Photo credit: Sovetsky Sport
After Friday’s training camp session, Traktor Chelyabinsk announced their captain and assistant captains for the upcoming season. Konstantin Panov will wear the “C” while former Capital Jan Bulis and future Cap Evgeny Kuznetsov will be sporting the “A’s.”
But that’s not why you’re here. Earlier this morning, Sport.ru’s Igor Eronko tweeted out this quote from Kuznetsov: “I think i’ll return to Russia from NHL when I’m 30.”
It seems Kuzya is planning the return trip even before he’s arrived in North America.
As always, context is key. Kuznetsov is speaking to a reporter from a major Russian media outlet who has asked him a loaded question– something along the lines of “Why bother going to the NHL, Kuzya, if everybody is coming back home now anyway?” The 21-year-old Kuznetsov handled it deftly, showing respect to both the league in which he will be playing in this season and Ilya Kovalchuk, who has instantly become the face of the KHL and nothing short of the national hero upon announcing his return.
Kuznetsov is entering the final season of a two-year contract with Traktor that included an enormous bonus from the KHL to keep him at home.
Ilya Kovalchuck came back to Russia. You are planning to go to the NHL next year. Maybe you can change your mind too. Because slowly, everybody is coming back…
Ilya played in the NHL for a long time. Now he is back to play in Russia. I think when I am around 30 years old I’ll also return to Russia, and still will be in excellent physical condition. So I can also be useful for the KHL. I am not sure the others will follow Kovalchuk. Everybody has a contract…
So, Kovalchuk will be able to tell his kids and grandkids that he played in the NHL. I also want the same page in my biography.
The team is on the ice for the first time today. But you already played in the “People vs Traktor” game, as well as the Traktor – Mechel friendly derby. You also trained on the ice by yourself. Did you get enough rest?
Believe it or not, I only had a couple of weeks of break this off-season. I managed to go to the beach with my wife. It was enough. Then I started preparing for the new season. That’s how it is at Traktor, and the league as a whole – you must be prepared to start the preseason. So I am in good physical shape.
Although, in my opinion, the league should gather the players no earlier than three weeks before the season. That should be the goal. Everybody is a pro now, everybody understands the need to prepare for the season by himself. Of course, you need the training camp, but the players can make themselves work. I think the KHL will come to that. The league improves every year, creates better conditions for the players.
There was a time when you played as a center forward. Did the coaches forget that you ought to be at center?
It makes no difference to me. The most important thing is to play. I can find understanding with any line mates. What’s important is for people to be good – as human beings and teammates. Then it’s easy with anybody.
It’s more important for me to have more ice time. That’s what I enjoy.
You were calling someone “Eric” during the practice session today. Who is that?
I was teasing Egor Dugin. Eric, because of Eric Lindros. It’s just a joke.
Additional reporting by Fedor Fedin.