The ongoing drama of Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s impending jump to the NHL is relentless. Informally, we call this drama Fifty Shades of Red, one for each of his forecasted dates to end our second Long National [Capital] Nightmare by putting on the red sweater we thought he’d have been wearing for a couple of years by now. Just a few short days ago, as we brought you another pronouncement from Kuznetsov on this subject – the one where he appeared quite open to a new long-term deal with a KHL outfit (not even necessarily his beloved Traktor), I told myself it was time for us to kick the habit. No more Kuzya-Is-Coming-Or-Not translations!
We didn’t last the week. In yet another interview, this time with Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Kuzya talks about coming to Washington again, reasons for his recent jersey number change to #84, and a nice surprise he is preparing for his hometown fans. Also, as it turns out, in a few months Kuznetsov will file the necessary paperwork to obtain his American visa. Well, Kuzya, you can mess all you want with reporters, bloggers, followers, fans, coaches, and even GMGM – but you don’t mess with USCIS! That date of entry on your visa application better be real!
Kuznetsov’s full conversation with Lysenkov is below.
You are playing great for The Sbornaya wearing 92 [on your sweater]. But with your club, you decided to change it to 84. Are you not afraid to lose your good fortune?
I don’t believe in any magic of numbers. And it’s not about marketing: [as some say] all of the paraphernalia with number 92 has been sold out, now go buy the new stuff. I have my own reasons [Editor's note: This translates literally to “I have my own cockroaches in my brain”). I just decided to experiment.
I bet you are going to return to 92.
When Traktor is done with the playoffs, you are leaving for Washington. And 84 is already taken there by Mikhail Grabovski.
Yes, it’s possible. This summer I spoke to the GM, head coach, scouts from Washington. They all would like for me to do that.
I can guarantee you, I am going to start working on my American Visa after New Year's. Also, we’ll have to look at my health. Also don’t forget about the Worlds. But if everything works out, I should be able to leave like Alex Radulov – to the NHL right after the KHL season ends for the club.
But Radulov had played for Nashville before. Are you not afraid to jump right in?
What’s there to be afraid of? Alex Ovechkin is in Washington, he promised he is definitely going to help me out. Hockey-wise it’s going to be much more interesting. I’ll end up right in the midst of the inferno.
Sergei Gimaev (ex-Soviet/CSKA player who currently serves as a hockey analyst) told Sovetsky Sport in an interview: “I greatly respect Kuznetsov. He re-signed with Traktor for two more years because Bilyaletdinov asked him, he wanted to prepare him for the Olympics."
It's not only because of that. First of all, I was thinking about my club. About Chelyabinsk fans. After each game they were begging me to stay. They were bringing nice letters to my home. Writing good wishes on my dust-covered car.
So these two years were simply a gift to my home town. I play for Chelyabinsk. And I have a lot of surprises for them.
I would like to buy a t-shirt for every fan and put them on the arena seats before the first game of the season.
No these will be about a charity for kids. I have friends who are helping me with that.
Are you ready for the physical game in the NHL? Are you improving your strength?
My muscles are getting bigger. But most of all I am learning to skate. If I learn to move better, it will be harder to hit me. And the dirty hits – that you can get in the KHL as well.
Did you change your preparation routine for this season?
Yes. I only rested for half a month in the offseason. One week in Dubai, another in Georgia.
In Georgia. I went to where Chelyabinsk goalie Georgiy Gelashvilli is from. I really liked his village. One of the strongest impressions of my whole life!
And then I returned and started training right away. But not to just to start the season in top shape and get to Sochi. I simply realized that my game leaves a lot of questions unanswered among the experts and reporters. I got too much in advance. I need to prove that I am not just a young player, but I belong among the best on Team Russia.
Did Ovechkin tell you anything new about Washington. Did you hang out with him during the camp?
He told me a long time ago to get out [of here]. But we only were in Sochi for a day and a half. Didn’t talk much about that.
The fans reacted nervously when you mentioned that you could have been interested in Dynamo’s offer. “We raised his sweater to the rafters!”
See, yet again I blurted out something incorrect to the reporters. I meant to say I would not just turn away from Dynamo. The Earth is round, you never know how everything may turn out.
I would have talked with everybody, explained respectfully. I would let the people know I have no intentions to transfer. I stayed because it’s my home town. The fans of Chelyabinsk are what’s most important to me.
In any case, I need to learn how to talk to the press more accurately. I was angry at myself and was very upset for a long time because of those words.
Are you in touch with Valery Nichushkin?
We weren’t particularly close even when he was in Chelyabinsk. Valera is pretty quiet, calm guy.
Do you think he is a mega-talent, or was he simply lucky to ride the wave of interest after the WJC?
Who knows? Maybe he’ll score 150 points in his first season and become a legend. Or maybe nothing will work out for him. God forbid, of course. I only wish him the best – he is my homeboy.
Do you laugh when people confuse you with Evgeny Kuznetsov the diver? Recently there was a false headline: “Traktor’s forward jumped into the pool off the roof when he was 14!”
When I enter my name on YouTube, he always comes up first. I know he won a silver medal at the Olympics. Regretfully, we have not met. But I would like to meet him very much. Not bad, also Kuznetsov!
Go on the show “The Platform”, that’s where you can meet him.
Oh no, I actually am afraid of it – not the heights, the water. As a kid, I was jumping off the pool wall, and dislocated both of my shoulders at once. That’s the kind of stupid injury I got. A German doctor, Dr Emlich, helped me. He did a great surgery, I haven’t felt any pain now for 4 or 5 years. That man gave me my second life in sports.
Last summer you received your diploma – your thesis was on “Tactics of killing penalties.”
Yes, I always kill penalties playing for Traktor. I have some knowledge that I can share. But what they teach at the institute – it has been a long time since anybody played like that.
So now you are a coach/teacher.
I have a dream – to open my own hockey school for kids. Even if only for my dad to teach little kids what he was teaching me. I think his experience is priceless.
Why did you give up on Twitter and Instagram?
I got rid of my Twitter account after that story with the foldout bed in Khabarovsk. And the Instagram I closed because many people were copying my pictures, posting them somewhere, writing offensive comments.
I just created a group for my friends, where we can laugh about funny moments. And if somebody wants to join my closed group – ask me personally, and I will accept you.
You had a great appearance on the show Univer. When can we expect new roles?
I recorded an ad for an energy drink. They should start showing it before Sochi. And the big screen. Everybody dreams about it. But who is going to invite me, a simple kid from the periphery?