softer, didn’t start playing worse. But the puck is not going in the net, and all the problems are because of that. Because of that we’ve lost confidence. We make too many mistakes in our zone.
It’s hard to fault anyone. The goalies make the saves and give us a chance, but still the opposition’s scoring percentage is much higher. I don’t even know how to explain it. At least we beat Pittsburgh’s farm team in the last game. It’s likely that the opponent, a very capable group, didn’t prepare for us. Just looked at our stats.
There are meetings without the coaches and with them, a psychiatrist even came to us. Obviously, I didn’t really understand him, but the guys said he didn’t say any magic words. Only saying that we need to believe in our strengths, keep the spirits up. Interestingly, after this we lost another two games.
Our coach even cancelled one practice. The whole team went bowling. Unlike with golf, where I couldn’t find any bearings, here I was in my element. Ilja Zubov got the first place in the team championship, and I placed second.
The schedule is rather dense here, even in the NHL it’s not so difficult. We had four games in a week. And on the road, too. It’s not really a big distance to travel, but you still need to recover. In Russia I’d gotten used to the sauna and a cold pool. There’s a reason they use these methods during our season. But in my present club there’s nothing like that. In Ottawa, though, they had all of this.
My injury’s healed, there are no problems, although I’m not very happy with my game. In one game I scored two goals, but had many more opportunities. I certainly have to work on the execution.
There are also purely tactical problems. I haven’t fully adapted to the AHL, haven’t fully grasped the strategy, and make mistakes in certain situations. For example, on defense. Sometimes I would skate somewhere where I’m not supposed to be.
In light of this I don’t even want to recall my goals. Although the second one was pretty good. This is my best goal across the ocean yet. I don’t celebrate the goals somehow distinctively. Don’t jump on the glass, don’t imitate a swimmer. Just like always, I raise the hands, the guys skate up, congratulate me, and then I high-five those that were on the bench.
Speaking about my stats, I don’t really pay too much attention to them. But I know I’m second in scoring. Though, like I said, could be better. Not too satisfied with my plus/minus, which is even.
All coaches mix lines when a team is losing. We’re no exception. I’ve spent a few games with Nick Foligno, who was sent down from Ottawa. But then we went back to the original lines.
P.S.: I have been called up to the Ottawa Senators. All the details later. Thank you all for believing in me.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:13 PM.
Don’t even feel like talking about it.
November 23, 2007.
Honestly, I don’t really want to talk about such an NHL debut. That wasn’t how I’d imagined it. I can’t be proud of my actions against the Penguins. However, I’ll try to push away everything negative, come to some conclusions, and try my hardest next game to display everything I’m capable of.
But let’s start from the beginning. A day before the next AHL game, around 8 PM, Ilja Zubov, my Binghamton teammate and roommate, got a call. It was someone from the Senators. Asked to relay to me that I’m being called up to Ottawa.
They sent a limousine to Binghamton to pick me up. A real one, long and black. To tell the truth, I was completely shocked. What class! Drove to the arena, gathered the equipment, then got back to the apartment, and after that went on to Ottawa.
I got to the hotel only at 3 in the morning, and at 8 I was already up. The morning skate prior to the Pittsburgh game was starting. The guys received me well. We greeted each other, everybody was smiling. I exchanged a few phrases with the coach. He asked me simple questions in English, asking how the farm team was doing, how I was doing.
As far as I can tell, my call-up was due to an injury to Patrick Eaves. It’s something serious with his shoulder, and he’s out for a long time. I myself was almost taken out of the game during the pre-game warm-up. There was a moment when a puck deflected off a goalpost and hit me in the jaw. Thankfully, it didn’t result in a fracture. Just a swelling and the teeth hurt a bit.
But, of course, this accident didn’t cause my unimpressive performance. I don’t even know what happened. Maybe I just burned out. It’s hard to understand what came over me. But I’m not happy with my game. We didn’t have any opportunities to score, and the team was scored on twice with me on the ice.
The first one is definitely my fault. Evgeni Malkin beat me and put it in the net. But the second one was from the blue line, I couldn’t get in front of it. At any rate, I didn’t get on the ice in the third period at all, and played only 5 minutes 49 seconds in my first game. My linemates were Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly. We took the opening faceoff, but we’re really the third line.
Anything memorable during the game? Not really. The crowd probably liked the course of the game. Ten goals were scored, plus the shootout, too. Of course, I didn’t participate in the shootout, the team has plenty of experts without me.
There was a fight, Georges Laraque himself was battling. But I wasn’t paying attention to that. At one time Sergei Gonchar pasted me hard to the boards. I didn’t get a chance to respond, there was no opportunity.
All in all, not the best of moods. But there is time before the next game to collect myself. On Friday we didn’t have a practice on the ice, just the gym for those that wanted it. And on Saturday a game against Philadelphia. I’m hoping it will be successful for me and the team.
Last edited by ThirtyFive: 01-02-2008 at 01:14 PM.