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Author: Yevgeniy BelashchenkoDate: 09/12/2002
Igor Ignatuchkin: " Now I Will Root For Washington!"

Relatively unknown prior to the 2001-02 season, Igor Ignatuchkin was one of this year’s surprises. During his first season playing against adults and on the Russian National team, this undersized, but talented and skilled winger made a name for himself by playing impressive combination hockey. Igor is an intelligent player, but this shouldn’t be a surprise considering that he attends a university while continuing a hockey career.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born and how you got into hockey?

I. Ignatuchkin: I was born in Elektrostal and started playing hockey in a local hockey school

Who brought you into hockey?

I. Ignatuchkin: It was my father.

Did you always play as a forward?

I. Ignatuchkin: Yes, from the very beginning

Do you like any forwards?

I. Ignatuchkin: I really like Igor Larionov and Sergei Federov. As far as Russians go, that’s about it.

Who had the biggest influence on you becoming a professional hockey player?

I. Ignatuchkin: My coaches, as well as myself. I really wanted to become a hockey player.

How would you describe your game to readers who know little about you?
I. Ignatuchkin: I play smart hockey. I don’t really play the physical, strength game much. I don’t play rough and am a very good passer. I am a very strong combination player.

On which aspects of your game do you think you need to work on?

I. Ignatuchkin: I need to work on my conditioning and my skating.

Hockey – is it more of a life or a job for you?

I. Ignatuchkin: Well, it’s more a responsibility, a job.

What was your role in Elemash last season? Were you in the lineup the entire season? Did you get to often play on the power play or penalty kill units?

I. Ignatuchkin: Yes, this year I constantly played on the first team. The coach trusted me in man advantage and shorthanded situations. On the Upper League team I played with Krikunov and Oveshenkov. On the National Team I played with only with Krikunov – Oveshenkov was a bit young, he is ’85.

Can you evaluate your level of play before and after last season?

I. Ignatuchkin: I have developed a lot over the past season. After playing in the junior league I started to play in Upper League. In a single year I improved physically and raised my overall game.

Did you put forth any goals for yourself before the start of the 01-02 season? Do you think you achieved them?

I. Ignatuchkin: I wanted to secure a spot for myself on the team and play at the U18 World Junior Championships. I believe I achieved both of those goals.

What are your plans for this year?

I. Ignatuchkin: I am staying in Elektrostal. Next year I will start thinking about my options, including the Super League.

This summer Elektrostal lost many players, so it seems that a difficult season awaits you. How did the off season transfers go for your team?

I. Ignatuchkin: I wouldn’t say we have lost too much. We did beat Podolsk 1:0. Also, some guys who initially tried to leave the team have returned. For example – Tunik has come back. Krikunov also returned from Yaroslavl. A few others who are originally from Elektrostal have come back as well.

Can you tell us a bit regarding your recent injury, how did you suffer it and how serious is it?

I. Ignatuchkin: I suffered the injury on the 16th of August during a friendly game against Podolsk. There was a collision and I fell on my hand. I took off the cast last Tuesday and by Friday I was already on the ice. I plan on starting to participate in full practices later this week. The hand hurts a bit, but it is already fully functional.

In the April of this year you went along with the Russian junior squad to Slovakie to compete at the U18 World Junior Championships. You earned the silver medals at the tournament. Can you share with us your impressions of the Championships and of your role on the team?

I. Ignatuchkin: I did not hold a leading role on our national team, as many players have already been playing for three years with the team, and it’s only my first. However, we broke through at the World Championships. I played on the same line with Krikunov and Ovechkin. On defense we were backed up by Grot and Ezhov. We started the tournament on the third line, but then became the second line and in some contests we were even part of the starting lineup. The coach trusted us. The last match against the US was a dramatic one. We were really nervous and at the beginning already started to lose 0:2. Our coach calmed us after the rough start and five minutes later we scored an important goal for us. However, then Grot was called on a penalty behind our own net, and the Americans switched the goalie for another forward and another goal five seconds later. We were very disappointed, but what can you do, such is an athlete’s life.

This year you were drafted by the Washington Capitals 242nd overall. What are your impressions of your new team. Do you know anything about the city where you may play some day?
I. Ignatuchkin: I have never been there. I do know that Gonchar and Nikolishin play there. But, unfortunately, I do not know anything else about the team.

Do you follow the NHL? Are you a fan of any particular team?

I. Ignatuchkin: I actually root for Detroit. Now I will root for Washington (laughing)

How do you think North American hockey differs from that played in Russia?

I. Ignatuchkin: The rink is smaller. The game is more physical with less room to skate. There are a lot more shots on net. The game is always at top speed.

Have you ever been to North America?

I. Ignatuchkin: Yes, I was once in Detroit and once in Quebec. I went to Detroit for a tournament and to Quebec for peewee hockey. I think the standard of living there is very good. I really liked Detroit. I think it is a great city. I did not enjoy Quebec too much – different language, everyone speaks French. But it was fine there as well.

What do you do outside of hockey?

I. Ignatuchkin: I do all kind of things -- study, play soccer, go out, rest. I study at the Moscow State Industrial University. My major is economics and I have four years left until I am finished with my degree.

How do you manage to play hockey and study?

I. Ignatuchkin: I know the head of the school well, and he helps me manage my time.

What are your plans for next year?

I. Ignatuchkin: I currently have a contract with Elemash until 2005. However, Ravil Iskhakov told me that if I do receive an invitation from another team, he will allow the transfer for a small compensation. This season I will play in Elektrostal, but next summer I will sit down with my agent and evaluate all of my options.

- Eugene Belashchenko

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