After serving a three-game suspension, Evgeny Kuznetsov will make his season debut tonight against the Dallas Stars. For me, as a hockey fan, I’m excited because tonight’s game will finally give Kuzy, both the hockey player and the man, a chance to move forward and make amends for his positive cocaine test over the summer.
“Just a chance finally to get out of here from my house,” Kuznetsov joked Monday before turning serious about how difficult the summer has been. “It’s pretty much the same routine every day. Just come here, practice, get back home. If something happens, it’s pretty short.”
As someone who has covered Kuznetsov over the last nine years, I’ve seen a player with unrivaled talent – even as early as his teenage years in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk – dominate. It was easy to predict he’d become a star and one of the most important Capitals players of all time. From his stickhandling and skating to his breakaway speed and shot, Kuzy is and always will be a top-tier hockey player. But what makes this bird so different — what makes him truly a superstar that we all rally around — is his joy for the game. When he doesn’t have it, he scuffles. He seems lost.
“How much do I love hockey? I can’t even describe,” Kuznetsov wrote in a 2015 Players’ Tribune article. “In Russia, we don’t really have a Christmas break, but from December 31 to January 3, everything closed. Even hockey school. These were the worst days of my life. Four days with no hockey, I get so depressed. I can’t even sleep. Just sit watching YouTube of Kovalev and wait.”