Former Caps goalie talks about his impressions of Hershey, Washington, DC, state of Colorado and notes that he hates country music and baseball.
June 27, 2012:
Have you ever regretted for a moment that you left to America?
On the contrary, I would regret if I stayed in Russia.
Darius Kasparaitis said that it is better to play where they pay you more. Nobody knows how long one could continue his career.
As for me, it's not an argument. However I signed a decent contract with "Colorado". I am happy with everything.
Was there someone who tried to talk to you for not going to America?
It happened quickly after all. I had to make a decision within two to three days. And I had to decide whether to sign a contract with "Washington." I decided not listen to anyone's argument and cut myself from the outside world. Turned off the phone, skype. Didn't even talk to my parents. I wanted to make decision by myself.
Why did you decide to disconnect from everyone?
I did not want to be interfered by anybody. I understood that I should I make a decision by myself for the next step in my life and career. I became a grown up man and had to decide for myself.
Was it hard to decide?
Not really. I was in America at that time, worked with my fitness coach.
Did you ever think during all that time that in Russia it would be less stressful?
No, although I saw how guys fight for the place in training camp and it was frightening. I've never seen this. People just kill to prove their usefulness to the head coach and general manager.
What was the most you were impressed with?
Probably fighting during practice games. Those were not the exhibition games, those were practice games. Like, people sit together in the locker room, but go out on the ice and beat up each other. What I was surprised the most that afterwards, when they come back to the locker room, there are no fights there. They shake hands, go out to dinner.
So for goalies there's less passion?
Of course. We don't have to fight. Our task is easier, not to let a goal. But there were no special friendships, of course. I don't think it is possible to have warm relations with your colleagues. We can talk in the locker room, but is unlikely we will to go out for dinner.
Did anybody put a broken glass in your skates?
No, but once my blades were taped. You go out on the ice and fall. I don't think it was evil. It was typical American humor.
Who put the tape?
It is not good trying to find out the details. And you won't find out anything anyway. Everybody had a good laugh and forget about it.
All these jokes are a bit wild.
For Russians yes, it's a different mentality. But in America it is normal. You can get your gloves duck taped too.
Do you also participate in such pranks?
No, this is not mine. I am from Russia too. But once I did. It was rookies dinner and I had to do this.
Did you put ketchup on shoes?
Yes, on masseur's shoes. Alex Ovechkin made me do that. He said if I won't do that, he will cut my suit next day. At one point I had to climb under the table, crawl towards massage therapist and ketchup his shoes.
Were you caught?
No. I crawled and didn't touch anyone, though my hands were shaking badly. When I returned to my place, someone knocked over a glass and said that everyone should check their shoes. The masseur was very surprised when he saw that his suede shoe were ruined. Everyone was laughing.
We don't have it in Russia for sure.
At the Locomotive rookies dinner I sang a [Russian] song, "A coward does not play hockey." Everyone enjoyed it.
Does the town really smell like chocolate in Hershey?
Yes, of course. There's nothing more there than a factory and a training rink.
If you live in that city a year or two, will you get depressed? Since there's nothing else, only the factory and an ice rink.
A year or two! You'll get depression after two months. It exactly began for me in eight weeks. I started to go crazy, there is absolutely nothing to do. I tried to communicate more with friends, to spend more time with other guys from the team as much as possible, but it didn't work because of my bad English.
They say that the worst city to live in America is Buffalo.
Hershey is worse. I've lived in big cities before, like Samara, Yaroslavl. So it was very difficult. But people who live there, they all like it. We always had a lot of spectators at the hockey arena, there are no other attractions in town. Hershey's arena can fit 10,000 people.
Can you name three must see places in Washington?
I'd take my friends to the Capitol. Great place, must be visited. We'd walk around the White House. And there is a place, I'll have forgotten what it is called, but I was a frequent visitor. It's park near the city, there are waterfalls, beautiful nature. People go there to relax, barbecue, spend good time.
What about the places one shouldn't be in Washington?
After ten o'clock at night it is better not to drive into the black neighborhoods.
You speak as if they were there after ten.
I was, once. Strayed from the road, turned the wrong place and realized that I was in trouble. I was almost stopped on the road.
The locals went out, foursome. They got up in the chain on the road, began to shout something. I certainly did not stop, managed to go around and stepped on it. Now I just try not to get back there again in the evening. They have their own laws.
Did you drive a nice car?
Yes, I had a decent one.
You can tell who is Russian in the NHL from the cars they are driving.
It's not only for Russians, but also for all Europeans. Somehow it seems to me that the representatives of the Old World just get nice cars. The Americans can also have a decent ones, but not so much. They are mostly patriotic, buy American makes.
Who has the coolest car?
Sasha Ovechkin has a decent car collection. Nobody, for example, from "Colorado", can be compare with him. We just have a very young team, not the highest salaries.
They say that even the wealthiest players in the NHL don't have the coolest cars. Rick Nash drives a truck.
That's Americans. They are so careful with money. They prefer to invest the money in home and this is logical, because the price for it will always grow. And the cost of the car will always fall after the purchase.
What kind of music makes you uncomfortable, doesn't tune you up for the game?
Country, of course. I totally hate it. You come into the locker room in the morning, you want to wake up, and there is country music. I don't know what they find in it.
You can turn it off.
But where am I against thirty people. But in Hershey I was in a constant struggle. Shouted to them that I can't listen to it. To no avail. They love country music.
Did you introduce Russian music to your teammates?
It was at Colorado rookies dinner. It was a team's party and I was a DJ. I put the music from my iPod. By the way, everybody liked it. Even asked where to download it. And from the artists they like Timati, he has a few songs in English. I didn't include the artists singing in Russian. They would not understand me.
And how do you feel about heavy gangsta rap?
It's okay. I like two or three songs. It is unrealistic to listen, I don't understand most of the words. They rap very fast, with a terrible accent. I think a lot of Americans don't understand it either.
You met with Timofey Mozgov, but could not get see a basketball game?
Could not, unfortunately. Our teams have very different schedule. But Mozgov has made a most favorable impression on me. The guy is cool. But, man, he is huge! I looked at him and felt like a dwarf.
How did you feel about the NBA? In America basketball is only in the third place in popularity.
To be honest, I don't follow it closely, but would love to go and see the game. In four years I was at two or three games. My preferences like anybody's, "Los Angeles" with Bryant, "Miami" with LeBron. I wouldn't go to the "Charlotte" - "Sacramento" game.
What about baseball?
It's a wild sport. But the rules are simple, I figured them out in half an hour. The main thing is to come to the stadium and sit down at the net, where the batter stands. And then you realize who to follow and who is running where.
Alexander Burmistrov admitted that after three hours at the stadium he almost fell asleep at the game.
Exactly, the same feeling. Two hours later, I began to cry, I wanted to leave. Four hours later, I became hysterical, I didn't know what to do.
You could leave.
I could not. The whole team came and I had to be at the game. But it was terrible five and a half hours. It's boring.
Do you have a better relationship with American football?
I even sometimes watch it on TV. As of Super Bowl, well, we watch it together with the whole team. Make bets, but I've never won. It is not clear at all where I put my money, apparently, I am not so good at this sport.
Have you ever be able to guess the winner right?
In the playoffs I always put on good teams, but none of them got to the finals.
Do you feel that in America hockey is less popular?
Maybe not in Washington, but certainly true in Colorado, not a big fanbase. I was recognized only once, I even was surprised. After you move from one state to another, you have to get a new drivers license. So I was doing it and the person who did that said that I had the same last name as the Avs goalie. I said, "are you serious?"
What are you still not accustomed to in America?
To smile to every passerby. It's nice, but after three or four months you get tired.
Fat women, is it really the scourge for America?
Not in all states. In Colorado it's not a problem. Very athletic state, a lot of slender girls. In Washington, it was horrible.