– You were born in Balakhna, Nizhny Novgorod region. How did it happen that you became involved in hockey?
– Generally it is an urban settlement. There is a town called Zavolzhye about 15 km from our town. So, one morning, not to say the best one, at 5 am I got a call from my father, my mother answered the phone, and my father told her: “Get ourson dressed, we are coming to take him to hockey. In Nizhny Novgorod, from the age of 6 my friend was playing for Torpedo, with whom we, literally, were taken together in the wheelchair. And apparently, my mother tried to convince my father to let me play hockey too, and then, at the age of 9, the time probably came. We came to Zavolzhye, I was given a helmet and skates, and that’s how my career began.
– 190 – height, 120 weight. Have you always stood out for your size among your peers?
– As a kid, I was like everyone else. I was never “dry”. I was always chubby, physiologically just like my father. Gradually, at the age of 16, I started training in gym, went to the gym because I realized that I wanted to play hockey professionally, and for that I needed to prepare my body.
– Did you do anything else besides hockey?
– Yes, up to the age of 11 I was involved in Russian folk dancing, played the accordion, went to karate, at the age of 11, after moving to Moscow I started boxing. I was involved in tennis, both table tennis and regular tennis, but that was for myself.
– As a child, did you like hockey yourself? Or was indifferent?
– There were no idols. At 16, when I graduated from Dynamo High School, I was promised that I would get into YHC Dynamo. My father and I, he was my agent, went to Sochi to prepare, and a few days before the training camp the management told him that they didn’t need me. It really hit me hard. I saw no obvious reason why I was not worthy of getting a chance to prove myself. Then, as fate would have it, I signed a contract with the Red Army for a year, and there I set myself the task of proving to Dynamo that they had made a mistake by rejecting me.
– At the Glinka Memorial you scored 2 goals in 4 games. Ordinary tough guy are usually not known for their stats. Why didn’t you manage to go further up the steps to the main national team?
– Before the World Cup I had an incident: we went to Saint Petersburg on the road, and in one of the games, although we were winning, the referee was horrible and everyone was getting very emotional. There was a fight between me and a guy from the opposite team. All fair and square, 1 on 1. And there was a video of the referee coming to stop me and falling down. It was treated as a hit of the referee… I was penalised for that, either for 5 or 10 matches. In fact, I should have been sent off till the end of the match – for starting a fight, but I was blamed for hitting the referee, though he fell down himself, was punished and it affected my call-up to the national team, though in all the previous national teams I had played. I regret that it happened, the boys took bronze medals at the World Cup that year.
– Did you somehow learn fighting on ice?
– Originally only boxing. But the technique is different on ice. At some point, I became interested in how you can do fights on ice, so I started training with older guys who understand it: Jeremy Jablonski, Trevor Gillis, Darcy Vero. The guys I had with Vityaz and CSKA. They helped me with my technique, explained how and what to do.
– Do you remember your first fight?
– Yes, it was a youth fight. With Andrei Belov. There was even a story that Belov did not make the main roster, he went home, and he got a call, told about me and was called up “for me”. At the end of the third period we threw off the gloves and helmets and at that moment I realised that everything was different here, not like in boxing. Here you can only claw and decide who has the most technique. From the outside, of course, it looks very funny.
– Yeah, I’ve seen that video. You collide, you throw off your cuffs, take off your elbow protection, take off your own jersey and shoulder pads. Pretty unorthodox technique. Is that what you wanted?
– No, it was all improvisation. It wasn’t until after the fight that I realised I’d done it right. When I took off his shirt, he didn’t have a bib, so if I hadn’t “undressed” myself, he could have grabbed me by some element of protection, but I couldn’t.
– How were you met at Vityaz? Were you immediately perceived as a tough guy, or did they expect you to be a scorer?
– Unfortunately, after the youth team, I got caught as a tough guy player, although I am truly grateful to Alexey Yarushkin, the Russian Vityaz coach, who never gave me any instructions to fight, although at some point I myself started to search and look for a fight, a provocation. Maybe in Vityaz they couldn’t find the role I needed in the team, somewhere I was given to play, but with the initial setup to be ready to fight. Yes, I can fight, stand up for my team, but the glory has gone before me.
– The end of the match against Sochi. A fight starts, after which you are accused of attacking from the back, smashing your head, even though the videos show that this was not the case. What happened in the Vityaz locker room after that episode?
– I’ll tell you how it all happened: our captain, Vyacheslav Solodukhin, was injured, his knee was taken out, after which I turned to the coach and asked why we were inactive. I was ready to punish for such behaviour. I quickly went out from bench, Wilson comes out for a shift, I turn him towards me, already without the gloves, he kneels, I realise he’s not going to fight, I get hit by Emerton, some other Canadian, then two more of russian guys. The first one to come at me was Emerton, so he got hit accordingly. After the match, in an interview, the coach said that Kudreman was a hero who was not afraid to go into the crowd. The captain also thanked me after the match for not letting it go unpunished.
– What tasks did coaches give you in Ufa? To play forward, or to defend your teammates, at that time many thought that you were taken to defend Umark?
– There were a lot of rumors. At the meeting with the GM before signing the contract we discussed all of my goals: to play as a forward and to protect my teammates in case of need.
– Let’s reconstruct the timeline a bit: how did your career continue after Salavat?
– I tried to heal and recover for a few months, there was an offer from Sochi, but in the HHL. Somehow, I still don’t know why, I decided to finish my career. It was very hard. There were plans to go to Moscow, but in Balakhna I was offered to open a hockey department at a sports school, I agreed and for two years I was the director of the sports school. My contract expired, it was not renewed, so I ended up in Moscow, got to know short hockey, started playing and coaching kids at the same time. So far there is no understanding of what I want to do.
– What are you leaning towards?
– Of course I would like to coach the youth team, and then become a coach in the adult team.
– When and how did you get into short hockey?
– Heard from fellow hockey players in September 2019, came for a selection, got a reply a month later that I was accepted.
– Was it difficult to “retrain” to the new rules, especially regarding power holds and fights?
– It was not difficult. When I was a school director, I went out on the ice and there were also restrictions regarding power play. It was not hard to adjust. Yeah, for the first few games you’re not thinking about the game, but constantly rehearsing the rules in your head: when you can shoot and when you can’t. There were no major difficulties.
– How do your parents feel about your career?
– They have always been supportive. They always say that everything will get better, everything will be fine in one way or another. They always tell me: “Develop yourself”, because during my hockey career I didn’t pay enough attention to my studies, and I regret that too.
– How did you combine your studies at school?
– I finished school with no “C “s, passed all exams well, learned English by playing in America. I got into the university (Russian State University of Physical Culture and Sport) and got a place for free. I can’t say I’m not very bright, but I wish I had studied in some other field besides sport.
– What is the difficulty of becoming a coach?
– There are examples of guys who don’t have it easy to find a job as a coach. I don’t know why this is the case in our country. It’s sad for me. That our country does not support athletes who are finishing their careers, but want to move on, become coaches or managers of teams. Small salaries, until you go to the administration a million times, they will not buy you a uniform for your children, and if you don’t have friends, they may not provide you with one at all. I was very surprised when I found out that the salary of a coach in the village is the same as in Moscow. Many hockey players who just graduated from sports schools, but did not play at high levels, take places of more worthy people, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t understand how a coach can yell foul language at kids and they turn a blind eye to it. In our country, good athletes who are worthy and want to coach are not given the attention they deserve. And this is not from words, but from personal examples.
– What about Canada? What is the situation with coaches there?
– I didn’t go that deep back then. I can’t say why, maybe because of the money, maybe just because, but it was good. I was ok with everything. I was coached by professionals, and it didn’t matter whether they played or not. Everything was very competently structured.
– You have now gone to 2 short hockey tournaments, captaining both. What are your plans for the sport?
– If I am here, it means I like doing it. I have a good relationship with the ISHF president. I’m one of those people who go all the way, in spite of difficulties. Everyone knows how I feel about the president, the league and the federation. The federation is developing, I want to go to the World Cup, to make it happen. Any development in the sport is a big plus for me. I want to be in it as long as possible. For me short hockey was something new in terms of life experience and advancement. Who knows, after the World Cup local federations may open up in many countries, I would love to try myself as a leader. Would love to go to America for example. Yes, many people say it is not patriotic. The word “patriot” is very specific. If its needed, I am ready to stand up for my country, to go to the barricades. The birches, the fields – you can’t take it away from your heart, but in the 21st century you can try to work wherever you want, not limit yourself to where you were born.
– Why are you so attracted to America?
– You pay taxes and you see what you pay them for, no offence to our country, but I say what I see. If the opportunity to go to work in America arises, I would go with great pleasure. All the more I’m going to develop the sport myself. Especially under the auspices of ISHF.
– You are 27. What advice would you give to young hockey players?
– It’s hard to say… I’ve heard a lot of advice myself, but I’ve never followed it. You have to work for yourself, for the people you play for, and all the club bureaucracy should stay out of the way. Prove to yourself that you are capable of something, work to the limit and never give up. Look for ways and opportunities to fulfil yourself, regardless of whether you have had a successful career or not.