Photo credit: @wyshynski

As the Washington Capitals training camp opened to the public on Thursday, captain Alex Ovechkin had a pep in his step. “I feel great,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody is glad to be back on the ice. The first practice is fast and short. A couple of exercises, some endurance training. All you need is to feel the ice, get used to the puck again, things like that.”

Later, speaking exclusively to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, Ovi went on about his good health and what it would take to be a part of the Olympic torch ceremony, but he seems to be pretty much done discussing comments made by Dynamo’s General Director Andrei Safronov.

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Kuzya’s new avatar on Twitter. Wait, when did he get back on Twitter?

The start of the 2013-14 season has not gone very well for Evgeny Kuznetsov. In his first game, against the defending Gagarin Cup champions Dynamo Moscow, he put up a minus-4, garnering special recognition from Traktor’s head coach during the post-game press conference.

But Kuznetsov’s second game turned out to be even more of a disaster. He went hard into the boards just 30 seconds into the game and did not return. Shortly afterwards, Kuznetsov paid a visit to his favorite shoulder specialist, Dr. Emlich in Munich. Kuzya’s left shoulder joint (the same one Dr Emlich fixed a couple of years ago) was found to have sustained a tear in the capsule, and after additional tests today, Kuznetsov underwent a successful surgery.

Here is what he told Alexei Shevchenko of AllSportInfo.ru:

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We learned three years ago that Alex Ovechkin would be Official Ambassador and torchbearer for the upcoming Sochi Olympics. A centerpiece of the campaign to promote the Games, Ovechkin wields more star power than his peers– as evidenced, for example, by his Twitter feed featured prominently on the Sochi 2014 website— so it makes sense they would want his help sooner rather than later.

With the opening ceremonies just five months out, the next big promotional push is the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch. Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko says he will have Alex Ovechkin there. In Greece. At the end of September.

Right as the NHL season begins.

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Dynamo Moscow's Ovechkin and SKA St. Petersburg's Kovalchuk skate during their Kontinental Hockey League game in Moscow

Photo credit: Maxim Shemetov

Last Friday, Dynamo Moscow General Director Andrei Safronov was asked in a fan forum about his team’s interest in bringing Alex Ovechkin back to Russia to play for his home team. “Ovechkin has a current contract with the Capitals,” Safronov said. “Can we try to pull him out? We’ll talk. We’ll look at each other and will have some result.”

That might have seemed at first an unrehearsed response to an informal question, but on Tuesday, Safronov doubled down on his comments in an interview with Sport Express’s Dinara Kafiskina.

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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.

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Olympic rings at the Sochi airport. (Photo credit: Alexey Maishev)

For the record, Peter makes awesome videos, both in style and substance.

Also for the record, the recent law passed by the Russian Duma banning so-called propaganda of nontraditional relations to minors is hideous. Not necessarily because the Russian authorities in Sochi will be arresting athletes, journalists, or foreign spectators who are gay or show support for the gay rights cause by wearing a rainbow lapel pin – because they will not, and anybody who thinks otherwise does not understand a thing about Russia. And not because a gay teenager playing hockey somewhere in Ryazan or Ekaterinburg will now be prevented from coming out to his teammates – believe me, that kid is facing other, much more serious problems in his life, like getting through another day without being beaten into a bloody pulp. Will the law contribute to worsening of the public attitude towards gay rights? For sure. Will it be used against someone whose words or action rub the government the wrong way? Perhaps, but so could any other law in Russia. In my opinion, the real victims in this mess could be the many thousands of gay parents in Russia, who will now live their lives in fear of losing their children, adopted or biological. In their cases, how in the world do you avoid violating the aforementioned law – aren’t parents supposed to be role models for their kids, especially when they are minors?

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Jared Wickerham

Photo credit: Jared Wickerham

Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport spoke with Mikhail Grabovski’s agent, Garry Greenstin, about his client’s signing with the Washington Capitals. In the interview, Greenstin reveals that Grabovski’s one-year contract, worth $3 million, also carries a no-trade clause. So let’s hope that works out. (Per team policy, the Capitals could not confirm the NTC.)

Greenstin also discusses the scope of the league’s attention: twelve NHL teams sought Grabovski’s services, including Montreal– despite their falling out following his defection in 2008. And Grabovski also reportedly had interest from the KHL and their fleet of cash-filled dumptrucks.

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Photo credit: hctraktor.org

When will Evgeny Kuznetsov sign on the dotted line and bring his hockey skills to Washington? Over the last three years we have been treated to many versions of Kuzya’s answer to this question, sometimes just a few hours apart. Lately, everybody– including Zhenya himself– seems to have settled on the consensus opinion: the upcoming season will Kuznetsov’s last in Chelyabinsk. The only remaining question was whether Kuznetsov would join the Caps organization in the spring of 2014 after Traktor’s season ends or if fans in Washington would have to wait until next fall for him to put on a red sweater.

Not so fast.

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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.

I’ve translated the rest of Kuznetsov’s conversation with Alexey Mikushkin of Sovetsky Sport below.

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Sorry, ladies. Shirts stayed on this time. (Photo credit: slo-vo.ru’s Naumkov Yaroslav)

It’s summer, and Washington Capitals super-prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has nothing to do. Along with some Traktor teammates, Kuznetsov recently participated in a charity soccer game against a team of municipal bureaucrats from the Chelyabinsk suburb of Kopeysk. Of course the local media was there to report on every shot, pass, and save by the hometown hockey heroes.

Without hesitation, Kuznetsov volunteered for goalkeeping duty – only to suffer the ignominy of allowing a goal in the game’s first minute. Kuznetsov was nutmegged (i.e. like a five-hole, but more embarrassing). Undaunted, Kuzya carried on with the game. Not limited to a defensive role, Kuznetsov was active in organizing his team’s offense as well, volunteering to take his team’s penalty kick. So did teammate Stanislav Chistov. Paper-scissors-rock was chosen to resolve the stalemate, and Kuzya was forced to yield. The game ended in a 7-7 tie and settled by the universally hated penalty kicks, won by Kuzya and his boys. As if anybody cares.

Meanwhile, RMNB readers can look forward to next summer and the inevitable barrage of pictures featuring Ovi, Dima, Stan, and (finally!) Evgeny kicking a soccer ball somewhere in Arlington. Maybe Orly won’t get stuck in goal next time!

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