Earlier this month the Hartford Wolf Pack traveled to Hershey to face the league-leading Hershey Bears. The game also provided an opportunity for Wolf Pack forward Artem Anisimov to face his friend and former goaltender on Russian team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, Simeon Varlamov, for the first time. The game came just two weeks after Anisimov played his first game against another friend and former teammate , Alexander Vasyunov of the Lowell Devils. Anisimov talked about facing his former teammates, his adjustment to the North America and the North American game, and his current season in an interview with Russian web site Sports Planet last week.
Artem Anisimov: When I Scored on Varlamov, I was as Happy as a Child
Yaroslavl Lokomotiv alumni, forward Artem Anisimov, already plays in his second season in the AHL on the farm club of the New York Rangers. In an interview with a Sports Planet correspondent, the 20-year old hockey player talks about his overseas career, recalls playing in Yaroslavl, and also the recent “Yaroslavl Derby” in the AHL.
- Artem, you’re already in your second year overseas. Tell us about your impressions.
- When I had just arrived in America, of course, it was very hard. I didn’t have enough playing experience, and had no playing experience at all in American hockey. The second season goes much easier, now I have already gotten used to the overseas style of play, to the physical battles and high speeds, the small surfaces no longer confuse me.
- And how are you doing with the foreign language?
- I’ve learned English well enough; I can easily communicate with my teammates, I understand everything they say to me. Sometimes, of course, complications arise, but on the whole, the language isn’t such a big problem for me.
- You’re now playing well enough, collecting practically a point a game (25 games, 23 (11+12) points – ed. comment). Last season this was not the case…
- This year I feel more confident. I spent the summer well, I prepared a lot, trained, worked on myself. I’m helped by that very much now.
- Currently your number of penalty minutes is almost the same as it was for all of last season. With what is this connected?
- I began to play tougher. Most likely, I’ve adapted to American hockey. Basically, I receive the penalties playing defense.
- To the point of toughness, the AHL is called the toughest league in the world. Have you suffered any injuries in the current season?
- Fortunately, nothing serious, only minor injuries, bumps and bruises. Although physical play, without a doubt, is one of the main components of the game in North America.
- This year one more Russian-speaking player, Belorussian Vladimir Denisov, has come to the Wolf Pack. Does that make your life easier?
- Yes, definitely. It’s good when there is a person who speaks your language on the team — its possible to communicate easily. Besides, he knows English well and helps me if problems with the language suddenly come up.
- Not so long ago Pavel Velentenko returned from the AHL to Russia. Has the desire to come back home not arisen in you?
- If Pasha returned, it means that he had his reasons. So far I haven’t thought about a departure to Russia.
- Much is always said about how in North America hockey has received high recognition. How popular is this type of sport in the AHL?
- The arenas here are very good: the largest usually seat no less than nine thousand people. But here not too many fans go to hockey [games], about 2-3 thousand to each match. There are not enough fans, but they act as fans should, they always support the team, they drive to all the away games, even the farthest.
- And have personal fans of yours emerged?
- It’s possible to say that, yes. Fans draw posters with my name, once I even saw a poster in Russian on which was written “We love you, Artem.” At the arena in Hartford are several people who wear jerseys with my name, and not only the local [one], but also the Yaroslavl [one] with number “12″.
- And what can you say about the support of the fans of “Loko”?
- Everyone knows that in Yaroslavl are some of the best fans. The arena is always packed, support is very strong, it was always felt. And as for me, personally, of course, in Yaroslavl they didn’t draw posters to me and didn’t wear my jersey (laughs) but fans always treated me very well. After the playoff match when I scored two goals against Dynamo, the fans saluted me with shouts and applause, and now many are intrested in my fate, it’s extremely nice.
- You already said that to play against the team of Alexander Vasyunov was interesting, and not so long ago you shot a puck in the goal of Simeon Varlamov. What impressions have remained with you from that game?
- It was such a pity that our team lost that match. It was greatly to Simeon’s merit, we created many dangerous chances, but he played very well. I really wanted to shoot the puck on my friend, with whom I played with for many years. When I scored, I was as happy as a child. I felt fantastic emotions, which can’t be described with words, they must be felt.
- And have you discussed this game with Valamov himself?
- Of course, I met with Simeon after the match, his father also joined us. The three of us very briefly discussed the match, there were lots of positive feelings. In addition, I was very happy to see Simeon, since the last time we saw each other was back in the summer in Yaroslavl.
- To sum up both matches, tell us, what is it like to play against former teammates?
- In the first place, there’s this huge desire to win. The desire to overcome your rival increases in the few times when you play against your friends, and more so [against your] former teammates. Not only I felt that way, but the guys certainly hold the same opinion. It’s a shame that our team lost, but I’m happy that in both matches I was able to score.
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