In a wide-ranging interview over the weekend, Evgeny Kuznetsov discussed the Capitals’ issues in the second round and predicted that Captain Alex Ovechkin would once again have a 50-goal season.
In the remaining part of that conversation, which he gave to Sport-Express’s Aleksei Shevchenko, Kuznetsov talked about a recent donation he and some former teammates from KHL Traktor had made to a sled hockey team in Chelyabinsk, as well as his reservations about discussing charity work publicly.
The team, known as Meteorit (“Meteorite”), in reference to the 2013 Chelyabinsk Meteorite first reported in the United States by RMNB, received jerseys and equipment from Kuznetsov and company.
At the dedication ceremony, Kuznetsov told the crowd that “it’s always nice when you get good equipment. I’m really happy for the ‘Meteorites.'”
Last week you donated new uniforms to a sled-hockey team [in Chelyabinsk]. I know you and your friends spent a lot [on those uniforms], and that you generally help people out quite often. But I, for one, find out about that randomly.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I don’t really want to advertise about that sort of thing. Yeah, you found out about something. But if I start talking about that without hiding anything, then some people aren’t going to like it. And at the end of the story it’s going to work out that I didn’t do this thing correctly, that I offended that person, I helped these guys, but not those.
[But] if you help out, then the government will pay attention to the problem, [as will] other hockey players and the wealthy.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I understand, but it’s still not really ethical to talk [about this]. You understand, the situation right now is such that if you talk about something, but some people come along who get jealous or who might take advantage. I’m not arguing that I can’t help a lot of people. But I know the value of money perfectly well. I earned my money honestly, and have had to sacrifice a lot. But I’ve got a family, as does my wife. I can’t give it all away. Yes, I do this or that, but I still don’t want to talk about it.
Is it true you support an orphanage?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: It’s true, but I don’t want to comment on it any further.
People put the story about the Chelyabinsk sled-hockey players who didn’t have uniforms up on social media. Lots of hockey players have my number, but you texted me within a few minutes.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I’ll say it again: I don’t have the means to help everyone. But there you had some people who needed a helping hand. These guys were playing with old equipment, and they love hockey. My [former] teammates also pitched in, I wasn’t alone. But what are we going to say about that?”
While Kuznetsov left Russia in 2014 to start his NHL career in Washington, he has continued to have a high profile in his hometown. Kunetsov has come to Traktor Chelyabinsk games as a fan during the offseason. Last season, Kuznetsov bought shirts and had posters created for all fans in attendance of a game. As a goodbye gift to his KHL team in 2014, Kuznetsov presented an Olympia ice resurfacer to Traktor’s hockey academy after skating with its students. The gift’s value was at least 4 million roubles (approximately $100,000).
During the interview, Kuznetsov also spoke about starting a children’s hockey school someday in his hometown.
Fine. You once said that when your career is over you’d like to return to Chelyabinsk to support hockey somehow.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: That I can talk about. I want to found a children’s hockey school there. I’ll start with the very young. I’ll open some sort of center, a place where the kids can come and develop their technical skills. I hope I can convince my father to work with the kids. Everything I know about hockey I got from him. My father is shy about it, but he taught me everything I know. And of course my coaches added things later on, but all the fundamentals were laid in by him.
Are you specifically going to work on stick-handling there?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes. I’m going to hire some guys. But they’re not going to just be some random people who once played and have wrapped up their careers. They’re going to be guys with specialized skills, who have something they can pass along to the kids. I’m going to pay them well, so they can give themselves over to the work. And of course I’m going to give a lot of time to the kids. Show them how to do things, talk about [my experience], and work on their technical skills. We’re going to learn how to shoot the puck correctly, and other things that you need to learn from a very young age.
The regional government should invest in that as well.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Honestly, I’m not going to ask for anyone’s help. So getting back to the center, a little later I want to expand the school into a training complex like I’ve seen in North America and Finland. Three rinks, a cafe upstairs where the parents can watch practices, so they’re not standing by the ice.
I saw something like that in Toronto
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes. There’s a hotel nearby, where traveling players can stay. We’re going to have a pick-up team, and we’ll pay particular attention to players with special needs. So we’ll need the government’s assistance for the construction, but I hope by that time I’ll have good friends in high places.
And you want to live in Chelyabinsk?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes, I dream of having a big house on the river bank, where all my relatives can gather.
Photo credit: Valeriy Zvonaryev / Komsomolskaya Pravda
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