Before heading back to DC for the start of Training Camp, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a guest on Slippery Ice, a Russian-language hockey show co-hosted by former Capitals forward and team amateur scout (per Elite Prospects) Andrei Nikolishin.
After discussing his 2019 NHL-levied, three-game suspension for inappropriate conduct related to a positive drug test, Kuznetsov was asked by the hosts in the tell-all interview if he started talking to a psychologist during that low period of his professional hockey career.
Kuznetsov confirmed that he did and he has worked with that same psychologist for the last four years. At first, the services were being paid for by the league and team, but Kuznetsov chose to continue them on his own dime after seeing how helpful they truly were.
“It turned out that this was one of the best decisions in my life – working with a psychologist,” Kuznetsov said via a sports.ru transcription and a Google translation. “It’s so cool, you just need to find [the right one].”
Kuznetsov went on to mention that he was partly inspired to keep regularly seeing a mental health professional by tennis legend Andre Agassi, who Kuzy says had a life coach with a “motivator” specialty that prepared Agassi for any and all situations. That intense sort of preparation allowed Agassi to stay on his toes playing tennis no matter what was going on in his life and Kuznetsov says that’s an important facet he has tried to translate to hockey.
“Psychologists explain to you that this is important, they work with your head constantly, and try to help you arrange everything that you want in life, where you are striving,” Kuznetsov said. “Maybe someone will say, ‘I don’t need hockey, I want to drink.’ And someone says, ‘For me, family comes first, but everything else is different.’ Everything is adjusted to you. In principle, this model helps you in life and guides you constantly.
“You had some kind of stress there, right? We basically always hold it in. And instead of holding it in, you just need to be able to share it with someone.”
Originally, the psychologist was hired and gave information about Kuznetsov’s progress to the league after his drug-related suspension. He says that process has ended since he hired her for his own sessions. “She no longer gives information to anyone,” he said.
Kuznetsov has seen the benefits of self help so much so that he wants to delve even further into the realm. “I still want to find someone that is more like a sports psychologist,” Kuznetsov said. “That is, he doesn’t get hung up on some childhood trauma of yours and starts poking around at it – after which you don’t want to go there anymore, it’s more annoying, and here it is in hockey terms.”
The Russian pivot isn’t the only current Caps player that actively speaks to a psychologist or mental coach. Anthony Mantha publicly discussed hiring one last year after he had trouble dealing with being healthy scratched by head coach Peter Laviolette.
“I started that a couple weeks after being scratched actually,” Mantha said. “I’ve worked with some mental coach in the past, couple years ago from Quebec, and now I started with a company from Toronto. It’s been helping. There’s a long ways to go but at least I know where I’ll be heading when I come back here next year.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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