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Author: Saur Masharipov (Mychel.ru)
Translated By: Eugene L.
Date: 09/30/2009
Summer interview with Vyacheslav Voinov (Los Angeles Kings)

2012 National Hockey League (NHL)


Not long ago, one of the best Russian hockey young prospects, formerly testing his strength in one of the toughest leagues in the world, former Traktor player, defenseman Vyacheslav Voinov (Los Angeles Kings), returned to Chelyabinsk for a brief vacation. One concrete truth was confirmed in this rather lengthy interview: a talented person is talented in all respects. He was so sincere in his descriptions of his life in the USA, the Kings development process, and the AHL system, that it was truly remarkable.

Q: Vyacheslav, a year has gone by since you crossed the ocean, do you regret your decision which suddenly changed your professional sporting career?

A: Not at all! I am happy with my decision to come to the toughest league in the world because the decision had been thoroughly calculated. I believe that I have taken a big step forward, obtained a great deal of hockey experience and playing time (17-18 minutes on average). I did not expect that they would trust me and that all would fall into place so well. However, this is the farm club, I haven't yet achieved my dream.

Q: After the Los Angeles training camp you were sent to the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. What was that like?

A: Having changed teams, for the first time in my life, I had to go through a very difficult process, namely, to get used to a new environment (this took approx. a month), and to find chemistry and trust with new players. There was also another challenge to overcome: getting used to life far away from friends and family. I was able to overcome these temporary challenges and now I am having the time of my life playing hockey.

Q: I know you have befriended a Slovak (left wing Vladimir Dravecky - author's note), is this true?

A: Yes, the team is full of Americans and Canadians who have their own lifestyle. We Europeans have a similar lifestyle and therefore we quickly found something in common.

Q: By the way, how is your conversational English?

A: When I first got here, it was absolutely nil, at this point, it's rather weak, I study three times a week and I am slowly getting better.

Q: Can you say anything impromptu?

A: Not in principle. All year I didn't really speak, only listened and tried to comprehend. I lived with a young woman who helped me with everything and knew the language much better than I did.

Q: Did she play a large role during your period of adaptation to the new reality?

A: I don't know what I would have done without her... Without Olesa, I probably wouldn't have even left my room! You have to understand, when you're alone in a foreign country, you start to miss things and to worry; her care and warm words helped me during a difficult time not to stop at what I have achieved, but to overcome and to move forward.

Q: Did your agent Alexander Tizhniy help you in the beginning?

A: Absolutely, in all respects. Also, I was able to develop excellent relationships with my peer Andrei Loktionov (Los Angeles Kings) and Alexander Frolov (Los Angeles Kings). The latter introduced me to everyone and included me in his life and the lives of his friends.

Q: Which parts of your game have you improved?

A: I have progressed primarily in reading the game and in the physical play. I still have to work on speed and it would be good to get better at other aspects as well.

Q: How would you evaluate the Monarchs' coach Mark Morris?

A: To begin with, I initially couldn't understand anything that he said. His tactical system is substantive and is interesting. Every coach has his plusses and minuses. I don't want to compliment or denigrate anyone. After all, my favourite coach remains Gennady Fyodorovich Tsygurov who believed in me and trusted me enough to play on the adult team.
Q: Did you develop a sense of trust from Coach Morris throughout the course of the season?

A: Yes, this was evident in that I played on the power play and sometimes on the penalty kill, neither of which was the case with Traktor.

Q: What is his coaching style?

A: He always demands full effort. For example, when the team slacked off, the coach would go crazy, but when we were losing but executing our game plan, he was calmer and collected and tried to clearly point out our mistakes. Overall, the entire AHL system can be compared to urban transport: let's say, for example that trolley no. 7 goes along a predetermined route, everything moving by rail. This league (AHL) is weaker than the KHL in those circumstances when one has to think on one's feet, to make decisions in unpredictable situations. Many hockey players only do as they are instructed, there are only a handful of thinking players. For me, this is a competitive advantage because I can anticipate the opponents' moves in advance.

Q: There is an opinion out there that the AHL "breaks" young players, mostly Europeans.

A: If you are a prospect and an NHL club has invested a lot into you, they won't let you fail either in the AHL or in the NHL.

Q: Can you explain the role of the Monarchs' General Manager Ron Hextall?

A: He is a representative of the Kings, comes to games from time to time and monitors player development: whom to call up and whom not to call up. I have dealt almost exclusively with him, he is also helpful in may respects.

Q: Have you been called up to the main club?

A: I had hopes, but was not called up during the course of the season. In all, 5-6 players were called up for 1-2 weeks.

Q: Based on numbers, your current statistics show you at 23 points...

A: Undoubtedly this is a step forward as I only had 5 points in my lest season in Chelyabinsk, a laughable number! I remember my time in youth hockey when I used to score goals and make assists.

Q: Is this a reflection of the Chelyabinsk "school"?

A: It was because of my experience from an early age that I was able to play on the main Traktor squad. All thanks to my first coach Stanislav Victorovich Shadrin.

Q: What is the environment and the support like from fans as compared to Chelyabinsk?

A: I don't know about the NHL, I have not played a single game in LA after all, but in the AHL, out of a maximum of 10,000, 2,000 to 3,000 attend games. At times you feel as if you're playing in empty arenas.

Q: Do they organize fan appreciation events?

A: There have been 4 or 5 of these. For example, we'd dress up as waiters and wait on fans. We played golf at the start of the season. But for me, to tell you the truth, none of this makes much sense.

Q: The Manchester Monarchs are located in New Hampshire (North Eastern US - author's note), what are your impressions of this area?

A: Actually, it's quite terrible, to be frank, a village as if removed from civilization (the majority of the local population is employed in the textile and leather shoe industries - author's note), particularly when you compare it to Boston, roughly 30 km away.

Q: Do you prefer McDonald's and similar establishments to homemade cooking?

A: I mostly ate at home because my girlfriend is an excellent cook. Although they make great steaks in the U.S., you can't eat anything else.

Q: Do you miss your homeland?

A: Of course, I have told myself that I can only live in Russia!

Q: Why?

A: It's impossible to live anywhere else, particularly in the U.S., that's for sure!

Q: What particularly is the problem?
A: The people. I don't get them, they don't get me, even if I were to speak better English, I get the sense that we would not see eye to eye.
Q: How do the African Americans, the Latinos and the Caucasians get along?

A: Like you would expect in any Russian courtyard, there are conflicts among various strata of this society, but all is well among businessmen and people of higher social standing.

Q: What emotions did you feel as you walked off the plane onto Russian soil?

A: Happy to return for vacation to Russia where I can explain something, order something, people everywhere understand what I say, this is an incredibly pleasant feeling.

Q: Do you expect to vacation in the U.S.?

A: If I go, it will be only to the Dominican Republic, you can't catch anything (fish) in the U.S. In the City of Angels you have the ocean and the beach, everything seems beautiful, but all it's crowdy like hell.

Q: How do you wind down after the end of the season?

A: In terms of the knee (injuries sustained over the course of the past 10 years - author's note) and shoulder (torn during World Jrs) the break was abbreviated. I was only allowed 3 and a half weeks, and am back by July 4th for knee and arm rehabilitation.

Q: In other words, training camp starts July 4th?

A: Yes, and it lasts until October 10th. There will be about 80 players vying for 20 spots (with the exception of goalies - author's note) on the Kings team, everyone is about even at the moment, however, it is difficult to dislodge anyone from the top three lines. But there are exceptions, Drew Daughty (selected 2nd in the 2008 draft - author's note) dislodged a player from a second pairing.

Q: Compare the training process between Los Angeles and Chelyabinsk...

A: On its face, a completely different preparation and manner of doing things. This is because, with Traktor, that which they call monitoring they force and, even if I can't do something, then they force you to do it anyway, even if it is completely ineffectual. But in LA, there is a written paper, they lead you into the room and you do, or don't do, want to or don't want to, here comes the start of the season. If you earn your place on the team, you will play, you don't earn it, off you go! And this is the right approach, you can tell right away who is a professional and who isn't. You have to understand, each person has good and bad qualities, and in order to play at the highest level, you have to realize your potential and know what you have to work on.

Q: What are your plans for 2009-2010?

A: I know where I'm going, what will happen, fast and physical hockey suits me. Therefore, my goal is the same, to play in the NHL, everything depends on me and no one else.

Q: You said that, if in the course of 2 or 3 years, if things don't work out, you'll return home. Is this still a reality?

A: It's still possible. The contract is not going anywhere, it is signed for 3 years. Having first left, I wanted to play in the NHL right away. Then I gave myself 2 years for the AHL where I am still developing my game. If I don't get called up in the coming season, then all options are open, I am not dismissing anything.

Q: Would you agree to a trade to another team?

A: The issue has already been raised. The Kings needed an experienced veteran, Colorado offered such a player but insisted on me in return. As it turned out, Los Angeles refused. This fact makes me very happy and helps to convince me that they are depending on me.

Related Player Profiles: . A.Frolov A.Loktionov V.Voinov
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