After scoring his first NHL goal, Sergey Kalinin started gaining confidence and appearing on the score sheet. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the popular Russian website championat.ru, New Jersey Devils forward Sergey Kalinin talked about some differences between Russia and NHL, communication in English, and the 2011 WJC gold medal.
* For the original championat.ru interview by Alexander Govorov, click here.
– Sergey, is in Canada harder to play, than in the USA?
– I wouldn’t say so. It’s hard to play against any NHL team. Each team has its peculiarities and style. We simply have to show our best game, control the flow of the game, and everything will come.
– How is your adaptation going?
– I think my adaptation period is over (laughs). Frankly speaking, this is not something I should judge myself, I am not in the right position to judge the way I play. There are good and bad streaks.
– What are the main differences between Russian and North American hockey, excluding the rink size?
– First of all the speed, here everything is much faster. There is less time to take decisions, you have to decide as soon as possible, otherwise you’ll get hit. This comes with playing more games, I think. It’s also necessary to work hard in any practice. You have to consider any practice as an official game, only this way games themselves will look easier.
– In another interview you said that being the lone Russian in your team is even an advantage. Are you forced to learn English faster?
– Yes, it’s like that. I understand this a lot because now I can talk in English much much better than before. I was a bit scared at first to talk in a foreign language, now I’m not scared anymore, all is in the past now. I try to talk with the guys, and at this point it’s not too important that I pick the correct words everytime. Now it’s important to understand and be understood.
– How is it doing with the off-ice adaptation?
– All is good, I settled down already. There isn’t much difference with life in Russia, everything is pretty much the same, nothing has changed. The only difference is that now my parents are very far. But also here I work, practice, then I go home getting some rest.
– Is it possible to compare the away trips in the NHL to the KHL ones?
– I can’t say that here the trips are especially long. I played in Omsk in the KHL, we had to fly more than teams in Moscow or St. Petersburg, for example. I don’t feel much difference here [in the NHL]. I don’t even know how much we have to fly for the game in Columbus. Regarding away games, everything is good.
– How is your communication with the coaches? What indications do they give you?
– I’m constantly communicating with my coach. John is always showing me something. I try to absorb every thing he says because I know that I have a lot to learn from him. I can also learn a lot from the other forwards of our teams, they are all good players, they know how to keep the puck and this is very important.
– Do you manage to follow Avangard and the KHL in general?
– Yes, of course. I read the news on the internet. I have many friends who play in different teams and I try following them first. Of course Avangard is among them.
– At Avangard you played with Jaromir Jagr. What did impress you more about him?
– Of course the way he practices. I never seen a more professional player than him in my life. His attitude toward practices is incredible. It’s hard even to find words to describe it. You should see it with your eyes, play with him, be in the same team. You can really gain a lot playing with a player and a professional of his level.
– Did you try stealing anything from his bag of tricks?
– Yes, he explained me how to properly shoot, what muscles you should use. I am not surprised that he’s still playing and scoring a lot for the Panthers. I would really like Jagr to play until he’ll be 70 or 80. Of course he’s an example for me.
– Let’s get back to some years ago, when Team Russia won the WJC gold medal defeating Team Canada 5-3, being down 0-3. How do you remember that success?
– I would really like to underline not only the final game, but the whole tournament. I am proud to be part of that team. We had a great locker room, it was like a family. It was incredible to have such kind of relationship not only between teammates, but also with the coaches. We had very good results, and of course the emotions were incredible. I still remember those moments with a smile on my face.
– Are you still in touch with some of the players from that team?
– Yes, of course, some of them play here in the NHL. Vladimir Tarasenko, Artemi Panarin. Panarin is at his first year in the league, therefore hardly he’ll have any advice for me (laughs). Other Russian guys share their experience with me, after all they had the same issues I have now myself. They know what being at the first year in the NHL means, and how hard it was. I can only tell thank you to these guys for their support and advice.
– Sergey, you’re the only current Devils player who wear a jersey # greater than 50. Why this choice?
– Oh, at first I didn’t want this number (laughs) [Note: Kalinin wore the jersey #40 in the KHL]. Simply, that number reached me. I don’t even know how that happen. I wanted to change my number before the start of the season, but I have been told that all the numbers were taken by other guys. I’m on a two-way contract, therefore I am not that high in the hierarchy! Nothing terrible, though, your jersey number isn’t that important. The important is how you play wearing your number!
[Related: Sergey Kalinin Making Strides For The Devils]
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso