Category: Interviews (page 1 of 7)

Maxim Viktorov: “In Croatia in the 90s I received more money”

By Vitaly Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

The head coach of the Night Hockey League club “Yadreny Vozhd” Maxim Viktorov in an exclusive interview with our website spoke about life in Croatia and local hockey in the 90s.

Why Croatia?

I left in the mid-90s for Croatia to play for Medvescak by invitation. I left, it seems, in the 96-97 season after the games for SAK Moscow.

I played three seasons at Medvescak, and in the second to the third season I was allowed to play for the national team.

The move to Croatia was due to the invitation of the “Sab-Spartak Moscow-2” coach Yuri Nikolaevich Novikov, a well-known coach both in Russia and in the world. Before joining SAK, I played on that team. At that time, he was invited to work as a head coach at Medvescak and he invited me as one of the leading players of the team. Actually, I agreed. Then in Russia everything was not so simple with hockey and with life. I approximately remember the low level of salaries then, and traveling abroad was generally considered a miracle. Therefore, it was interesting to go and try to play there. Arriving there, I met other hockey players from Russia whom I did not know. They were mostly veterans, but there were also younger hockey players. As for the Croatian national team, it seems that only Gennadi Gorbachev was there before me. If so, then it turns out that I am the second Russian in the history to play for the Croatian national team.

Gennadi Gorbachev took part in the world championships for the Croatian national team in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Gorbachev was the top scorer of the tournament in 1996.

I spent three years in Croatia, played at the World Championships and left for Russia, but I didn’t gain a foothold anywhere. I had to pause a little. Then I began to play for the Sokol Novocheboksarsk.  I went to my last world championships. In the same season and then returned to Medvescak for half a season, and did not go to play for the national team four a fourth World Championships. The injuries began, so I decided to end my career. Recently I have been receiving invitations to work as a trainer in Croatia, but now I have other tasks related to the project in Moscow.

Maxim Viktorov head coach of the Night Hockey League club Yadreny Vozhd

What is Croatian ice hockey in the 90s?

Croatian ice hockey has not changed in the 90s, 2000s and 2020. I regularly follow hockey in the country, I know the situation from the inside, because I have good relations with the sports director of one of the clubs and with the president of another club team, and I regularly visit this country myself.

In the 90s there were four clubs in which both Russians and Slovaks played and a few Czechs. Then there were some restrictions on the number of foreign players on the teams. I, Gorbachev and a Slovak were on Medvescak. Naturally, there were also local players. The best Croatian hockey players were gathered in “Medvescak”, since the club has its own winning history, every season there was a task to win. It is important to understand that there it is amateur hockey by our standards. I knew that if I wanted to continue to play at a good level, I had to constantly train. So I did it on my own time, kept myself in shape. We played in international league, there it was a joint league with Slovenia and Hungarian clubs. There were many tournaments, as Hungary and Slovenia are nearby. International championships were normal. Sport in Croatia is generally very developed,

At that time the salaries were higher than in Russia, comfortable living, wonderful climate, kind people. In general, I found only positive impressions of Croatia.

I quickly joined the team, the team accepted me, and I began to show good results. I was offered to stay for the next season, and Yuri Nikolaevich at that time had already left for Soviet Wings. He called me to his place an ask me to play at the, Mayor’s Cup, but it didn’t work out for me and I came back to Medvescak. They were waiting for me there, everyone was happy with everything, we won, we were champions, I was the best player. and after the second season, I was told: to stay with the club for another season, They give me citizenship and was told me” I would play for the national team.” I agreed. I also had a offer from Slovenia, where Sergei Stolbun played in Jesenica. He invited me there, but I refused, as everything suited me at Medvescak, and the agreement was in terms of playing for the Croatian national team, so I stayed. And I got citizenship, got the right to play for the national team and went to the World Championships.

Croatia squad?

The games for the national team practically did not differ from the games for the club, because both in the club and on the national team, all the hope was on me, because I was a foreign, So I had to carry the whole team. Of course, my teammates helped me, because we were already had played together, so it was easier for me. At theskill  level that we had, we had enough strength to beat serious opponents. But without my 100% dedication and extra efforts it would be hard to achieve something. We did not have a goal to win the tournament, we had goals either not to be demoted to the lower division or to take a medal from the championships. I played in three tournaments – Group C in the Netherlands in 1999, Group C in China in 2000, we got promoted and finished 3rd place in 2001 we played at IB in Slovenia. I still have a medal for the 3rd place finish.

What now?

I had good relationships with both players and people from the people who ran the hockey club, and not only. I have been friends with Marin Miljak for many years, we met him when he was still a Zagreb player. We often see each other and I communicate with his parents, with his family. Marin is a wonderful person with a lot of experience. He now works at Zagreb as a coach and sports director. Last season, under his leadership, the club for the first time in many years, it seems, in 36 years, became the champions of Croatia and broke the dominance of Medvescak.

Now professional “Medvescak” does not exist, only a school and a youth team are working. In other clubs the situation is no better. In principle, it is not clear how the future seasons of both the local and foreign championships will develop, not only because of financial problems, but also because of the coronavirus.

And at the moment I work as a coach in the Moscow club of the Night Hockey League “Yadreny Vozhd”, and since this season I am also a regional representative of the NHL in Moscow.

Q & A with Dan Locmelis

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of ice hockey

At the age of 15, Dans Lochmelis moved from Latvia to Sweden, where he now plays for the Luleå club system and already in the first season abroad, the 16-year-old forward managed to become the best sniper in the Sweden U16 Elite league.

How did you start playing hockey?

My father used to play hockey, and when I was two years old, he took me with him and I would skate on the ice skated. Once my dad and I went to eat at a cafe after his training, then the guys would trained on ice and I told my father that I also want to play hockey. This is how my hockey career began.

Why did you choose the forward position?

I don’t know why I chose the forward position, but I can say that I have not even tried to play other positions.

How did it happen that you moved to Sweden so early?

An agent called me and offered for me to try my hand in Sweden, where everything is high level and where the club pays for everything. I think that very few people would refuse this offer, so I went to Sweden.

Did you know Sandis Vilmanis before coming to Sweden?

Yes, I knew Sandis before going to Sweden, as we often played against each other. In the end, it turned out that the agent offered both of us to go to the same country and now we have become teammates.

What were your initial expectations from the first season in Sweden?

I really didn’t expect much. I just wanted to train and play at a high level.

Were you surprised that you managed to be one of best players and finish in the TOP-3 among scoring leaders?

Yes, I was surprised. I didn’t think that my debut season abroad would turn out this good.

Is it an achievement for you that you have already become captain of the national team for your age group?

I do not consider this an achievement, but being the captain is a great honor for me.

Rainers and Dans with Team Latvia U16

What is the difference between a captain and a regular player?

There is no big difference, but the captain, unlike an ordinary player, should be an example for the whole team.

Who do you consider the best Latvian hockey players?

Not to say that I have idols, but if I were to pick TOP 5 of the best Latvian players, it would look like this: Rudolf Balcers, Kaspars Daugavins,Theodor Blueger, Lauris Darzins and Miks Indrasis.

Was it a shame that in the end you did not manage to overtake your friend in points scored?

No, there was no such feeling. Hockey is a team sport. Basically I played with Sandis on the same line, so we helped each other score points.

You have already have been playing for Lulea U18 team this year. was it hard so abruptly to switch from one age category to another?

It was a little difficult. Faster hockey in U18, you have to make faster decisions, and this made the game more difficult and more interesting.

Are you ready to play fully in the U18 league?

Definitely, I’m ready.

Luleå plays in SHL. How soon do you think you and Sandis will debut in the top league?

I think Sandis and I can make our SHL debut, but definitely not this season.Of course, every hockey player would like to debut in adult hockey as fast as possible.

Did you follow the situation with Riga Dynamo?

Yes, and now I continue to follow the news about Riga Dynamo.

Next year, some of the games of the World ice hockey Championship should be held in Riga. Is this an important event for Latvia?

I think yes. This will be a great opportunity to see the NHL players and other top leagues. Latvia has the best fans, I think they can help national team in the fight for the title.

Did you manage to learn the language during your time in Sweden?

Now I know a little Swedish. I think that this was the hard part learning a new language for me when moving from Latvia to Sweden.

What was your most memorable moment in the 2019/20 season?

It was the moment when we reached the quarter finals. It’s a pity that due to COVID-19 we were unable continue the season. We had a good chance of winning it all.

What are your goals for the next season?

First of all, I would like to win the championship with Lulea U18 and then I would like to play for the U20 team.

How Slovak Vladimir Kurian became a Chilean hockey player

By IamVitoNesta – National Teams of Ice Hockey Blog @ Sports.ru

Vladimir Kurian – about his career, about life, about Chile at IIHF

Why did you choose hockey?

It was an easy choice for me, I still remember that moment. When I was 9, I watched the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer on TV. At the time, I knew nothing about hockey, as I spent most of my time taking piano lessons. My mother also played the piano, and I really enjoyed playing. But that day changed everything. For the first time I saw a game that I fell in love with instantly, with such players as Palffy, Stastny, Satan became a kind of example for me. That day we beat Canada 3: 1 and then I said to my father “I want to become a hockey player!” Everything turned out to be go great – we lived in Banska Bystrica, very close to the ice arena, and a school with a sports bias, and I was taken to hockey.

What made you move to Chile?

After a difficult period in my life in Slovakia, I wanted to start life from scratch. My parents died of cancer – my father died when I was 25, and my mother 5 years later. They were literally dying in front of my eyes, it was the most difficult period in my life and it was not easy to cope with it. At that moment I realized that I had to leave Slovakia for a while. The choice was between Canada and Chile, in Canada I lived for some time, and therefore I knew the language and I had several acquaintances there. But in Chile I had a friend whom we met in the USA, when I worked there in the “Work and travel” program. Subsequently, we traveled a lot around the America and once he came to me in Slovakia. In the end, I flew to Chile, I wanted to stay there for 3 months as a tourist. But during this time I fell in love with this country, people were friendly to me, and I felt that I can start my new life here. It took me some time to learn Spanish. Now in Chile I am an independent person, I have my own business, I discover new things for myself in this country, and I help to develop hockey in Chile.

How did you get into Chilean hockey?

 I have always loved hockey, but I had no idea that there is hockey in Chile. But when I found out about this, I looked on the Internet for something about hockey in the country, and found the club “Santiago Yeti”. I contacted the club, I was immediately answered and invited to the team. At that time, I was without equipment, so I had to borrow skates and a couple of golf clubs. The team believed that since I was from Slovakia, I was playing professionally, so I spent more and more time on the ice, and then I was offered to become a become a player coach.

Vladimir Kurian in his Chilian Jersey

Do you play for any club now?

No, at one time I played for my city in the junior league, there was no chance of a professional career, since this is more of a hobby than a job with which I would like to connect my life. But hockey is still important for me.

Did the Chilean national team fulfill their tasks at the Latam Cup?

 First of all, I want to say that I am proud to be a player of the Chilean national team and a part of Chilean hockey. I came here 4 years ago, received citizenship and residence, and was able to play for the Chilean national team. We have a lot of players who play passive hockey, but they try hard to improve their skills.

Latam Cup became a huge experience for us, we were able to assess our level, the level of other teams, players, and realized that we had a huge work ahead of us to improve the quality and level of play. If we return to your question, then yes, we are satisfied with the performance of our team, and this is an invaluable experience gained at the Latam Cup.

Latam Cup is a hockey tournament among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, held annually in Florida (ed.), And the Chile national team in the last tournament took 6th place out of 7.

After the Latam Cup, Colombia joined the IIHF, what are the plans for the future of hockey in Chile?

Yes, becoming a part of IIHF is a great honor both for Colombia and for Latin America in general. Congratulations to them, they deserve it, it shows that the level of hockey in Latin America is growing. But Chile is still far from the IIHF. Chile is a beginner in hockey, we don’t even have the right training for our athletes, but we are trying to move on. Our main goal is to create a development program and involve children in hockey. It is also necessary to create a federation in order to get the attention of the government and get some support, but this is not an easy task. In the meantime, you need to do basic things, spend more time on the ice, find financial support for the purchase of hockey equipment, support the school.

What do you do in your free time from hockey?

I work as a DJ and a music producer, I started my own business importing vegan products from Slovakia to Chile, so there is very little time left for hockey.

Do you play your music in the dressing room?

 Not really, I leave the choice to my partners. Electronic music is not as popular in Latin America as in Europe.

How many people attend your concerts?

At the moment I’m more of a music producer than a DJ. Because of the business, there is practically no time left to work as a DJ. Therefore, I enjoy music as a producer.

What Track do you Recommend?

I would recommend “The Awakening”, this track I composed in Chile, it describes my big change in life.

Q & A with Patryk Wysocki

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of ice Hockey

The only Polish player in the history of the MHL, 20-year-old defender Patrick Wysocski, who managed to play for clubs from four countries where hockey is not very popular, he spoke about himself, and also shared his opinion whether weak teams are needed in local leagues.

How did you start playing hockey and why did you choose this sport?

I started playing hockey when I was four years old. It all started with the fact that my older brother also played hockey, he is four years older than me. Why did you choose this particular sport? I was invited to train with my brother, I skated with them on the ice and, apparently, I liked it alot.

You were born in Belarus, but why did you decide to play for the Polish national team?

Yes, I was born in the town of Nesvizh. My dad is Belarusian, and my mom is from Poland. Almost immediately we moved to Poland and it so happened that because of this I only have a Polish passport.

Was there an opportunity to get into the national team of Belarus and did you ever want to play for them?

Of course, there was no such proposal from Belarus. I think if it were, then my parents and I would have thought about it, and perhaps I would try to play for Belarus.

In the Polish championship, two of the three clubs you played for were youth. ( Patrick Wysocski played for SMS Sosnowiec U20, GKS Katowice and PhZL Katowice U23 )

Yes, there is a PHZL Katowice U23 in the championship. It is considered the preparatory team for the World Junior Championships. All the guys who want to be in the national team can get there and play in the Polish championship. 1-2 days before the game they will be added to the roster and told to prepare for the game. If I am not mistaken, the team, after the World Junior Championships, which ends in December, no longer takes part in the league.

Is it good that there is such a team in the PHL?

Yes, I think it is needed. It’s funny that you play in your club at the youth level and you can be called up to the Under 23 team. This allows more games to be played per season, which allows for additional XP. If you are a young player, you can only get this opportunity in Poland.

According to the statistics of Eliteprospects, in the 15/16 season you played only in the national team. Is it really so?

No, a little different. Yes, I played in the national team, and at the club level I played for the Belarusian junior for HC Brest.

Viktor Zaluzky and Patryk Wysocski in the HC Brest

At the end of the 16/17 season you left Brest. What caused this?

I moved from Brest to Gdansk. First of all, conditions were better in Gdansk. When I was 16 years old, I did not look at salaries, but in Belarus they offered much less money. In Poland, the level was higher, and so my parents and I decided that we needed to move to Gdansk. And the coach at MH Automatyka Gdansk was Kovalev, who had experience of working in the Minsk Dynamo.

How did it happen that yourself, Kirill Gerasimenko and Dmitri Shcherbakov went out on the ice with basketballs?

There is a basketball team in Gdansk. We were asked to shoot a video, like an invitation to a basketball games. So we went out with the basketballs

Kirill Gerasimenko, Dmitri Shcherbakov and Patryk Wysocski in Gdansk

You played for the Polish national team for four seasons in a row.

I played two times at the junior and youth world championships.

Did you expect to be called up to the national team last season?

I did not receive a call to the main team. So far, no one has written to me and no one has called. It’s hard to say whether I was waiting or not. Somehow I didn’t think about it. If they ask me to go – I will go. I believe that I will get my chance, because I am only 20 years old. You can say that I am still young.

Next year, the 2021 World Championships in the IB division will be held in Katowice. Would you like to play there?

Yes, of course, I would like to play. This is only for the benefit of your career to say that you played with the national team of your country. It’s kind of a plus. It’s cool that we will play at home.

How do you assess the chances of the Polish national team to be promoted?

It seems to me that Poland can go to IA, because the IB division is not the level at which the national team of our country should be in. A year ago, there was a chance to rise higher, but one point was not enough.

For you, the past season was you did not score any goals. Will this affect your performance in the upcoming season?

In fact, it’s a shame that this season I failed to score. I think that every coach sees the game differently and every player has his own role on the team. There are defenders who do not know how to attack, but defend well, and there are defenders who play poorly in defense, but look good in attack. I will try to score more.

You’ve already had something similar. For the first time in a long time, then you distinguished yourself in the Kunlun Red Star Heilongjiang. This was your first goal in the MHL. Do you remember how you got to throw?

Yes, I remember that match. We played against Kapitan Stupino. We were losing
0: 5. I shot the puck from the blue line and it somehow flew into the goal. And in general, that game ended 5: 7.

Patryk Wysocski with puck of first goal in MHL

Do you still have that puck?

Yes, I took it. It lies at my house and reminds me of the MHL.

What Medals have you won?

I have two silver medals from the World Youth Championship and a gold one from the junior one. I think these are the most valuable of the medals.

How did you manage to win the junior world championship?

We scored more than the opponents (lol). We meshed into one whole team. The most important thing is that everyone supported each other and played better with each other, therefore we won gold medal.

Maciej Rybak and Patrick Wysocski celebrate winning the 2016 Junior World Championships

On February 9, the Polish national team beat Kazakhstan in the pre qualification for the Olympic Games. Did you watch that match and were you surprised by the result?

Yes, I watched the match when the Poles played against the Kazakhs. It’s cool that Poland managed to win. I was a little shocked that Kazakhstan lost with such a squad, especially at home, Hockey is such a game that it is not clear who will win and when.

Two new teams will play in the PHL next season. Do you think it is right that lower division clubs get their chance in the PHL?

Yes, two clubs got a chance to play in PHL, and one team was eliminated – MH Automatyka Gdansk . I played there. They have minor financial and ice-rink problems. Let the league expand. Why not? Let there be more teams, more guys playing. Then the level of Polish hockey will rise. As for me, this is good.

What experience did the Continental Cup give you?

I didn’t play much in the Continental Cup. There was a story there. At Katowice we had a Canadian coach. He preferred to play with five or six defenders, and there were nine of us then. This led to the fact that many players did not play. Anyway, I managed to watch the international tournament. Going at the age of 19, or even just attend such a tournament, to play a couple of shifts is an experience.

With what expectations did you go to Belgium and how professional is everything there in terms of hockey?

When I terminated the contract with ORG Junior Beijing , I came home to Brest to see my parents. I got an agent and we were waiting for offers. It is clear that in the middle of the season it is difficult to get somewhere, because the rosters of the clubs have been formed. For me, the season was not the best, as I was injured with a tear in the ligaments on my knee. In December, an offer came from Antwerp Phantoms. I understood where I was going, that this BeNe is not the best league in the world. I didn’t want to lose the rest of the season and during the time in Belgium I could improve my weaknesses. If we compare Belgian hockey with Polish, then Polish, of course, is a higher level. In BeNe, not all players approach the game professionally. There are professional and semi-professional teams. I expected a little different, but what worked, it worked.

How can you compare part of the season in the Bene league with part of the season in ORG Junior Beijing?

 Here and there my teams were in the last places. When you get into such clubs, you are more on the defensive. As a defender, it even works in my favor. Although you still need to learn to play attack.

ORG Junior Beijing this season beat Moscow Dynamo. Did you communicate with any of your former teammates after that match?

We still correspond with some of them. Then I called the boys and asked how they managed to win. In that game, they only had ten players. They said that they were surprised at their victory. In the course of the season, they did manage to win a lot of games, but here they beat Dynamo with ten men.

ORG Junior Beijing played all home matches in Dmitrov. Do you think this is unfair enough?

Why is it unfair? I think it was the right decision. We were supposed to be based in Riga, but the Chinese hockey players were not given visas and because of this we were told that we would live somewhere in the Moscow region. I think that it even played a positive role, since there were no long flights. All the essentials were in Dmitrov. The town is small, ice-covered and there is a hotel.

A year and a half ago, you got a unique opportunity in a game against MHC Spartak. Your playing time has almost reached 30 minutes. Do you remember that game?

I have more hockey memories with Kunlun than with ORG Junior Beijing. That season it was the other way around, I came to Kunlun in the second part of the season. I have not spent less than 20 minutes on the ice. Sometimes we played four defenders. So in this regard, I was definitely satisfied. Yes, we lost, but everyone got a lot of playing time.

What are your plans for the next season?

I will definitely will not return to Belgium. Now I am not considering the option of continuing my career there, and so far there have been no proposals from their side. In general, there are no plans yet. Due to the coronavirus, almost no one knows anything. Clubs from some countries are already making transfers, starting to conduct trainings, and in many of them nothing has even budged yet. Therefore, I cannot say anything about this yet.

Vito Nikolic: “After the departure of foreign players, we understood that Medvescak was over”

By Sergei Bychkov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

22-year-old goalkeeper of the Croatian national team and the last official player of Medvescak Vito Nikolic spoke about Zagreb, about local hockey and about the club during there death.

 You were born in Zagreb, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and a very beautiful city. Tell us about the city, about the people who live there?

I love Zagreb, this is my home. The people here are kind, the city is beautiful, and there is something to see all the time. I like the atmosphere in the city. This is exactly what you need, the perfect balance between rush and relaxation, and I myself prefer the relaxing side of Zagreb. People here love to spend time in cafes, sitting and chatting. It’s kind of a culture here.

3 best places in the city, where, in your opinion, everyone should be if they come to Zagreb?

 Almost everything happens in the center of Zagreb, but two places that are not in the center of the city and must be seen are Medvedgrad, the castle above Zagreb, and the zoo. A coffee session at the center is required. My recommendation is to go to Zagreb in the winter, around Christmas time.

Let’s talk about hockey. How did you end up liking hockey? Why did you choose this particular sport?

My dad took me skating with him when I was 2.5 years old, and I really liked it, then he sent me to the hockey camp, and I realized that I wanted to become a hockey player. I have tried other sports, but I never stopped playing hockey.

Vito Nikolic with team Croatia.

Tell us about your first team you played for?

My first team was Mladost Zagreb, where I learned how to skate and it took me 3 seasons before I could put on my uniform and play real hockey because I was too young.

 You started your professional career in the Slovak U-18 league with Topolcany in the 13/14 season, played 4 matches,  and had  GAA of 4.23 goals per game and save percentage of 90.4% . Why did you start your career in Slovakia? How can you rate time with the team? What do you remember the most?

I went to Slovakia in the 2012/13 season, playing in the U16, and I think this season helped me a lot to improve my game. I had to leave Croatia because I wanted to improve and play the best hockey. Slovakia is a hockey country and I had a chance to leave Croatia, so I took it. I learned a lot there because we constantly trained there. It was a good experience for me, and then I was given a few extra games with the U16 team.

Your last year in Slovakia you played in Dubnica U-18. Although your stats were worse than a year earlier, you played 19 matches, you had more practice. Which of these seasons has helped you improve your skills and play the most?

Yes, that was the year when of ups and downs began. One game could be great and the next day I had a bad game. That year I was working on improving myself, and I think that the experience I got that season helped me a lot too.

That year you also made your debut for the Croatian national team at the IIA U-18 World Championship, where you played 4 matches and had a saved percentage of 88% . The Croatian national team finished in 5th place in this tournament. How can you rate your play at this tournament?

 At that tournament, our goal was to stay in the division, and we did it. I could have played better in some games, but I didn’t let the team down in the games that mattered the most. Then there was the game against the Netherlands national team for the 5th place, which we won 2: 1 and we were save.

Vito Nikolic in goal for the Croatian national team at the IIA U-18 World Championship

In the 16/17 season you played on three teams of the Medvescak system: Medvescak U-19 (Croatia U-18), Medvescak U-20 and Medvescak-II (IHL and Croatian championship, respectively). Was it hard to play when you changing teams and where did you feel the highest level of hockey was?

It was not hard, because it was the same circle of people. EBYSL (Austrian U-20 League) and IHL had their highest levels that season. The EBYSL teams had some great young players who now play for EBEL and IHL had some experienced players who have played for the Slovenian national team. so its hard to say.

 The next season was the best for you in terms of trophies: you played for Medvescak-II in the IHL (one of the Slovenian hockey leagues) and won the championship. You were the main goalkeeper on the team. In addition, you played for the Croatian U-20 national team in Division IIB of the World Youth Championship, played 4 matches, were named the top goaltender of the tournament and led your team to a bronze medals. How did you feel after such a successful year?

It was great to win the IHL, but I like playing for the national team more. It was a good tournament, but, unfortunately, we did not fulfill our task of winning gold medal. But I have good memories of that tournament.

Now let’s talk about season 18/19, the last season for Medvescak. What was the situation at the club before the season started?

The situation was pretty good, or so we thought. Everything looked good and normal. The problems began 3 months after the start of the season.

You played 14 matches for Medvescak in EBEL that season. On average, you conceded 8 goals per game and save percentage 86% of. How has the situation with the club changed over the season? When did you realize that this was the end for the club?

Yes, I started playing my first minutes on the main team after many foreign players  left the team and the team began to attract home base players. The results weren’t very good, we lost every game since it happened. During the games, about 60 shots were shot at our goal. The situation was so bad that we barely gathered 12 guys for several away games. The matches were very difficult, but we enjoyed playing.

As far as I know, you were the last official player of Medvescak, you left the team only on 26 August. How did the club fare at the end of the season?

– The end came almost when all the foreign players left, because they were not paid. So after the foreign players, we realized that this was the end, since there was no more money.

Vito Nikolic playing for Medvescak

As far as I understand, Medvescak does not exist now. Could Medvescak somehow comeback, do you think it was possible?

There is no such professional team as Medvescak. As we all know, nothing happens without money. If someone could raise money, I think that the team could be saved, I see no reason why it could not be in this case.

What is the current situation with hockey in Croatia after Medvescak “died”?

The situation has worsened, but Croatian hockey can survive without professional hockey.

On August 26, 2019, you signed a contract with the French team Courbevoie. You played for this team last season. What can you say about the team and hockey in France?

The team is very well organized and takes very good care of me. The league has several excellent foreign players with good experience. I am very happy there and will stay for one more season.

You played for the Croatian national team in two tournaments and played 3 matches in total. What is your rank on the national team? Is it possible to say that you are a young star of Croatian ice hockey?

 My rank depends on the goalkeepers who come to play for the national team. I wouldn’t say that, I still have a lot to prove, and so far I’ve only had one good tournament (lol).

One of the best goalies in the Medvescak System

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any offers from different teams?

I will continue this season at Courbevoie, and for now that’s all I know. I don’t know what the future will bring me.

How has quarantine changed your life?

Actually not that much, I was at home, enjoying the time with my family and training off the ice.

Who is your favorite player?

Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Nabokov.

What is your favorite NHL team?

Edmonton Oilers.

Your advice to players from countries that are exotic for hockey, such as Croatia.

If you are serious about hockey and you have a chance to play in a good hockey country, take it. Also, practice whenever you can and then just enjoy the game.

 I hope that my readers will believe in you and will follow your progress. Good luck and I hope that one day you will write your name in the history books of Croatian ice hockey!

 I hope so too, thanks for the interview!

Q & A with Nadina Nichiu

Romania women’s team at Div III World Cup in Bulgaria

By Vitaly Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

One of the most talent woman ice hockey player and goalie of national team of Romania Nadina Niciu told us about herself,about playing on the senior team and about her transfer to Finland.

Tell us about yourself?

I was born in Târgu Mureș, Romania, on the 28th of January 1999 in a city where we don’t have an ice rink. We have an outdoor rink for 3 months of the year, but only for the public. I was raised by my grandparents and I remember my grandfather always taking me to the ice rink ever since I was really really young. Maybe about 4-5? He used to take me there everyday, sometimes even twice. I fell in love with skating and I loved hockey, I’ve seen it in movies, but I had never heard anything about it in real life. I was a speed skater for 10 years, and one winter when we got off ice, the hockey team was up after us, which I was surprised to see, so I stood and watched. After their practice one of the guys let me fool around with his stick, and the coach spotted me and asked if I wanted to try it out. So I did. I was a player for 1 year. I never really had any specific goals, I played whatever I was needed. I enjoyed more to play defense cause I was a really good skater, but didn’t have any stick skills. I always wanted to play goalie, but there was no equipment in my home town. So after a year, I went and bought my own. I was almost 17 at the time, and everybody said it’s too late. So I wanted to show them how wrong they were. I was lucky to have awesome, dedicated coaches that helped me all the way through and awesome teammates that supported me. I slowly made it hard for any player to score on me, and once I got in the boys team I realized I can do even better. So I moved there with them where we had an ice rink and all the facilities, and I practiced every day for a whole season, with 4 teams in total. There were days where I would be on ice for 6-7 hours. But I loved every minute of it, those are the things that got me here. As for the women championship, my first team was «Triumf Bucharest», but they would hardly accept me as a goalie cause they needed players. So one year there was a new women team forming, «Fox Hockey» Gheorgheni, and I went to play for them, and they became my second family. I can’t thank them enough for everything. I also played for the national team. Two years in the u18 as a player, and 2 years on the seniors team as a goalie.

Nadina (right) with teammates

Where do you work?

I am a postwoman, but I want to study goalie coaching as soon as possible.

 Is it true that you played in the championship of Romania for the men’s team?

I played in the men’s team until the age of 20 and then only trained. I – was the only girl in the championship of Romania. I was in the application “Sapientia U23” in the season 18 \ 19.

Did you play for Sapientia that season when Sportul beat your team twice?

Yes, but I didn’t play any of these games. I am not so bad to got scored by «Sportul» players (laughing). I was supposed to play against Sportul but it was before world championships and the federation didn’t let me, so I wouldn’t get injured. They won only cause we didn’t take it seriously and after the game we were so mad. But the next day we won 17-2. Then they beat us one more time in the end of march. (9th of march 2019 romanian team «Sportul» won his first game since 2013. The lose more than two hundred games and 2233 days without win)

Training with Sapientia U23 ice hockey club

Most recently, you signed a contract with the Finnish club Koovee. How did this happen?

Two weeks ago someone said they were interested in me, so they got in touch. I automatically got excited and found out more about the club. Only heard good things about them, so I said yes! I’m really excited to get there and meet the team and play. I’m the type of goalie that gives 200% for her team so I like to believe I won’t let them down.

Tell me about your hockey career over the years? There is absolutely no information on the internet.

From 2015-2018 I played for Triumf Bucharest. This was a women’s team I spent the 2018/19 season Sapientia u23 and Fox Hockey from Gheorgheni.

Nadina’s debut match for Fox Hockey

What is the situation with women’s Romanian hockey?

The Federation does not help women’s hockey. Men’s hockey is far ahead, all the money goes there, hence the result – going to Div IA. They consider us a non-competitive team, although without finances we cannot be better. At least let them give us the opportunity to train with the men’s team so that we gain experience, but this is not there idea for us.

Do any of the Romanian hockey players play abroad?

Ana Voicu plays in Canada. She is 21 years old. I know Adela Sarbu she plays there too, but she is just 16 years old. We have more players I think that have opportunities now but I wouldn’t name them before it’s a sure thing.

How did Romania celebrated promotion to Division IA?

We were all thrilled! Something like this hasn’t happened in decades. It was a huge step forward for the Romanian hockey, and I’m sure these boys will be in hockey history books

Thanks to Ukrainian born players?

They consider themselves Romanians (laughing)

What is your best game?

“I can’t choose one.” I had an amazing season, so there are many games that I consider to be the best. With the exception of the World Championships, where I was injured, I went with a shootout streak up until the end of February. I got scored on only in the last 2 games, which is a thing I’m really proud of. That still didn’t affect the team considering we finished first in the championship (but there was no awards due to the coronavirus). If I were to choose a few games, I’d probably say the Sekler Cup (women’s local friendship tournament) final against Csikszereda where we won 3-0, and the game against Belgium. I only played the last 30 minutes, But I loved the way me and the team played.

Targu-Mures has an Arena Marosvásárhelyi Műjégpálya, when will it be finnished?

No, in 2008 they began to build an arena in Tirgu Mures. A lot of money was spent, but it was not enough. 12 years have passed, and the arena has not yet been completed. Although now in Tirgu Mures a skating rink with an inflatable dome has been made.

Marosvásárhelyi Műjégpálya Arena

Q & A with Pedro Tonietto

By Vitaly Nesterov  Nationalteamsoficehockey.com

Brazil goalkeeper Pedro Tonietto kindly chatted with us and told us a lot of interesting things about local hockey in Brazil.

First, tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in a small town in the south of Brazil, where they do not know about hockey at all. I am 27 years old and 8 years ago I moved to the USA from Brazil. Now I live in Tampa Bay.

Why did you choose ice hockey?

In fact, a lot of people fell in love with this game after watching the movie “Mighty Ducks”. I was one of them. As a child, I played roller hockey, but I always thought ice hockey was cooler. When I moved to Florida at age 19, I was still learning how skate and my passion turned into an obsession.

Where do you work?

I’m currently a Financial Analyst at a private wealth advisory firm. That has nothing to do with ice hockey, which at times turns out to be really challenging to do both at the same time. Fortunately I have a passion for finance as well as hockey, so I make it work.

Do you play for any club or only in the national team?

I have been playing for the national team since 2015, we played in the first in Pan American tournament, then it was abolished a new one tournament emerge  the Latam Cup. Until last year, I played for the University of Tampa. I also participate in training camps. Thanks to these camps, I have the opportunity to train with hockey players from the NHL, KHL and many other European leagues. In 2018, I trained with Shane Prince from Dynamo Minsk and then worked together with Kucherov. This camp was held in Clearwater, Florida. The camp was organized by a Swiss coach and there were many hockey players from all over the world, as well as from the USA and Canada. I always try to play for other teams when the Brazilian national team is not playing. For example, in Florida, a summer league was created, where several players from Brazil joined the teams all summer. I have a trainer and I work with them at least twice a week, sometimes even six times a week. The coach helped me a lot in ensuring that I played successfully for the national team.

There is also the Sun Coast Hockey League, which has just begun in Tampa. This is a four-team summer league, and most players are either drafted NHL players or NCAA players. I participated in three games, but I have a lot of work, so it’s not always possible to play.

What can you say about hockey in Brazil?

When you live in a country where hockey is practically absent, you will have to travel outside the country to become the best hockey player. Unfortunately, many hockey players leave Brazil to play in other countries. Hockey has been developing recently in our country, but it is not so popular so far. NHL matches are shown on Brazilian TV, this is a strong argument in favor of popularizing ice hockey in the country. In Sao Paulo recently opened an ice rink “Ice Brazil” We have great potential, We are growing the sport little by little.

January 25, 2020 in Sao Paulo opened the ice rink “Ice Brazil”

Inside the the ice rink

 Football matches between Brazil and Argentina are great and have amazing atmosphere. Is it the same in hockey?

The rivalry between Brazil and Argentina is a great confrontation in all sports, including ice hockey. Despite the fact that hockey in these countries is a relatively a new sport, it is always interesting to watch teams that develop and compete year after year in order to understand which of them is the best. Even our second teams playing against each other are very competitive. But the coolest thing is that both teams have the same goal – to develop ice hockey in South America. Athletes from both countries get along and help each other. Even our captain lives in Argentina and plays hockey there.

Match between Argentina & Brazil

You have a joint photo with Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin. Is this during that same camp?

That was in 2018, about a week after that Swiss camp was over. When Kucherov and Panarin were skating here in Florida, their coach was a good friend of mine that I used to skate with on a regular basis. Andrei Vasilevskiy was supposed to be their goalie, but he decided to skate with the prospects instead. I got a call on Sunday night asking if I would be available to skate with them, and I didn’t think twice. It was an interesting skate, Kucherov is really quiet but still a hard worker. Panarin is definitely fun to talk to. Fun fact, Kucherov split the puck in half on a wrist shot that beat me but hit the post.

Do you know Marcus Kallionkieli?” This is a Finnish Brazilian drafted by Vegas at the last NHL draft.

Yes of course! A great hockey player, I heard about him when he started playing for Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL. As far as I know, he wanted to play for the national team, but it did not work out, because our tournaments are usually held during the season of play for his team. He would be a great addition to the national team. It’s great to see a Brazilian hockey player who is drafted in the NHL.

Marcus Kallionkieli was selected by Vegas in the 5th round under 139th number

When will we see the Brazil national team at the IIHF World Hockey Championships?

It is definitely a dream for us to come true, and I believe Brazil could be part of it if ice hockey keeps growing in the country. One of the rules for a nation to compete at the IiHF World Championship is for that country to have an official ice rink  which disqualifies Brazil unfortunately. Recently, though, an ice rink with hockey capabilities was just inaugurated a few months ago in Sao Paulo, but I don’t know if that rink would qualify us. We have played against Mexico, that played Div II IIHF tournaments. Hopefully we will play it at some point.

Team photo of Brazil National Team

Matt Dalton: “Naturalization is good, but it needs to be controlled”

Matt Dalton at Anyang Hall

By Maxim GarashchukNational Teams of Ice Hockey

The best goalkeeper of the Division IA World Championships in Kazakhstan in 2019, the Korean hockey player who plays for Anyang Hall and the South Korean national team Matt Dalton gave an interview to NToIH and talked about himself and whether foreign hockey players should be invited to the national teams.

Why did you choose the position of goaltender?

I choose the position because when I was younger our goalie on our team got injured and he could not play anymore. So our team rotated goalies each game. When I got to play I actually did really well, and I really enjoyed it. So the next season I decided to switch full time. I also always loved the goaltender equipment.

What would you be if you hadn’t become a hockey player?

This is a very good question that I cannot answer immediately. When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a hockey player. I thought it was possible and therefore did not even think about other options. I grew up in a farming family and, probably, if my hockey career had not worked out, I would now be working in a something related to farming.

 Did you have the opportunity to stay in the USA and try to break into the NHL after the 2010/11 season? Why did you decide to leave for Europe?

Yes, at the end of the season I could have stay in America, but I received an offer to play in the KHL. I spoke with some players who already had experience this league and they told me that this is a good opportunity to play at a high level of hockey.

How were you invited to play in the KHL?

We had a skills coach in Providence that was from Russia when I was playing there. I got to be friends with him and we were always working after practice. I asked him one day if there was a chance I could go to Russia and play. He helped me and got me a chance to go and play there.

Matt Dalton played for Neftekhimik 2012/13 season

Which Russian cities do you remember most?

I would have to say the cities where I played – Nizhnekamsk and Podolsk. Among others I will single out Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Novosibirsk and Kazan.

The most difficult opponent to play against in the KHL?

Perhaps this is SKA.

Tell me about the offer to play for Korea?

“I meet a Korean in London, Ontario.” His name is Steve Beak, he runs a skills hockey program called BK Hockey. In the off season, he and I skated together. Once Steve told me about the opportunity to play in South Korea, and the to get a Korean passport and play for the national team. This was a very hard decision to make but I called a few players that were already playing over there to talk about what hockey life was like and everything they said was positive so I thought I would try it.

Did you think that if you stayed in Canada you could now be the main goalkeeper of the national team?

Honestly, no. It so happened historically that we have a good history with goalkeepers. I really respect all the guys from Canada who are now playing in the NHL.

You have a child. Does he enjoy hockey and what do you see in his future?

Yes I have a 3 year old son. He is just starting to get interested in hockey and really enjoys watching me play and also watching hockey on TV. I hope that he will become a great right handed defence man hahahhaha.
But really I hope that he has passion and love for the game like I do and that he wants to play hockey as he grows up. I will really enjoy watching him follow his dreams.

Matt Dalton with his son

Do you talk at home with your family about past games?

It happens sometimes. Usually, right after the game, I talk with my dad and my wife. I do not try to talk about it the next day. I used talk more about game but now i try not to focus to much on past games and just live in the moment as much as possible

In the Asian Hockey League next season a new team will appear. How will this affect the championship?

I think it’s great for the league. They are located in a good city and it will be easy to get to it. I hope that the team is competitive , but I believe that, like any other new club, it may take them several years for them to build there team up.

You have been to many cities and countries. What places do you remember most and why?

This is a difficult question, since I have been to so many beautiful places. One of my favorite cities is Prague. They are very friendly people and very good food. Prague is an historical city, so tourists will definitely be interested in visiting there. I have been there several times with my team and I have only positive impressions about this city. I would also mention Moscow, I just love the city, there is always something to do and thins to see.

Is there a country that you would like to visit in the future for the first time?

I have never been to the UK, but I think I will like it there. All my ancestors came from there and it would be great to go and look at this counties. There is so much history between all of them and it would be very interesting for me. I really enjoy history.

The Asian League season was interrupted in the final matches. How frustrating  was that?

Yes this is very frustrating that we had to cancel the rest of the finals. But I also understand why it was done. It makes me feel good that they were concerned about everyone’s health. But it is a pity that we could not finish.

How did you get No. 86?

In the summer they called me and asked what number I wanted. I said I want No. 30, but it was unavailable . Then I thought and decided that I could take No. 1. but it turned out that number was also unavailable. Then I wanted choose No. 86, because that was the year I was born in 1986, he turned out to be free and so happened that from that moment I play under this number.

“You always had helmets painted.” Which helmet design do you like most?

I think this is the helmet in which I play for the South Korean national team. It depicts Sun-Shin who is a hero in Korean for what he was able to do on the battle field.

Matt Dalton helmet in South Korea match

How do you feel about naturalization?

I think that it is great but it also has be controlled. I also feel that the naturalized players need to be playing for the right reason and have pride for the team that they are playing for. I think that it has really helped some countries for hockey and elevated there level of play. Which has given players more experience then they would of gotten. I think that it can help some players with someone to talk to about their experience in hockey. I think that most countries are very responsible when it comes to this situation so I feel like it is a positive for the game of hockey and it can help grow the game.

At the World Championships in Kazakhstan, you became the best goalkeeper. What does this title mean to you?

This is a great honour there was many great goalies at this tournament so to get this award was a great honour and I was happy to show that I can still play at a high level.

Matt Dalton – the best goalkeeper of the 2019 Div IA World Cup in Kazakhstan

Did you like Kazakhstan as a whole?

Yes I did, our hotel was great and also the facilities and the ice rink were first class. It was a great experience and our team had a good time. I had been to the city many years before and played in the old ice rink. It is a very beautiful city.

What is the difference between Asian, European and North American leagues?

This is a difficult question. I have been playing in Asia for a long time and it is difficult to compare their league with others. In the Asian Hockey League, players are very experienced and fast. Hockey players from other countries come to Asia every year, which makes local players develop and become better.

“Which forwards don’t you like?”

There are no forwards that I don’t like, but there are those whom I do not like to play, against as they are very strong on the ice and can embarrass you.

Where are you now and how do you spend your free time?

 Now I am in the small Canadian town of Grand Bend. Here I spend time with the family during the off-season. I spend most of my free time working on our house and yard. I try to play golf and fish when the weather allows me to do so.

You have a lot of pictures from fishing. What was the biggest catch in your memory?

Probably, I caught salmon weighing 24 pounds.

Matt Dalton Catch of the day

Maksim Laptev: “Serbs are still Freaks

By Vitali Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Russian hockey player Maksim Laptev gave an interview to NToIH and talked about why he left Novosibirsk for Serbia at the age of 17 and why Serbia is the best country for playing hockey, despite the fact that he played in Finland.

About yourself?

I was born on December 14, 1994 in Novosibirsk. I’m also a pupil of Siberia, I spent all my childhood there until the age of 16-17. In 2011, I was at a summer camp in Novosibirsk. Since many in our city already played in Serbia, I received an offer to go play in the Hungarian championship. One Russian hockey player wrote to me saying If I want to play in Serbia. I gave my consent, and he gave my consent to Alex Andjelic (trainer in Serbia). Alex wrote to me on Facebook. The team was based in Serbia in Novi Sad. They provided everyone an apartment, three meals a day, a salary of 300 euros. Plus, tickets to Serbia, a Russian school, equipment, and so on. In general, I want to go and play. What could I think I was 16 years old? Live alone in chic conditions, play hockey and get paid. My Parents were shocked, of course, from the fact that I decided to leave. but I really wanted it and therefore made a decision. Four other Russian players left with me.

We had a very strong coaching staff – Alex Andjelic was the head coach, Daniel Cuomo and Danny Peters were assistant coaches.

First Season in Serbia?

When I came to ice rink for the first time, it seems so easy to play, for me because Serbians are not technical and are not fast. They were the best players from all country.  We were given a task has a mission was to help Serbian players.

After years these Serbian players successfully perform in different leagues. The atmosphere was great and because of 5 Russian players, “they helped me to”. The club management was happy with the outcome of the season. We went to play-offs, we went two rounds.

After the season I went to Finland. I wanted to grow up as a player, I wanted to play in a where hockey was very popular. And of course money was the one of reason to come to Finland.

Text from Alex

 

Career in Finland?

My first Finnish team Et-Po 72, I had good experience with adult hockey players I would play with them and gain experience. The league where I played consisted mainly of hockey players who came home to play for their local club at the end of their careers. but some clubs also had higher paid players – they would buy players. After two seasons in Et-Po 72, in the 14/15 season I moved to the Lyamarit team from a higher division. The league was better there, since the Lapland region is the strongest in Finland, they are all teams on the same level. It was interesting, a good training process and competition, but in Lyamarit it was not possible to spend a full season, as I received a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season. Then I moved to another club – TIHC. This was the best club at that time, and they won the title that same year, but without me, because they refused my visa. Therefore, I had to look for something in the middle of the season and I received an offer from “Red Star” to play in the Slovenian championship. (For two seasons in Lyamyarit and TIHC Maxim played 11 matches, scored two goals and gave up two assists)

Maksim was part of Lyamyarit

Pros and cons of hockey in Serbia

The advantages of Serbian hockey is the thrill of life and playing in Serbia. You enjoy life and do what you love. It is warm there, summer cafes, restaurants, beautiful girls, nightlife – this is the best, probably from all the countries where I have been. Well, people, of course, are very fraternal to Russians.

Of the minuses, of course, is the lack of ice and stadiums. They don’t have ice in the summer and the guys do not train on ice 5-6 months after the end of the season.

In fact, there is no Serbian championship, the only two teams – “Red Star” and “Vojvodina”. they were always interested more in the Slovenian league, and the Serbian league exists only for IIHF requirements. This is necessary for the IIHF to have a team for the Continental Cup and a team for the World Championships.

About Serbian citizenship?

Initially, as soon as I arrived, I received an offer to make a passport. I started the registration process, I was busy with all the papers, but then I went to play in Finland and everything stopped. This year they called me and asked me to send all my documents to complete the process with my passport. I think everything would be ready for the World Championships. I didn’t ask this question much, because I was focused only on my team in France.

About a career in France

After “Red Star” I played two seasons in “Vojvodina”. In May 2018, I had knee surgery, the recovery was a long time, and I missed the summer camp. If you didn’t pass the training camp with the team in the summer, then it’s hard to get in shape and join somewhere in the middle of the season.  In November, only my agent wrote to me that there was an offer from Sweden and France. I understood that the main thing now is to play somewhere and get in shape and I chose France. They were given very good training, and I am happy to be here. Reims is a good city, and the club itself has a huge history and the have highest goals that we completed this year – we went up from the fourth division to the third.

Maksim as a member of Reims

The best season for hockey in Serbia?

I don’t know about there history, but everything turned out well in one year, that they won three championships. From the U20 team I know that many guys played outside of Serbia – in the championships of Hungary, Slovenia. Plus they have a very good trainer from Canada, Fred Perone.

And the national team held the World Championships at home. This is also a plus. I hope that in Serbia everything will improve for the better (In 2019, the Serbian national teams won tournaments in all their divisions: adult IIA, youth IIB and junior IIB, and 19-year-old striker Marko Dragovic was the only player who participated in all these tournaments)

Interesting fact?

Serbians are the freaks , It was my first season for “Vojvodina”. We played at some tournament for 2 days. I told my coach “I don’t want to play, I want to rest”, but on the second day he called me and said: “Come on, we need to win this tournament. I send a car for you”. In our team we had a lot of Serbians and a little bit Canadians. They were so weird. They do anything on the ice, but they can’t shoot.

 

Kirill Lodeikin: “I am glad that I play for Estonia”

Kirill Lodeikin in the national team of Estonia under 20 years old at the World Championship in Division IIA

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of Ice Hockey

19-year-old forward of the Estonian and New Jersey Rockets team Kirill Lodeikin, who became the best sniper at the last World junior Under 20 Championship in IB division, spoke about why most Estonian players go to play in Finland, as he received an invitation to the Finland national team and why he didn’t play for them.

Why do many hockey players playing in the Estonian national team go to the Finnish leagues?

Finland is very close to Estonia. Most players go there to gain experience, which in the future will lead them to professionals.

What do you think, which of the current national team players stands out for in this game?

I can’t name specific players, but I’ll say that good youth players is growing now. Definitely, they will be able to raise the level of men’s hockey program in Estonia.

If you compare Estonia with other neighboring countries, then what place do you put Estonia in and why?

In the first place among the Baltic countries I will put Latvia. They still have a very strong team, which has Dynamo Riga club. I will put Estonia in second place, because now we are showing a completely different hockey than before. I do not want to say anything bad about Lithuania. I will put them in last place, although I think that they are on the same level with us.

Tell me why you decided to connect your life with hockey? In which country did you first skate?

I started hockey at 4 years old. Of course, I tried myself in other different sports, but I never caught the buzz from the game, except for hockey. From the first time I went ice skating in my hometown of Narva, Estonia.

What languages ​​do you know?

I speak Finnish, English, Russian and I don’t speak Estonian, but I understand him, because he is very similar to Finnish.

 In Finland, you played not only in one system. How did your transitions to other clubs affect your career?

In fact, the transitions was hard. When I played for Jokerit, I really liked it there and taught me a lot. The transition from “Jokerit,” to another club was not at my request. In general, transitions are always difficult, when you yourself are satisfied where you play, and suddenly you are exchanged.

Last season you spent time in the USA. What difference immediately struck you?

The hardest is the size of the ice rink. All my life I played on big ice and suddenly switched to small, it was inconvenient, but then I got used to it. In America, it’s completely different hockey than in Europe. I like to play with my head, but, unfortunately, they play there at the expense of foot speed, I dumped the puck in and you skate in after it.

If you believe the statistics, then in the USA you have only 6 minutes in penalties in 37 games, given that in past seasons it was much more. What changed?

“I don’t like breaking the rules.” I understand that I’m letting my team down by removing myself from the game and that now the guys will have to take the game on themselves and there is a chance that the opposing team will score. In the USA, I played under different rules of hockey, the refs let a lot things go on the ice.

“Do you know about successful New Jersey Rockets graduates?”

Honestly, who was specific, I don’t know, and somehow there was no interest in this. (As part of the “New Jersey Rockets” in the seasons 2005/06 and 2006/07, performed by John Carlson – Stanley Cup in 2018 as part of “Washington Capitals”) . Now I know that Luke House and Ryan Sorkin, who played in the rink with me, have signed contracts with teams from the NCAA.

Kirill Lodeikin in the USA

At the World Junior Championship division 1B you became the best forward, although there were players with experience in QMJHL on other teams. Did you expect the tournament to be so successful in terms of your individual statistics?

When I went to the World Junior Championship didivision 1B, I realized that I could play to my strength there, so I was ready for this in advance. Hard work always pays off, but at some point it can be a little bit of luck. Of course, I didn’t think much about statistics. The task was to remain in the division, and I tried to help the team with all my might to do this.

 In the game against Italy you scored a hat-trick. Did you score hat-tricks before and how many points did you score in one game?

Yes, before that I also score hat-tricks. It’s hard to say what my best score is in one game, but I remember for sure that I scored five points in one game.

Kirill Lodeikin recognized as the most valuable player in the Estonian national team after the match against the Italian national team in the World Junior Championship division IB

This year you played for the adult team. Did you manage to switch from youth hockey to adult?

The level in adult hockey is much higher than in youth. The game was completely different from what I was used to. I saw a lot of my shortcomings, and got a very huge and positive experience. (Kirill Lodeikin made his debut for the main team at the per-qualification of the Olympic Games 2022, in which the Estonian team suffered three defeats in three games. Kirill Lodeikin scored an abandoned goal against the Hungarian national team).

In the per-qualification for the Olympic Games, the national team included players from the local championship. What can you say about their game?

 I know that Dmitri Kuznetsov was called to the training camp at the last moment. He is a great fellow that came to the team. Each player tried to prove himself, because initially the head coach said that he wanted to see young players. I remember that in addition to him, there were Saveli Novikov – a defender playing for the Tallinn Viking and Harri Koll from his club (Harri Koll & Dmitri Kuznetsov play for Tartu Valk 494) , who also tried.

What was the atmosphere on team outside the rink? Indeed, in the national team there are players who are 20 years old, but there are those who are already over 40.

As I said earlier, the atmosphere was positive. Older players always prompted and taught young players some new things. Respect was there, both from the young to the older guys, and vice versa.

How often do you visit Estonia?

In Estonia, I have many close friends. It turns out that I go there once a year in the summer and even then not always. It all depends on my hockey season.

Who do you consider to be the best player in the history of Estonian hockey?

Many talented players were, are and will be. I don’t want to single out anyone.

How popular is hockey in Estonia? What is needed in order to increase the popularity of this sport in the country?

 In recent years, it has become more popular than it was before, and I am very happy about that. What needs to be done to make hockey even more popular? I think we need to win more medals for the country.

How do you usually spend your free time?

I usually try to spend free time with my family and friends.

“Are you studying somewhere now?” Is it difficult to combine hockey with study?

I study in Finland. This year was very difficult due to the fact that my school refused to give me online education. Because of this, I had to pause my studies, but now I have come back to Finland and am doing it.

“You have dual citizenship.” Can you play for the Finnish national team now?

Regarding the performance for the national team of Finland, it is now too late to speak. When I was 14 years old, I was invited to the training camp in the Finnish national team. It turns out like this: they call the 150 best players in Finland and play a tournament between the teams, the best players go on. Only 150 hockey players, then 100, then 50, and so on they slowly create a team, but at that time I did not have Finnish citizenship and I could not go. Then an invitation was received to the Estonian national team. I am glad that I play for Estonia.

Dmitri Kuznetsov (left), Eduard Slessarevski (center) and Kirill Lodeikin (right) as part of the Estonian U-20 team at the IIA World Junior Championship

What can you say about women’s hockey in Estonia and Finland?

 I do not follow women’s hockey. However, I know that in Finland they are almost as good as the male team, and as for Estonia, I hope that they will soon be playing to a new level.

Where do you plan to conduct pre-season training and is there a chance that we will see you next season in Finland?

 I always spend pre-season training in Finland. There is everything I need here, but I can’t say anything about the next season because of the difficult situation around the world related to the virus.

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