Photo credit: Patrick Smith
The Washington Capitals 2013-14 season has been a roller coaster, but their big summer acquisition, Mikhail Grabovski, has been one of the team’s most reliable performers. The 29-year-old Belarussian has adjusted splendidly to his new team and is on pace to comfortably exceed his career-best season total of 58 points — all earned while centering just about every winger on the Capitals roster. Grabo has received accolades from coaches, teammates, and analysts alike– a significant turnaround from the disastrous end to his time with the Maple Leafs.
So, how is Misha settling in the new city, how does he get along with gracious host Alex Ovechkin, and, of course, what led to the conflict between him and his old coach? Those are just some of the questions Igor Tichonenko of the Russian Service of Voice of America asked Grabo a couple of weeks ago when they met up at KCI. They went for a ride in Grabo’s car — in spite of having roomed with his captain for a few months now, Grabo does not drive 250 km/hr (at least not with camera rolling). You can watch the whole interview, and just in case your Russian has gotten a tad rusty, you are welcome to cheat and follow along the translation below.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to all kinds of music. I used to be into rock music, then switched to dance music, and now I listen to just about anything – whatever I feel like.
And what about Hollywood – what do you like?
All kinds of stuff. I like DiCaprio among the actors.
Tell us about your regular work day. So you get up, brush your teeth, and then what?
I eat breakfast. Normally I eat at home. I live at Sasha’s place now, so I don’t always have time to make breakfast.
And what does a hockey player eat?
The same stuff. Eggs, hot cereal, bacon, toast.
Does Ovechkin help you out?
Well, yes. He told me not to move out, to stay and live with him.
With the wife and the kids?
Move in with the wife and the kids, to live all together.
He really helps me a lot. Especially at first. Now that his parents came, they help him out a lot, as well as me. His mom cooks all the time, so you feel as you were at home. I really do miss my family a lot, there is always this feeling that something is missing.
How does your wife deal with your fame, does she get jealous?
No, actually sometimes she thinks I am too indifferent to the fame, because I am kind of used to all this stuff. Not even the fame, that I take the NHL, wins and losses, too casually. It is something new for her and she wants me to enjoy it more. And to understand that she contributes to that as well. And I fully realize that, thanks to my wife, the last few years… we have a great relationship and her support is tremendous.
And how does she help you?
She keeps an eye on my eating habits, on my daily routine. She spends more time with the kids, so I can prepare for the games.
Does she follow the NHL?
She is Canadian, so hockey means a lot to her. Her whole family supports me, sends me messages. She knows hockey.
And what does your wife do?
She is a makeup artist, but for now she is staying at home taking care of the kids.
What is your relationship with the fans?
It’s good. I understand that it is part of my job. It’s part of my game – starting with my family, with my parents – you always play for them. And the same can be said about the fans. People who come to watch you play, support you.
Back at Kettler, Adam Oates and a few players talked about their new teammate. While segments from Oates, John Carlson, and Braden Holtby are dubbed in Russian, their voices can be heard in the background. Mikhail’s Russian-speaking teammates had similar praise.
“When he is with the puck, attacking, on power play he can make a great pass,” Dmitry Orlov said. “He is a good playmaker. I think this season he will demonstrate that – just like he always has.”
“We spent quite a bit of time together, he feels comfortable on the ice,” Ovechkin added of Grabo. “Excellent puck control, skating. It is a pleasure to play with such a player.”
Finally, we end back in Grabo’s car.
A lot has been said about your conflict with Randy Carlyle. In your opinion, what did not work out there, and why did you move?
Actually, I think everything did work out. I made it to the playoffs. I played there for five years, I created a certain image for myself. The last year didn’t turn out so well, it was not a full season. But I think I learned a lot from it, so I am thankful to all of the coaches, because they gave me an opportunity to learn something new. But I realized the people there weren’t interested in my abilities as a forward who can score, they saw me more as a defensive forward. I think that’s why we parted ways. Now I have a different coach, and a different path.
What did you learn from your experience in Toronto?
I learned to deal with misfortune, to tolerate people. The playoff experience was tremendous – number one, the sensations are just indescribable; plus, defensive play and discipline. Carlyle is an old school coach, he likes discipline.
Speaking of discipline, what exactly was his problem with you – he wanted you to play defense?
You know, I don’t know if he had a problem with me. He simply put his faith in other guys, that’s all.