On Monday Yaroslavl sports web site YarSport.ru published an extended interview with native son Artem Anisimov. Their conversation with the New York Rangers prospect covered a wide array of topics, from his first two seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack to what he does in his free time to his plans for the off season. Due to its length, and because there’s not much else going on in Ranger Nation, the interview is split into two parts. The first half is translated below. The second half should be ready by Thursday or Friday.
Anisimov: “I dream of making the Rangers”
Hartford Wolf Pack and New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov stopped by as a guest of Yaroslavl Sport. The native of Yaroslavl and alumnus of the local hockey school has returned to his home town after a difficult season overseas, which he can easily put on the positive side of the ledger.
This year Artem not only became one of the best scorers in the AHL — 81 points (37 goals + 44 assists) in 80 games (that’s fifth place in the league!) — and participated in the All-Star game, but also debuted in the NHL. Anisimov has played two games for the New York Rangers: one in the regular season, one in the playoffs, in the game against Washington’s Simeon Varlamov which became the last in Stanley Cup competition for the Rangers.
ANISIMOV AND LOKOMOTIV
- The first question might not seem entirely proper. The fact is that there was no official information on your departure, and that has caused much conjecture. In particular, many fans still believe that you just left Yaroslavl without permission, without notifying the club’s management. What really happened?
- I ran away?! Strange… Before my departure for America that summer I signed a contract with the Rangers, who drafted me in 2006 in the second round at number 54. And I’m positive that the management of the club knew about it. Furthermore, after signing the contract I returned to Yaroslavl and trained with the team. Honestly, I no longer remember if it was with the second or first [team]… But I don’t know all the details and nuances of the transfer — they were handled by my agent, Mark Gandler. At least, now I have a good relationship with the management of the club — both with [President Yuri] Yakovlev and [General Manager Yuri] Lukin…
- They didn’t invite you back?
- In the first season there were such conversations. In my contract it was even registered that if I wanted, up until January 15th, I could return to Yaroslavl. And they invited me… But I decided to pursue my own goal.
- To pursue your own goal — that is to fight your way onto the Rangers? But that was only possible for you this season.
- Partly… I have only played two games — [one] in the regular season and in the seventh game in the playoffs which became the last for our team. I would have liked more, of course.
I WAS “FLYING” ALL OVER THE ICE
- Let’s compare the two seasons which you have spent in America. Were they very different?
- The first season was very difficult for me. Different country, different mentality, totally different hockey, even the food was different. It was very difficult to get used to.
- Expand on “different” hockey…
- They play more “physical hockey” there: they always play the body. In Russia they don’t play that way. When I arrived there, at first they hit me in in such a way that I was simply flying all over the ice — first to the left, then to the right. The ice surface there is so much smaller and there is practically no time for deliberation. The play goes to each zone of the ice and the speed, the speed is much higher. And, I don’t know how it is in Russia now, at the time it wasn’t like this, but there in America there was a clear distribution of roles between all players. Right down to the smallest things. There are two groups of five which play on the power play only and there is a player who plays exclusively in the slot on the power play, screening the view of the opponent’s goaltender. There are lines that are “checking lines” which play the penalty kill and hold the attacking activities of the opponent in check.
- Did your linemates not change this season?
- No. Like last year, I basically played with Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Brodie Dupont. Dupont, like me, was a rookie last year, and Parenteau, a veteran. We played well in general. It’s true that in the beginning of the season I played with different linemates — the coach searched for the best combinations. But he then understood that our [line] was optimal and put us together again. For 30 games we played very effectively, but then our opponents figured us out and started to put their “special teams” out against us. Therefore, at the end of the season our effectiveness dropped somewhat.
- For the same reason you didn’t manage to “shine” in the playoffs?
- Yes, we were constantly covered. And in general our opponent played us tactically.
- Nobody expected that your Hartford Wolf Pack, the winner of the AHL’s Atlantic Division, having taken a 2:0 lead in the series, would then lose four games in a row to the fourth team in your division, the Worcester Sharks…
- They had experienced defensemen, and a good attack. And their goaltender stopped everything: I alone got 24 shots, and scored only two times. But the main thing is — they were a unified team, they fought for one another. But with us… there happened to be a little “lack of understanding”…
- We’ll return to the comparison of the first and second season…
- The second season was easier. I improved my English, it became easier to communicate with the guys, I began to come to terms with how to better play in this or that situation. And on the team I’ve “come into my own” now. The guys began to trust me, to pass [to me]. In the first season that didn’t occur.
- You, being a Russian, how did they relate to you?
- In the first season… not very [well]. Both my teammates and the coach… were trying to figure me out I guess. Now, everything’s in order: the coach knows my capabilities, the guys understood what kind of person I am. There’s no problem.
- And what is their attitude towards Russian hockey players and hockey in general?
- In my opinion, the nationality is not so important to them. The main thing is how you play as a hockey player. They admire Ovechkin or Malkin the same. One day a teammate bragged: Today I put 13 shots on goal, just like Ovechkin! (smiles).
TALENT AND ADMIRERS
- Do they recognize you on the streets?
- There were a few times. They recognized me in the store, at the hairdressers. One fan even took a photograph with me on his mobile phone and sent the photo to his son.
- And in general does the team have a lot of fans?
- No, unfortunately. We play in an arena where until 1997 the NHL team Hartford Whalers was based. It holds about 16 thousand spectators. So during our games the second level of the arena is simply blocked off. Even during the playoffs it wasn’t sold out.
In Hartford, basketball — and not the NBA, but the championship among colleges — enjoys greater popularity. And it’s not important whether the woman’s team plays or the men’s — the stands are always full. American football is very popular. For example, the American football stadium in Hartford seats 110 thousand people. There was an ordinary practice game: “Red vs. White”. And despite pouring rain, more than 50 thousand fans came to it.
- And what did they say about the World Championship in Hartford?
- Nothing: nobody watches it there. When it started, I began to flick through the channels on the TV (and there are many!) trying to find at least something — it was empty… At the same time they broadcast four basketball games from the college championship simultaneously. The whole of American went out of their minds for it.
- In the All-Star game, you have collected three points: you scored and had two assists. But did you participate in any of the [skills] competitions inherent in such matches?
- Yes… In the goaltender competition (smiles). With other players I helped show who was the best. We shot at the net, one player shoots five shots from one side, another shoots five more shots from the opposite position. I scored on three of five. Then I scored on penalty shots as well. And I was one of a group of only six guys who got the better of the goaltender.
- In general, what were your impressions of the AHL All-Star game?
- Complex. In the first period I was very nervous. For me everything was a novelty — all the best players players of the league gathered in the same place!
- You also are one of the best!
- Noo, I don’t rate myself amongst the AHL elite…
- Is your salary in Hartford large?
- No – $62,500 per year. Minus taxes.
- But it’s sufficient to live?
- Quite. In a month I receive $6,500-6,900 net. I rent an apartment. I pay for that. Plus the lease of furniture, payment for TV, the Internet and other things — in general I spend somewhere around $2,000. With the rest — do what you want. Little is spent for meals — you go to the store and for $100 stock up and cook for the week. So that’s sufficient. Over there, for example, in the OHL where [Evgeni] Grachev and [Andrei] Loktionov play, salaries are altogether ridiculous: If I’m not mistaken, they pay $150 a week. And, Canadian at that.
- You said that you cook for a week. Do you really cook for yourself?
- Yes, I can.
- And what are your specialties?
- There’s nothing special — I love everything Russian. For example, I love boiled potatoes. And I love them fried, but somehow I can never make them right… I love meat. I had a range with a “broiler” function there. You prepare a piece of meat, bake it 15 minutes, and it’s ready.
- And do you not indulge in delicacies?
- No, I prefer to eat delicacies at a restaurant.
- Many hockey players who come to America discover and become fans of this or that world cuisine. For instance Denis Grebeshkov has come to love Italian food…
- Well, I don’t know… There are no such special preferences. But I very much like the American steak that they prepare at “Mortons”. But that is a very expensive restaurant.
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