Photo: Geoff Burke
It has been a productive start of the season for Evgeny Kuznetsov. He has given his fans a team-leading 12 points, a hat trick, a highlight reel worth of spectacular moments of Harry Potter-worthy magic on the ice, and NHL Player of the Week award – not to mention his remarkably improved command of English language.
What else could we hope for? Well, maybe a nice long interview in Kuzy’s native language. Lo and behold, we get exactly that courtesy of Aleksey Shevchenko of business-gazeta.ru (who may be more familiar to some of the readers as @Boogaard_2), which we are happy to bring to you in its entirety.
Kuznetsov talks about Barry Trotz’s “iron discipline,” how he deals with the media, and his struggles with changing diapers.
[This interview was conducted before the Penguins game.]
How are you, Evgeny? Do you have everything you need? Should we send you pelmeni [dumplings], in case you miss Russian food?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: They actually sell pelmeni at Russian stores here. But you cannot buy tushonka no matter how much you pay. Nevertheless, I manage.
You were named the player of the week. What kind of award do you get with that?
EK: Nothing. As far as I understand, it’s mostly for the fans, not the players. Yes, it is nice, but no more than that. There are so many weeks of playing; nobody pays attention who is named the best for a particular seven day period of time.
You speak of it as it is no big deal. But the completion level is very high.
EK: Yes, of course. Your team may play a few games in a week, and the competitors don’t stop. It’s a good achievement, but you have to see it properly. The season has just begun, maybe others are not at the top of their game yet. But you have to bank the points from the very beginning, otherwise you may miss the playoffs by a point or two.
Many have seen your game against Edmonton, where you had 5 points. Surprisingly, you didn’t celebrate your goals much. So, you are used to [scoring goals now].
EK: I don’t score enough to get used to it. it just somehow turned out that way. Maybe I would have expressed my joy a bit more, but the teammates jumped in quickly.
The game against Montreal (on December 3) is highly anticipated. You are one of the most entertaining teams in the league, and the Canadiens are beating all the records. Are you expecting a lot from it?
I haven’t heard much about expectations of this game. See, the calendar is so packed, you don’t even think much about who your next opponent is. You just get ready for the next game.
Is that the first thing you had to get used to in America – not to think too much about the past game? Win or lose – just move on?
EK: Sometimes you get upset, but you cannot dwell too much. You cannot get your thoughts stuck on a win or on a loss.
Washington is the capital of the US, but it is relatively small and calm city.
EK: Very calm. A lot of people live in the suburbs, because it is more affordable. People count their money. Why pay higher taxes and rent when you can live ten minutes away much cheaper and without losing anything in comfort.
It’s nice that you already figured out prices and taxes.
EK: It actually concerns me less, but I understand that Americans are frugal. That’s normal.
By the way, how do you get paid by Washington?
EK: As far as I understand, there is a deposit every two weeks, either 14 or 15 days apart. It is automatically deposited into my bank account, you just get a text message about your balance.
The day we talked you had to take your wife to the hospital. Do you get recognized?
EK: Of course they know who I am, because our health insurance policy is in my name. So everybody knows that I am a hockey player for the Capitals. But in the city you can still remain anonymous. First of all, there are plenty of celebrities here, and I am not that famous. And secondly, it is not acceptable in America to just run up to someone, even if you recognize a person. Personal space is appreciated.
You recently posted a picture on Instagram and captioned it in English. Did you write it yourself or just copied from somewhere?
EK: Myself. What am I, a complete idiot, to not learn English in such a long time? I wouldn’t say my English is perfect, but I try to speak. It was difficult at first. I had tenses mixed up, could not figure out the pronouns, but eventually I got it.
You don’t really need any English in the locker room.
EK: When I talk with Ovechkin and Orlov, of course we don’t need English. But there are a lot of guys in the locker room who don’t speak Russian. They talk to you, joke, so you have to respond. I wouldn’t say my language skills are perfect, but if I want to get something across, they understand. And I have no problems at all with hockey terminology.
How do you deal with the fact there are so many journalists and you need to speak with them all.
EK: That’s normal. I realized one simple thing here. If you create good working conditions for the press, if you treat them with respect, they will treat you the same way. Players do not tell reporters off or refuse to talk to them. I think, if that how the players would treat the press in Russia, they would get only good stuff in return.
I liked how you gave your interview with foam on your face, as if you had practiced that before.
EK: When I saw Ovechkin with foam, I realized right away what was coming. When I was a rookie, that was a standard prank, so I knew what was going to happen.
But you didn’t even flinch.
EK: Oh, we had a team meeting during the preseason where we were explained how to behave, how to talk to the media, what to invest our money in. So that was one of the situations we were warned about. [They told us] not to flinch, continue to speak calmly, everything is all right. I just followed the instructions.
So how the money should be invested?
EK: I have my own opinion on that, which is different from that of the lecturers. It was interesting to listen, but I am not following their advice.
While talking to the media, is it wise to avoid sharp phrases, round everything up and keep your opinion to yourself? Is that the advice you are given?
EK: Oh no, not at all. A bit different. You just need to be careful with your words. Think before speaking. In that sense, I have changed somewhat. I have also grown up a bit. There have been a couple of moments already when I wanted to speak out, but I held on. It wouldn’t be good for anybody.
Which Russian coach is most like Barry Trotz?
EK: Petr Vorobiev (Ed. note: this is not his first mention on RMNB; read this Semin interview.). Though I never worked with Petr Ilyich, but that was my first thought right away.
So you weren’t surprised when he sat out Ovechkin for a game after he overslept and missed the morning skate?
EK: No, that is so much like Trotz. Iron discipline. The rules are absolute for everybody. I want to point out though that nobody on the team denounced Alex or made fun of him because of this. It happens. And he made up for it right away in the next game by scoring the winning goal.
What else is similar between Trotz and Vorobiev?
EK: Intense training sessions and physicality. If you make him angry, sometimes you can barely walk after practice… sometimes in just 35-40 minutes you are so tired you can barely drag yourself to the locker room. And next day there is a game. But those are normal working moments. Do your work honestly – and everything will be all right.
Important question: How are the Wizards doing this year?
EK: Oh it’s going to be difficult. Paul Pierce has left, it will be difficult to repeat last year’s result. But we are counting on the guys. They have good basketball players who are capable of winning.
I understand nothing gets in the way of you attending NBA games?
EK: Yes, the calendar is composed in such way that we are kept away from the NBA team. they often play a day before we have a game. Last year I went to about 15 games.
You even got to meet someone.
EK: And took a picture with Pierce. I went into the locker room. Sasha Ovechkin was actually invited, I just tagged along. Great guys, very outgoing and funny.
You daughter was born. How quickly did you learn to change diapers?
EK: Nastya showed me how to do it, and left the two of us at home by ourselves. But I figured it out quickly. A couple of times I got [poop] all over myself, but then everything worked out.
How is your daughter?
EK: Great. She smiles. We brought her to the games, but not often. When the game starts at 5 PM, it’s all right, but a night game doesn’t work so well. But she watches games on TV. Learning. I think as soon as she can talk, she’ll be giving me advice.
I can imagine how much you want to be at home now.
EK: You don’t say. Everything at home is about our daughter. No time is left for TV. By the way, it was a mistake for us to set up a Russian TV package. If we only had American TV, English would come easier. But now – forget about TV.
You just had a hat trick, became the player of the week. You only need a fight.
EK: Not going to happen.
EK: Fighting? Well, if it’s a five-on-five melee, of course I’ll have to grab someone – that’s normal. But I am not going to jump anybody big. No chance. I’ll simply have my head ripped off.
But there are lots of Russians.
EK: They are also all huge. But, really, there a lot of our guys in the league now. I try to follow everybody, worry about them all. A lot of our guys are in junior leagues, in the AHL. I especially feel for those in the AHL. I was told it’s a completely different game there, very violent. I hope they all can make it to the NHL.
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