"I've had several surgeries on my shoulders and knees. I didn't think it was worth it."
"In the last couple of months, we haven't heard much about you. Did you retire after you left Sweden?
I spent my last season in Boros and after it was over, I really decided to hang up my skates. Although I have not officially stated this anywhere before. The main reason lies in the state of health. I realized that I just wasn't able to show 100% of my abilities on the ice. And I can't afford to come to some club, deceive people and play to the fullest. It is better to take care of your body, because there are enough injuries that have accumulated. It seems that I am not so many years old, and Danis Zaripov, for example, appeared on the court after 40, but everyone has different situations. By the time I was 32, I had already undergone several surgeries on my shoulders and knees. I didn't think it was worth it. I got enough pleasure from the sport. Now I want to spend more time with my family and develop in a different direction outside of professional hockey.
— Did you have to train through pain?
"Of course. Moreover, the thought was constantly in my head: "What if I get a new injury now?" But, again, this is not in my principles.
— In Buros you performed together with five compatriots: Konstantin Barulin, Vadim Berdnikov, Kirill Lebedev, Vladimir Malevich and Alexander Kuvaev. Moreover, they remained in the country even after the start of the NWO.
– I will say more, the team included not only Russians, but also two Estonians. There were even a couple of Czechs who also understood Russian. In other words, a Russian-speaking friendly diaspora was formed. In the 2021/22 season, we helped Boros move up a division. Then my wife and I went to Denmark on a short trip, and we were even provided with a car. After that, they returned to their homeland.
- Have you been made any claims for political reasons in Sweden?
"At least in my club, we haven't seen anything like that. The only thing is that the local media tried to interview this topic with various provocative questions. In Buros, on the other hand, they protected us. The management told such journalists: "If you want to talk about hockey, go ahead. And we won't allow you to discuss politics with our hockey players." Inside, too, everything was absolutely normal. No one was bothering us. Although I don't know what the attitude towards the Russians is now. However, Barulin and Berdnikov's contracts seem to be still in effect.
How does it feel to play abroad when so many of your compatriots are defending the team's colors with you?
"It was fun. From the point of view of hockey, it was a great experience. And it turned out to be interesting to live in Europe. It is clear that it is much easier to adapt to a team when there are so many people who speak the same language with you than if I was alone. In the locker room, everyone sat next to each other, talked a lot during various trips. We constantly went to cafes and restaurants together, spent our leisure time. We didn't even need to learn Swedish, we contacted the locals in broken English.
"Were they taught foul language?"
— First of all (laughs). Where can we go without it? You explain something to them, and then they shout it on the ice. But the Swedes also revealed their foul language to us. In this respect, we are even. We trained each other.
— What amazed you about the country itself?
— If we take sports, the attitude to hockey. Even Boros, who did not play in the elite division, had a fairly high level. And the game itself is a little different, more combinational. I loved it. As for everyday life, the locals' mentality is absolutely different from ours. Of course, the prices for everything are quite high, but we understood where we were going. On the other hand, the club provided an apartment, a car, and paid for meals. They spent only money on going to cafes or on petrol.
"Uzbeks didn't know what hockey was. We concede the puck, everyone starts applauding."
— Two years before moving to Buros, you went to Tashkent. When we received an invitation from Humo, there was no thought: what kind of hockey can there be?
— At that time, I already knew a little about the project. I was told that they want to create a new club, and the head coach will be Evgeny Popikhin, with whom we crossed paths back in Neftekhimik. We have a great relationship. I went to the first one very much to see him. In addition, there were great conditions, for example, they built a sports palace with a capacity of more than 10 thousand spectators, which was almost 100% full at the playoff meetings.
At first, Uzbeks didn't know what hockey was. It got to the point of ridiculousness. The game is going on, we concede the puck, and everyone in the stands starts cheering and applauding. That is, we really did not understand that it was the opponent who scored, not us. But the fans quickly understood the rules and supported us a lot in the future. They sent videos of fans in the subway singing songs in honor of Humo, chanting and shouting. In this respect, they are crazy in a good way. Even in the KHL, the atmosphere is not like that. After all, in Russia, you are only expected to win, and when things don't work out, they start criticizing. In Uzbekistan, people support regardless of the result, the score on the scoreboard is secondary.
— What is the country remembered for?
"Uzbekistan is developing rapidly. Now it can be compared to Russia ten years ago. Tashkent is a very green city. There are a large number of parks and squares. A lot of houses are being built, and you can feel that a lot of money is being allocated. I liked the capital. At the same time, there is also a local flavor, for example, there are few supermarkets, and locals still buy everything in the markets.
"They say they're incredibly responsive.
"When the coronavirus pandemic began, I found myself in an unpleasant situation. It so happened that my team and I played a match in Moscow, and the families stayed in Uzbekistan. And just at that moment, the borders were closed. It's hard to imagine, but fans began to write to our relatives and offered their help. They were helped to contact the consulate to arrange a charter flight, take them to the airport, and feed them. Alas, the hockey players did not come back. The families arrived in Russia on a special flight only two weeks later.
— Did the Pilaf Center make an impression on you?
"It's unusual there. After all, in Russia, we cook it differently. In Tashkent, pilaf is cooked according to a completely different recipe. First of all, the dish itself is fattier. Secondly, it is made in huge vats, the volume of which is probably 100 liters. But it's insanely delicious.
"After the decisive match of the Gagarin Cup, Vorobyov invited me to the championship locker room"
You've spent nine seasons in the KHL. Which one is the most memorable?
— Debut. In the 2010/11 draw, I was still very young and even got a prize for the best newcomer. Now, years later, I understand that I was very lucky to break into Metallurg Magnitogorsk and play side by side with such masters as Danis Zaripov, Sergei Mozyakin, Jakub Kovař. In addition, Evgeny Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Nikolai Kulemin came to the lockout. All these are world-class stars. I can't help but remember Neftekhimik with a kind word, the colors of which I defended most of my career. I am very grateful to Nizhnekamsk, in which I also spent several good seasons.
— Name the strongest hockey player with whom you crossed paths in the same team.
"It's hard to choose. Probably, it is possible to identify all those whom I remembered. But I would like to note not even the high level of skill of these players, but the amazing human qualities. It seems that there are legends in front of you, and at the same time the most ordinary people. You know, there are hockey players who played a couple of games and caught a star, they talk down to everyone. These guys were on a par with us, they could easily joke. And most importantly, they always prompted.
— Give an example of one such advice.
- I remember the words of Gonchar, who just arrived at Metallurg from Ottawa. In training, he explained to me as a striker that when you go out two-on-one, you need to press more against the defender if you are left-handed, and not run to the boards. In this case, if he pulls at you, you can pass to a teammate. And the angle for throwing will be wider. I tried it on the ice, and it really worked. It seems like a simple piece of advice, but how much experience it has. And I haven't heard anything like that from any of my coaches.
Do you consider the award for the 2010-11 KHL Rookie of the Year to be your greatest achievement?
— In terms of personal awards, yes. But with the teams, alas, it was not possible to win any significant trophies, for example, the Gagarin Cup. At the same time, he did not reach it very little. In 2014, Magnitogorsk won the KHL playoffs, but I was traded at the start of the season. I didn't have a chance to lift the cup over my head. But I celebrated with the guys.
"How did that happen?"
– I have to say a huge thank you to the coach of Magnitogorsk Ilya Vorobyov. I came to the city on vacation and just watched the final matches from the stands as an ordinary fan. As a result, after the victory over Lev in the decisive seventh game, he personally approached me and invited me to the dressing room. Said, "We're waiting for you. You were also part of the team in the regular season and contributed." Although I played only seven games and did not score a single point in them. I must admit that it was very nice that he did not forget about me. Then I went with the guys to the championship banquet.
Are you satisfied with your career in general, or could you have done better?
– I am grateful to fate for all the years in hockey and the matches played, but I know that I could have shown myself better. In some cases, I made the wrong decisions myself. In some cases, life circumstances interfered. But now I try not to regret anything.
— If there was an opportunity to go back in time, what would be changed?
"I didn't take the chance to shine in North America at all. To do this, first of all, it was necessary to get into the NHL draft. But he was a young fool and didn't pay much attention to it. I was called up to the junior national team of Russia, and I did not understand that it is through international tournaments that hockey players end up in the league draft.
I went to the national team with the idea of returning as soon as possible so as not to lose my place in the Metalurh squad. The Super Series in Canada was not held in the best way. In part, this was due to his mental state. As a result, I didn't get into any draft, but my career could have turned out completely differently. On the other hand, he performed in Uzbekistan (laughs).
- When did you finish your career in professional sports, did you leave your native Metalurh with an offer of cooperation?
"Not yet. We didn't discuss a possible job as a coach either. I've just finished and I'm just going to get some rest. To be honest, I almost don't watch matches now. I follow football much more. But Magnitogorsk is pleased with the results. In the current season, the team has radically changed the squad and invited a new coaching staff. Magnitogorsk demonstrate beautiful productive hockey and have every chance to win the Gagarin Cup again.