How Kuzya might replace Ribeiro: hats (Photo credit: Yaroslav Naumkov / Slovo)
Evgeny Kuznetsov recently gave a lengthy interview to the local Chelyabinsk web magazine Slovo (“The Word”) to address some of the many controversies surrounding him. Speaking with Vasily Trounov, Kuznetsov discusses his obligations to appear in promotions, his complicated relationship with his fans, and his tendency to hide from media scrutiny.
Kuznetsov seems to be an intensely private person, but one who doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind when he wants to. He’ll fit in great here.
Hockey agent Alexey Dementyev recently said that Evgeny Kuznetsov is a man who was loved to death first and then became hated.
To be honest, it’s even easier that way. The most important thing is what my close ones think of me, and they’ll never turn their backs on me. Also, I re-thought myself. I look at a lot of things differently now. For example, I pay less attention to what people are saying about me.
The basis for the criticism you have received is probably in the quick change of status from ‘future of the team’ to ‘player that delivers results.’
I was waiting for it, and I was ready for it. But it’s still funny sometimes. When you get 50 points in one season and everyone praises and loves you, and then next year you score 55 points and everyone’s like “Boo, what a freak! He can’t play! He’s got a big head!” How is that? I didn’t play below my level. Were you waiting for me to score 100 points? Well, I’m sorry, I’m not Datsyuk, Malkin, Ovechkin, or Kovalchuk.
Did you make your Instagram account private because of critics?
Yeah, my page was public first, but then brazen people with high self-esteem started to write abusive comments and I closed it.
Are you talking about the cot story? [Kuznetsov earlier in the year jokingly posted a photo of a cot and said this is where has to sleep on road trips. It ended up being a scandal.]
No, that was on Twitter, I ended with that thing altogether. I thought it’s not gonna happen [on Instagram], but it got even worse.
I know you were following the funniest Russian athlete on Twitter, Roman Shirokov.
Me and Roma, we’re different. He’s the star of Russian soccer, he’s an accomplished player and one of the few who tell the truth as it is. Roman could’ve said a lot more, but Russia isn’t like America. People aren’t used to it here; you’ll be eaten alive for it. Our people like to crap on each other, and overall everyone’s kinda disdaining athletes nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the veterans, they’ve done unbelievable things. But a hockey player, in my opinion, shouldn’t tell the media bad things about another hockey player. It’s better to give advice in person. And in the end, every athlete knows his mistakes.
Looks like you were quite displeased with the situation between you and some “respected analysts” this spring, whom you advised to shut up.
I was. It was because of my age and emotions. When I said what I thought, I started to feel better. Yes, I got the sack again [from the press], but it was probably worth it. Some thought my rant was about Gimaev; it’s not true. Sergey Nailevich is a great analyst and person, he never bashed me. If he criticized me, it was justified.
I was recently coming back to Chelyabinsk on the M5 road and saw a few advertisements featuring you. I thought – this guy is participating in ads all the time, when does he play hockey?
Don’t be crazy. Usually the photoshoot takes one day. Most of the time friends or buddies ask me, I cut off all the ‘odd’ people. There are team’s campaigns though. We belong to the club and have some duties to fulfill. Not all photosets look good afterwards, especially those to which I don’t want to go. Recently, by the way, I participated in a commercial for Coca-Cola company. It was really cool! Fantastic level, there are like 60 people running around you – one holds water, the other holds cola, the third holds the towel.
Was your featured role in the “Univer” sitcom with the famous final line “You shoulda not said something like that” an experience you’ll never forget?
It’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. Stas Yarushin asked me to participate, said there are a few candidates, but in the end they picked me. I met all actors in the shooting area, they’re all good guys.
In real life, if your better half would get called ‘dumb’, would you headbutt the offender too?
Not Ararat [Keschyan, the actor whose character Kuzya headbutted in the show], he’s a great dude (laughs). Different things happen, but headbutting isn’t a habit of mine.
Talking about movies and photosets. Do you think professional hockey has become show-business?
Only in Moscow and St. Petersburg maybe. Here, in the depths of the country, you only meet cameras in the night clubs or at the concerts. I’m okay with that because I’m sober there, not drinking.
Soccer player Dmitry Bulykin who plays for Twente in the Nederlands said recently that the only in Russia players are bashed for going to the pubs. In Europe after some games the whole team goes to the night club to celebrate a win.
I would even say more, it’s a tradition to go somewhere before the season together. It rallies the team, but you’ve gotta choose quiet places or ask for that place to close.
In the spring you told the fans that you have no personal car wash to polish your car after every game. What did you mean?
Well, look. In the autumn and spring the car gets powdered by dust, and in the winter it’s covered by snow. You leave the ride at the arena, fans write something with their fingers on it. There are marks from it as a result.
Maybe you should leave it in the neighboring yards?
That doesn’t help. I even hid the car in the forest. It didn’t work. I would understand if young fangirls would do it, but I personally saw from the second floor of the arena two adult men scrawling something on the hood. I opened the window and started yelling at them. It was a mix-up of languages – Russian, English, French, Latin. They were like, why are you talking like this? I told one, let’s go to your car. I wrote a lot of bad words with my finger and then said “Let’s go to the car wash, I’ll pay.” Two weeks later he saw me, showed me marks on his and said: “This is a new car. Now I know why you were so angry.” Well, what can I do, go polish it.
Have you heard about the rally of Traktor’s female fans in May?
No. What rally?
Against the offseason firesale.
I understand them; they fight for the team, but now is not the time when you can get something by going on the streets and protesting. Hockey is a business, and you’ve gotta like the management first and foremost. If a team fails at the end of the season, fans will still be allowed into the arena, while the managers may lose jobs. They have to weigh every step. I could’ve commented on Valera [Nichushkin] leaving, but what for? The guy just wanted to go to the NHL. It’s his right.
I’ve heard you love to play hockey on console. Did you follow the voting for NHL14 cover?
Pasha Datsyuk was my pick, but he was eliminated in the semifinals. He may not score 100 goals a year, but when he’s out on the ice, he just humiliates you. He sees everything, he can tie his opponent’s shoelaces with one hand. It seems like he never even gets tired. I was happy to play against him, and it was a real honor to play with him.
Who would make the KHL game cover had it existed?
I think [Dynamo goalie Alexander] Eremenko and [head coach Oleg] Znarok. They’re two-time champions. Had we won, Valery Konstantinovich [Belousov] and [Michael] Garnett would look good on the cover. On a winning team the goalie is always the best, you can’t win the Gagarin Cup without him.
Is it true that you talked to Znarok after the loss in the finals?
Yeah. Do I need to tell you what about? No way! Then another rally on the Revolution Square would begin. [Laughs]
Did he try to lure you?
Where did you get this from? That was a false rumor, really. No one was luring me, and I would never move to Dynamo because I’ve decided for myself that it is my last year in the KHL. There’s no money that could keep me in Russia. I could make 30 times less but I’ll feel what it’s like to live in a different country and play against the best players in the world. KHL develops swiftly, but sometimes there are like 800 people in attendance in Sokolniki [Spartak's arena], and there are like 18 thousand at each and every game in the NHL.
There were 40 thousand in Germany at the Worlds.
I agree. I once flew to Mannheim as a part of the U18 national team. I remember a game between local team and Cologne. It was a special game– the last game for a goalie who was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was put in net with five minutes left. When he stepped onto the ice, thousands of people raised some colored paper, and a gigantic heart came out of this. There was a different performance the next game. It’s their habit and it doesn’t matter if a team wins or loses. They just enjoy supporting their team in such beautiful ways.
You once said you’d like to turn off your phone for a day…
I did it during the last vacation. It was off for five days. When I got back, I saw 150 missed calls.
Is there a place where you feel protected? Where do you hide when everything drives you crazy?
It’s my apartment. I come, lay on the bed, my wife’s near me, the dog runs around, the TV is on. You launch the console or go to the window, open it and look at the construction site. I sometimes scream “Hey, put that down!” They halt right away, look around and you laugh. But keep in mind, if I get mad at everything, I’ll hide in the NHL. [Laughs]