After two seasons in the CHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, Russian defenseman Sergei Boikov was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL draft with the 161st overall pick. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the popular Russian website sports.ru, Avalanche prospect Sergei Boikov talked about his move overseas, his NHL dream, and his private life.
* For the original sports.ru article by Dmitri Groshev, click here.
– The Drummondville Voltigeurs aren’t the most popular team from the QMJHL. What can you tell us about the team, what kind of task do you have for this season?
– Drummondville is a little town, not too far from Montreal. We have a team with a lot of hearth, maybe we don’t have many technique-sound players, but we have character. We don’t have any task for this season, the important is to find our best game, gain points, enjoy playing hockey.
– Didn’t you wish to play for a more ambitious team?
– And who said that we won’t be contenders! Maybe we’ll be in too later in the season. All our guys are ready to fight for any goal and we can achieve anything. I didn’t even think about a trade, I love this team, my coaches, the fans. It’s a great team to play in, with a fantastic locker room environment. We’re always helping out each other in away games to collect our things, the sticks, and so on.
– You almost didn’t play in the MHL. Don’t you feel you left for Canada too early?
– No, I awaited the move for long time and I don’t regret it. I always wanted to play hockey in Canada. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to say anything bad about Russia, simply I always liked the hockey played here. Fast-paced, hard-hitting hockey, it’s what I need. I wanted to get to a higher level, get new experiences. My coaches often say that my style of play resembles Niklas Kronwall. I need to live up to this comparison!
– What was the hardest thing while adapting?
– I won’t be original: the language. I didn’t speak a word of English. It was even laughable. The coach arrived and told me: “Hello. How are you?” And I bravely replied: “Hello. I am Sergei”. When I started understanding it was embarrassing and funny at the same time.
– Did you have any fight?
– I can’t say that I love fighting. I can drop the gloves, if needed to protect me or my teammates. I remember that I lost my first fight in Canada. Of course I didn’t like it, and the next day I won. But for a defenseman fighting isn’t the main task. You can’t relax even for a second, you can’t allow yourself a mistake, otherwise the opponents will score.
– You had a very good junior career so far and you’ve been drafted by the Avalanche last spring, even if not in the first rounds.
– I think that every player, both in the KHL and in North America, wants to be drafted in the NHL, it’s a testament of your will and good level of play. What a great feeling! Of course I couldn’t imagine to be drafted by the Avalanche, I would have been happy with any team and any pick number. But I think I was lucky to fall within the Avalanche system.
– In the press you were named one of the pleasant surprises of the Avalanche camp. What impressions did you have from working under Patrick Roy?
– Everything was super! The practices were very interesting, even if a bit hard. I didn’t try to bite more than I can chew, I just tried to show off what I can do best add what I learned in my thus far short career. I managed to talk with Patrick Roy, he even knows some words in Russian, and he loves jokes. On ice he’s strict and very demanding, and he works hard to be the best. I think he appreciates my game. The first thing he said is that he wants his player to fight ’till the end, fight hard in any shift, no matter the score or the minute of the game. The same is required in Drummondville. [Defenseman Nikita] Zadorov and [center Mikhail] Grigorenko helped me a lot, they worked very hard and I’m sure everything will be good for them in Colorado. The atmosphere in the team was pleasant, everyone was treated the same way and you could feel the friendly environment. I spent some free time with older players. They didn’t tell me much about the results of the camp. They liked my play and I did what they expected from me. Then they wished me good luck.
– You are in Canada for a few years already. How do people relate with Russians? What do people ask about Russia?
– Well, now they stopped already, but they asked me what I think about our President or how is life in Russia.
– And what did you reply?
– That I’m happy about our President and that life in Russia is beautiful and unpredictable (laughs). There are different feelings about Russians. Someone appreciates them, someone else less. Someone thinks that no one and nothing can frighten a Russian, someone else is scared by Russians. I’ll give you an example. I’m dating a Canadian girl, her name is Savannah. When she attended school and she said that her boyfriend is Russian, some guys stopped talking with her as they were scared that maybe I didn’t like something and I would kill them. But luckily, this is just a few guys. Most of people is respectful of Russia and Russians.
– How did you meet your girlfriend? Were your parents happy?
– We met in the restaurant where she worked. You know how it works, you seen a girl and you want to spend with her every day, the whole life. I asked her phone number. At first she didn’t know that I was a hockey player. I asked her to help me with English language, and she agreed. We are together for two years now. My parents are satisfied, the most important thing for them is that I am happy. Savannah wants to visit Russia, she often asks me about our country. I spend with her all my free time. Sometimes after the games I meet with [Maxim] Lazarev and [Evgeny] Svechnikov. I have less chances to meet with other [Russian] players.
– Do you dream about playing against any player in the NHL?
– I would really love to play against Pavel Datsyuk.
– That’s very brave. What can stop Datsyuk?
– I think that against Pavel you have to always be in the correct position and to play as hard as possible.
– The NHL is still a long shot. What are your plans for this season?
– Play as much as possible, gather some experience and get called for the Subway Super Series and the WJC. Well, the NHL isn’t a short-term plan, but it’s the most important thing. Everything is up to me and I’ll do whatever I can to get there.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso