Artem Anisimov: If You’re Spit on in the Back, it Means You’re in Front
Sunday July 20th 2008, 5:37 pm
Photo: Lokomotiv Yarolslavl

Photo: Lokomotiv Yarolslavl

The following interview with Artem Anisimov was originally posted on the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl web site on April 12, 2005. The interview took place not long after he made his Russian Super League debut at the age if 17, a full 14 months before he was drafted by the Rangers in the the 2006 Entry Draft, at a time when the NHL wasn’t yet in his sights. In it he discusses his hockey career, how he got his start, and his Super League debut in front of 9,000 hometown fans, among other things. On a personal note, it was my first introduction to Anisimov, and part of the reason I became such a fan.

Artem Anisimov: “If You’re Spit on in the Back, it Means You’re in Front”

Home town, home team, home people around… How many examples to we know of where the players in our favorite “dream-team” turn out to be strangers from cities quite far away from the team for which they play…

The guy from the neighboring courtyard, from your street, with whom you just yesterday could have sat at the same desk. Used to be that you went along with him to root for your favorite team. Look now, and he already plays for them himself. Everywhere and always the relationship of the fans towards such people is special, more affectionate and sincere. They forgive a lot. Why not, after all, that’s our guy! It’s always nice when everything works out for them, and they develop before your eyes, becoming professionals.

One of these boys, Artem Anisimov, at the age of 17, debuted on the ice of Arena-2000 in a Lokomotiv game against Omsk Avangard. Yet after only a few games, the nervousness has left, and the forward could tell us about the game which has become central in his life.

Plato is My Friend

– In general, what does hockey represent in your life?

– It’s everything! Life, work, profession. I live for hockey. I dedicate myself entirely to it, if I were to estimate, 90 percent of the time.

– Over the last two weeks, what else did there remain time for, besides hockey?

– Not much, to be honest. I periodically stay at the baza [a dormitory where players often stay the night before games], and can read a book a little before I sleep.

– What do you read?

– Philosophy. For instance, Selected Dialogues by Plato.

– Really? You went to the store and bought it yourself?

– Yes, exactly. I liked one sentence very much: “If you’re spit on in the back — it means you’re in front” and so I decided read the book further. In hockey in particular there is no time to reason and reflect, only fractions of a second are available to think about what to do at a specific moment. But it is necessary to look away from the game somehow. This is my hobby. Everyone relaxes in their own way.

– This year you finished school and entered the university. Were you a good student at school?

– I did OK. Of course it was a little better before I started to be seriously engaged in hockey and time began to be insufficient. Now I study, as with most of the guys, in the first year at the department of physical education. My parents didn’t especially tell me what to do, they didn’t insist on anything, they said, go where you want. They didn’t try to impose their opinion on me. I haven’t really thought about what I will study, though, for example, at school I liked algebra very much.

– If it were not for hockey, what kind of sports could you see yourself playing?

– I previously studied martial arts. I started going there already before [I started] school, and in all did it for 2-3 years. And so, I probably would have continued to study them — it shaped me well. But one day the coach came to school and invited me to a practice in the hockey section. I talked it over with my parents and decided to try it. At first I wasn’t even able to stand on skates (he smiles). But I went, I practiced and improved. And there you are, it seems somehow it’s starting to work out (he smiles).

Step by Step to the Superleague

– Living in Yaroslavl and having before your eyes the example of [former Yaroslavl team] Torpedo, and now Lokomotiv, you probably dreamed of the day when you’d make your debut with the main team?

– Of course, first and foremost my dream was to begin to play in the Superleague. After all I previously went to every game as a spectator; I never missed any. I looked on from the outside, and thought about how with [former NHLer Andrei] Kovalenko or [Vladimir] Antipov I’d always make great plays and score. And how the fans would celebrate! Back then my dreams seemed to be something fantastic! There was a time… In reality I only felt that I could actually do this just this year, when I spent almost the whole pre-season with the first team. Before that my dreams were more modest. First it was necessary to secure a place on the second team. That’s what I aimed for when I played for the junior team; the level of the first league was totally another than that of [second league teams] Sarov and Titan. To me it seemed that for any young player to be able to go out on the ice against such an opponent is good fortune. For example, at the Open Championship of Moscow only players of the same age play. I believe that to move ahead it is necessary to go gradually, step by step. Personally, for me the invitation to the farm club wasn’t unexpected, after all, I always tried as hard as I could. It’s true that I didn’t get to take part in pre-season training, like, for instance, Sasha Vasyunov [Devils 2006 2nd round draft pick Alexander Vasyunov]. They invited me just five days before the start of the season, against CSKA on the road. We then played two draws, 4-4.

– How was your debut.

– It was OK. The main thing is that I was allowed to play (he smiles). I was at the time placed on the fourth line and played with Vorzhbitov and Vasyunov. But in the third period they sat me 10 minutes before the end of the game. I was a little upset. Though, probably, the coaches did what was right – it was still the first game at this level for me. I immediately felt heightened responsibility, as if we were fighting for third or forth place in the championship. But with each match I played more confidently, stronger. I was fortunate that the coaches trusted me.

– Who were your mentors?

– My first coach was Leonid Dimitrievich Gladchenko. He in particular gave me the foundation for everything, and was very patient and even waited to take me back on the team for about a year while I rehabbed after injury. Even now he still supports me. Then Vladimir Viktorovich Sobrovin came to us, and with him we have already gained many victories, became champion of Russia, and won regional tournaments.

– Besides coaching, where did you get your knowledge of hockey?

– When I watched hockey, I studied, for example, the correct position for the center forward to occupy. I even sought advice from my dad, but only while I played in the children’s team. Now, it’s true, that advice from him is less – the level is above him, and there are experienced mentors available in the team. But all the same he goes to all the home games I play in. Sometimes if it is not too far, he’ll come to support me on the road, for example in Cherepovets.

– How important for you is the support of the fans?

– Hockey, in general, is a game for spectators. And when they support you, it inspires you and gives you additional strength.

– Have you played the position of center forward your whole life?

– Yes, but I didn’t choose this position. It’s simply that my first coach put me at center, so this is the position I play. I don’t know what he as guided by, but as it turned out, it really suits me. I know that many kids aspire to play wing in order to only score and always be in the spotlight. They’re always loved and noticed first of all. That’s not important to me. My job is to make a pass. It’s not by accident that the greatest players, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemeiux, became famous first of all because they were able to set up their linemates beautifully. So it’s just a question of to whom the glory will come to faster. The coaches always told me, make the pass – support the attack, and the wingers will score. Certainly, when I get the chance, I try not to miss, but it happens at most maybe a few times per game.

– So it turns out that you have greater trust in your linemates than you take in your own game?

– It happens, what can you do (he smiles). All the same when you make a pass, it is a display of trust. It’s necessary to trust any partner, even if he’s an 89-born [younger player]; after all, he too knows his job.

– With whom was it better and easiest to play with?

– I very often played with Vasyunov, even on the national team. With us only the right wing has changed at all. In the 1988-born team it was Zabelin, Ryabev, Nefedov; on the farm team – Vorozhbitov and Ivanov.

– Was it easy to adapt to the new person on the line?

– What is there for us to adjust to – he needs to play with us (he smiles).

Nine Thousand are Rooting for You!

– Do you often criticize yourself for things?

– Yes, it happens sometimes. In the game, this all is forgotten, there’s no time to comprehend, you must rest and then it’s already time to go out for the next shift. So after the game it is important to analyze it, and my play — sometimes I’ll watch video. After about two days I’m able leave it, having become aware of everything. The mistakes I forget, and all the good things I take forward with me.

– It seems that in life you are a modest enough person, how do you manage to forget this quality on the ice?

– I simply do not think about it — I work, I carry out the instructions of the coach. It seems to me, that on the ice everything is much easier than in life. Life, after all, is the more difficult part.

– Three times you have had the chance to go out on the ice at Arena-2000 as a player for the team; have you had time to feel the notorious pressure of the home crowd on you?

– No, I don’t feel this pressure, I simply take pleasure in the game and from the fact that 9,000 spectators are your fan, urging on the attack. Of course, when for the first time I went out I was plenty worried. It was only after 2-3 shifts that the feeling disappeared. The opponent was Avangard. I played strict defense and right away gained a little confidence.

– How much trust do you feel coach Yurzinov has in young players?

– Yes, he really trusts us, and allows us all to play. Now the practices in the first and second teams are very similar, the same exercises are used. It’s very convenient. In fact, often it is necessary to train as one team, and then to play one another.

– To some it seems that to be a hockey player is prestigious, do you agree?

– How is it prestigious? It’s still work. In the NHL the game is more show, people come to shout, root, bang on the glass, and are not greatly upset if their team loses. Our fans criticize us, analyze players to the bone. Especially after a defeat, they take offense and will not come to the next game because of it. For us there is a totally different attitude towards hockey.

– You spent pre-season with the team, and now take part in most practices. How are the attitudes of the players who you just recently watched from the stands?

– Everyone tries to give me advice — I’m still quite young. Sometime I approach them and ask what I should do. For example Petya [Petr] Schastlivy showed me how to shoot, or my linemates suggest where it is better to go in this or that situation, or where to make a pass.

– They put you now on the fourth line with young players. But the similarly young Churilov plays on the first. If you were offered to play with experienced players or youth, what would you choose?

– With experienced players, naturally, they play better, they get open well, it’s possible to make passes them, and if something happens they back you up. On our fourth line more often passion and emotion take precedence.

Source: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Web Site

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