Semin with children at his former hockey school, Sokol Krasnoyarsk on Sunday. D’awww. (Photo credit: krsksokol.ru)
While many of the Russian NHL superstars immediately signed with KHL teams days after the lockout was imposed, former Capital Alex Semin had a tortoise’s pace in finding a new club. Sasha Minor had been linked to both Sergei Fedorov’s CSKA and the rebuilding Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, but on Tuesday Semin finally decided who he wanted to play for: an obscure wildcard team in Russia’s minor league.
Sokol Krasnoyarsk – a modest club from the VHL (a minor Russian hockey league similar to the AHL) — announced today that they signed Semin to a season-long contract for the league minimum. During the press conference, Semin explained why he signed on with his hometown team. The reason should have been obvious from the start: Semin wanted his 90-year-old granny to see him play. You can’t make this stuff up.
“I just want to be home, in Krasnoyarsk,” Alex Semin said in his interview to Alexander Rogulev from Sport Express. “When I was leaving for the NHL, I dreamed that if there is ever a decent team and an opportunity, I would definitely play in front of my local fans.”
“I had options with some KHL clubs. But I decided to play at home,” Semin continued. “I have known the hockey people of Krasnoyarsk for a long time, was here after the Worlds, prepared for the new season in the local arena. You know, at first it was just jokes. And then I thought – why not? It’s been a long time since I spent much time at home. All the friends and relatives are ecstatic. And my grandma hasn’t seen me play in person for awhile. I’ll give her a present; she just turned 90 years old. She is in great health and a big fan.”
As his new employer is of limited financial strength, Alex will play hockey for almost nothing (his $1,600 per week will all go towards his insurance policy premium). And even if he is eventually rewarded for his efforts, Sasha is planning to give it all to a very worthy cause: purchasing equipment and uniforms for the school where he started his hockey career.
True to his reputation, Sasha chose the hidden path– staying close to home and playing in a league most people on this side of the Pacific never even heard of, on a team with a total payroll just a tiny fraction of what he would earn in the NHL. Back when Alex Semin wore his Caps red for likely the last time, he told Igor how he never gets tired of spending time at his waterfront dacha on Krasnoyarsk Sea, with all the jet skiing, fishing, and bears in the woods. In a few short weeks, the sea will freeze, the bears will be hibernating, and Sasha will be enjoying the Siberian winter for the first time in his adult life.
Video: Sasha’s First Practice With Sokol Krasnoyarsk
Additional reporting and translating by Igor Kleyner.