How did you start playing hockey? Who brought you in?
I liked hockey from a young age. I often went to Dinamo Moscow games with my father. So it’s ironic that they sent me to the Spartak Moscow school
Spartak’s school was close to home, so it was convenient for parents and me to get to the ice with a lot of equipment. When I first came to the school I didn’t know how to skate, but very quickly, with the help of my first coach, Vladimir Nikolaevich Kuznetsov, I learned. Moreover, two weeks after my first training session he included me in the main roster, although there were a lot of talented kids in the structure apart from me. Looking ahead, our Spartak, team, consisted of kids born in 89, was the best in Moscow for eight years. We always won different gold medals and cups.
Were you keen on hockey as a kid, did you watch any games? Were there any idols among hockey players?
Of course I was. I watched, went to the games, trained. I even managed to watch some NHL games, and even that one on tape. Often caught San Jose Sharks games on TV, so my idol was Canadian Joe Thornton. Liked his power play style very much.
Why did you make your KHL debut in Vityaz, as a Spartak pupil?
I played in Spartak until my senior year, and then unfortunately the financial problems began in the team, and the main team disappeared from the horizon for several years. It was a real shame, because I, and the rest of the guys were confident that we would be able to help the main team, but most importantly – everyone had the desire to do so. Then I was invited to the Chekhov Vityaz preview. The audition was successful, and a week later I signed my first professional contract. I had great mentors: A.A. Yarushkin and Michael Krushelnitsky. They were the ones who believed in me and gave me a chance to play in the KHL. I think I showed well for the second team and got a call-up for my first KHL game against SKA St. Petersburg. And in the second KHL game against Severstal, I scored my first goal.
How did your career develop before moving to Poland?
After Vityaz there were several options to move to Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) and Metallurg (Novokuznetsk), both of them KHL clubs, but I could not agree on any contract details. I received a very good offer from Molot-Prikamye of the VHL. I took it and spent a season and a half in Perm. In the middle of the second season I went to Sarov, which is a farm club of Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo of the KHL. I played there till the end of the season, after that I signed a full contract for 2 years with Sarov. I started the season successfully: became the best goalscorer of the first month according to the VHL. Then came an offer from THC Tver, one of the leading teams in the VHL at the time. I agreed to the transfer.
Why did you decide to move abroad?
After the regular season, THC made me an offer to continue to play for the team. We signed a new contract for the next two seasons. But for reasons unknown to me the club’s development strategy changed and I had two options: either to wait for an offer in Russia, or to consider options from Europe. I chose the second one.
Why Poland? Were there any options to go to North America? If so, why didn`t it work out?
I got an offer from Poland’s best team – GKS TYCHY. I did not think too much, I came for a try-out, talked to the coaches and team management as far as it was possible then. We understood that our goals and interests were the same. I should say at once that I have never regretted going to the club. Prior to my arrival the club always played in the playoffs and national cup finals. But the team had always stayed in the last place and by that time had failed to win league gold for 10 years and the domestic cup for 8 years. In the season when I joined the team we won everything in Poland and not only. We won the domestic cup, the league championship and the Supercup and, for the first time in the history of Poland we won bronze medals in the Continental Cup in Rouen. Of course, it is great to think that, after all these years of waiting, I managed to win these trophies and that I had my finger in it.
As for America, I had an offer to go there early in my career but my agent could not come to an agreement. St. Louis scouts were interested in me and even invited me to the rookie camp. But alas, something went wrong…
Did your family “travel” with you?
Yes, my family was almost always with me, but there were nuances that did not always allow us to be together. We managed to find some compromises. I am very grateful to my wife for her support.
Have you ever played for youth national teams? If so, which ones?
How was your career in Poland? Recollect the brightest moments.
My career in Poland was very successful, I spent 5 years in this country, many vivid memories. I could have even got a second citizenship and played for the Polish national team, but I failed. I consider the most brilliant moment of my career the season 14/15 when I have won every title in Poland and abroad with GKS TYCHY as I’ve told earlier. Objectively, it was the best season of my career.
What happened after Poland?
After Poland I received an offer to continue my career in the UK Extraliga with Edinburgh. I was sent a contract and I signed it. But I was denied a visa! On a ridiculous technicality: the percentage of games I was supposed to play on the team last season had to be at least 75%. But I played 74.5% – I missed literally 3 games! I missed a lot of games because of injuries during that season. Then I received an offer from Russia, HC Ryazan from VHL. I got injured there too. Then I went to Sputnik from Nizhny Tagil, who also played in the VHL, where I got another injury, but during training sessions, just before signing the contract. The contract was not signed and I went home. It was a difficult time in my career. I was pondering my future, wondering if I should finish hockey or continue. My family supported me during that period, thank you very much for that. Some time later, I got a call from Torun in Poland, they were playing in the first league at the time, as they were relegated from the extraliga. The job was to help the team return to the top division, which I helped them to do. We won the league and the team qualified for the next season. And I became the top scorer of the play-offs.
How did you get into short hockey?
I was thinking about what to do when I arrived from Poland. I was expecting an offer from Poland at the time, after such a great performance, so I needed to keep myself in shape to come to either a preview or go to a preseason training camp with the team on the call. I found out about a new project – short hockey. I was invited to a preview. After the first game, the management contacted me to find out if I was ready to continue in this particular sport. My answer was unequivocal – I liked it and was ready to continue. It was an interesting game. The reply I got was: great, welcome to us! That’s how my journey in short hockey began. And two weeks after I became a full-fledged short hockey player, I got a call from the president of the Toruń club in Poland. I was told that a new contract was waiting for me. But by then I had made the decision to end my professional hockey career and concentrated on playing short hockey.
How did you start in this sport?
I started as an ordinary player. Soon became captain and already had a lot of responsibility for the game and the result of my team. As time passed, I decided to try myself as a referee.
Why did you decide to become a referee?
I have wanted to try myself as a referee for a long time. It was interesting to see how things work from the other side. I tried it and liked it. This is a new and interesting stage in my career.
Is it difficult to change from a player to a referee?
At first I thought it was hard. But soon, after refereeing a few games, I understood that it is not difficult.
Did you start to look at the game a little differently, understanding how a particular episode is interpreted by the referee and not the player?
Of course, the difference is huge. When you are a player, you play on emotions, adrenaline. You can not objectively assess the situation, this or that moment. And when you are a referee, you see every moment differently from a player. It is a big responsibility. But it is all the more interesting.