Interview with the Writers of “This is Russia: Life in the KHL”

This is Russia: Life in the KHL – Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles by Bernd Bruckler with Risto Pakarinen (December 6, 2013, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Paperback. ISBN 9781494379285)

After reviewing the book, The Hockey Writers gets another look at This is Russia: Life in the KHL, talking with the authors. We first talked with the starring of the book: Austria’s goalkeeper Bernd Bruckler.

– Why did you decide to write a book about Russia?

– To be honest, when I went to Russia in the first place in 2009, to play for Torpedo Nizhniy Novgorod, I wish there was a book on the market to give me a better idea of what to expect. This was the main reason and the fact that I thought the story of life in the KHL needed to be told.

– Many writers do not hide that sometimes they get inspiration from other writers. Was it the same for you?

Initially, the idea for the book was born by my agent Mika Rautakallio and he really thought that I should write down my thoughts, experiences and the crazy stories. However, later on Risto inspired me quite a lot because he worked so hard on this project.

– In your book you made clear that your grandpa was a prominent figure of your life. But was he actually fond of hockey or just your personal fan?

– I come from a working family and I am the first one to pursue a sport professionally and make it into a career. He learned to love hockey, for all the sport gave me over the years. After all, he was very proud of me having gone to University and getting a degree, and of course down the road turning my love for the game into my profession.

– Is it unfair for North American hockey fans to dismiss, as has-beens, those NHL players who choose to go to the KHL to play?– Yes, I think so. The KHL has established itself as a very good league and they are getting better every year.

– What was the hardest thing to adjust to in the KHL? In living in Russia?– Playing in the KHL was different than any other league. The Russian players are very skilled and they don’t waste their chances offensively. In fact, often times they pass up great scoring opportunities to make one more pass and they love being creative in their plays. As far as life, there are so many things to get accustomed to. The food, the language barrier, the travel, the living arrangements, the way the team handles paychecks, etc…

– What city did you actually enjoy the most in Russia or in other KHL countries?

– I was impressed by many cities but I have a special love for Nizhniy Novgorod and Novosibirsk, the two cities I played in and lived in. People were wonderful to me in both places and I will hold this memories in my heart forever.

– What do you think about the participation of Helsinki Jokerit in the KHL?

– I think Jokerit will have a strong team and if they manage to have success, the fans and people will come around and start going to the games.

– At the end of the book you made a good list of players with whom you played in Russia, like Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, or former Islanders’ Evgeny Korolev. Some time has passed, do you regret not to include anyone else?

– I could have included a lot more guys that I played with and that had unique characters and personalities. However, for the sake of keeping the book interesting and a smooth read, I had to limit myself to a few guys. I don’t regret leaving a few special guys out.

– You also wrote that you’ll be back. Can you anticipate something?

– Not really, but at least me saying “I’ll be back.” leaves a lot of options open and I will definitely visit Russia again very soon because I have gained a lot of respect and love for the country and its people.

The book’s second author is Risto Pakarinen, a Finnish journalist who contributes regularly to and and author of “Off The Post”.

– Hi Risto, how can you describe us the process of writing the book side-to-side with Brucks?

– Brucks had kept a diary during his time in Russia. The first six months in it were very detailed, and some of them were also published on Torpedo’s website and in the local paper. After he got injured, he still kept the diary, but it wasn’t as detailed, but he always knew he wanted to write a book about his time in the KHL.

So when he contacted me, he sent me his notes and that gave me a good idea of the whole storyline from his first training camp to … last training camp. Then we spent a lot of time talking, or Brucks talking and me listening, so we could add things, fix holes, and broaden the perspective a little.

We also decided fairly early on that instead of telling his story in the chronological order of events, we’d tell it by focusing on one theme at a time – which also made the information gathering process more focused.

So we met a couple of times, and then spent a lot of time speaking on phone and over Skype.

We didn’t know each other before the process, but of course I knew of him from his time with Espoo Blues, and I had talked to him during the Champions Hockey League season, just before he left for the KHL, so I knew he seemed like a good guy.

He turned out to be a great guy, and one of the rewards of the book writing process for me was to get to know him.

– Are you satisfied with the final result? Why?

– I don’t know if a writer is ever completely pleased with the result, but that’s an occupational hazard. There are always things that could have been done in another way, and things that I may have wanted to add to the book later on. Having said that, I am pleased with the book, and I’m very happy and proud that I got the chance to be involved with telling Brucks’s story.

– The book is really fast to read, I am sure many wanted more. Was it planned to stay in between the 250-ish pages range?

– Yes. We wanted it to be a fast, and hopefully, entertaining read.

– Are you planning to write other books with other hockey players?

– I don’t have anything in the works right now, but I’m always planning. So Henrik Lundqvist, if you’re reading this, give me a call. Unless Brucks is up for writing a sequel, of course.