Two years ago, Igor and I visited Caps 2012 seventh round pick Sergey Kostenko in Reading, PA for an interview. Kostenko, who sadly is no longer with the Caps, previously played in Metallurg Novokuznetsk’s system in Russia and had a lot of great stories.
My favorite story was about newly honored member of the Hall of Fame, Dominik Hasek. The Dominator wasn’t just smart, he was an athletic freak.
A partial transcript from Igor’s interview follows.
How would you describe your goalie style?
Sergey Kostenko: Here is what happened once. We got a new goaltending coach, so he watched me play for a bit and then asked, “Hey kid, who taught you to play goal?” So I answered, “Nobody.” And then he said, “I can see that!” And, really, I just tried to pick up whatever I could from watching different goalies – a skating style from one, catching glove from another, how to drop on my knees from a third one, a little bit from everybody, put it together, and that was my style. Although, when I was just starting to play in goal, it was probably the peak of Dominik Hasek’s career, and he was amazing.
Is it even possible to copy how he played?
Sergey Kostenko: I think he is the only one who can copy his style! His flexibility was absolutely unequaled. I remember, the guys from Spartak (the KHL team Hasek played for in 2010-2011) were telling me, he would come [to a practice], get into a full split, and stay in it for three hours. He would sometimes even ask someone to go get him some coffee while he was in a split! My flexibility is not bad, but I would not be able to do anything like that.
How much attention did you pay to stretching and developing flexibility growing up?
Sergey Kostenko: Prior to getting into hockey, I did acrobatic gymnastics for a while. And then, about a year or two after I started playing hockey, I went to gymnastics summer camp – my brother’s godfather’s daughter was a gymnast, she was in that camp, and my parents worked out a deal for me to go there as well. I was 11 or 12 years old at the time. So then the parents came to visit their girls, and all of a sudden they hear these horrifying screams from the gym! So of course they would ask: “Why is this girl screaming? We are taking our girl back home!” And they would hear from the coaches “Oh, that – that’s not a girl, they brought us a hockey player; he decided to train with us!” And then they would run into the gym and see me sitting in this contraption, with a pipe behind my back, and two coaches pushing my legs [apart]. And I am sitting there, turned dark red, and no longer screaming – because there is no more air left in me to scream!” Yeah, those were some tough exercises!
Interview and translation by Igor Kleyner.