The travel schedule may have been hectic, but one benefit of the New York Rangers opening the 2011-2012 season in Europe is that it provided an opportunity for Sovietsky Sport reporter Lana Lapitski to chat with Rangers’ third year center Artem Anisimov. Lapitsky caught up with the 23-year old Yaroslavl native prior to the Rangers’ season opener in Stockholm, and again in the locker room following their 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The pair discussed a wide variety of topics, including the team’s pre-season journey around Europe, living in New York, Sean Avery’s demotion, and the Lokomotiv tragedy that rocked Anisimov’s home town in early September. A translation of their conversation follows.
- I didn’t think anyone from the Russian press would come! – Artem exclaimed when I approached him after morning practice.
- You’re not tired from galloping across Europe?
- Who, me? No! I’ve visited four countries, played hockey — it’s great! I got to see Prague, we were there for two days. After the day’s work we walked around the [city] center. And we were lucky with the weather. I liked Goethenburg, too, we had a free day there.
- And what did you see?
- Nothing! The fog was too thick, - Anisimov laughs. Lundqvist took us to the best restaurant in the city, we had a great team dinner… Bratislava, we just went there and back.
Stockholm? I had already been there with Team Russia when we played in the Euro Hockey Tour before the 2010 World Championship. I love the old town with its ancient buildings, cobbled streets, small alleyways and cozy restaurants. You can’t find anything like it in America. The country itself is only a little over 200 years old.
- And Zurich?
- I’ve been there many times. Every summer I train there with [Soviet hockey legend and former Lokomotiv junior coach Vladimir] Yurzinov.
- How did you manage to lose so badly to Zug?
- We were ready [for the game]. But we’re used to North American hockey, and we met the Swiss on big ice. We tried to play a physical style, win dump-ins and face-offs. But they were able to cut us off. We made a couple stupid mistakes on defense, let in a couple goals and the game didn’t go our way.
- How has the roster changed with the arrival of Brad Richards. He’s a center, your competitor.
- Dubinsky moved to Richards’ line. And I was put on a line with Fedotenko and Callahan.
- That’s the second line?
- For us all four lines are of equal level. There’s no difference where you play.
- What was your reaction to the fact that Sean Avery was released from the roster?
- I was surprised.
- Has the time passed for the agitator?
- That’s not the issue. Sean is a very good person. A highly skilled, fast player. This decision was made by the coach. I’m just a hockey player.
The Rangers PR representative asks us to wrap it up. But I ask Artem a few last questions which must be asked of him as an alumni of Lokomotiv.
- In the summer you became a [restricted] free agent. Did your home town team call you [to come play for them]?
- Yes, there was such an offer.
- Do you not think, now, that someone from above protected you?
- It’s possible. I try not to think about it. The guys can’t be brought back. We must play for them, they will remain in our hearts forever.
- Did you go to Yaroslavl?
- I was at the funeral. It was terribly difficult, – Artem’s eyes darken.
- I heard that the NHL wives have organized a charity fund to help the victims’ families.
- Yes, they’re selling specially designed bracelets. My girlfriend and I ordered some for ourselves. We’re just waiting for them to be sent, – here Artem’s voice fades away completely...
After the game [a 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles] Artem was extremely frustrated:
- I’m not happy with my play. I need to capitalize on my chances.
- You were even sent out on the penalty kill.
- I played on [the penalty kill] last season too. It’s very good when you get more [playing] time. You don’t get cold sitting on the bench… It’s a shame that we messed up so much on defense, took so many unnecessary penalties. It’s a good thing that Lundqvist bailed us out often.
- Who was rooting for you in the stands?
- Vladimir Yurzinov was at the game. He advises the Swedish team AIK. He came to me play. He often gives me advice. My girlfriend and parents couldn’t come. They had trouble getting a visa.
- How is life in New York in general?
- It’s a great city! In my free time I like to go to Broadway and watch musicals. It’s cool when they sing live! I’ve been to the shows “Mamma Mia”, “The Lion King”, “The Phantom Opera”… And I really like the team. Everyone gets along with one another, helps each other. There’s no differentiation between who’s Russian, American or Slovak. 10-12 of us go out to dinners, a lot of team activities… Last season I roomed with Norwegian Mats Zuccarello on the road. And here’s my friend — Anisimov points his neighbor in the locker room, Brian Boyle — we sit together everywhere, at the table, on the bus…
- Why are you not on Twitter and Facebook. Gino Malkin has already become Mr. Twitter.
- I don’t like social networks. I think it’s better to read a book or do something useful than to hang out on the Internet. I have friends who know my phone number. And I can always call them.
- Many stars have come to Stockholm. For example Teemu Selanne from Anaheim. Perhaps you met a childhood idol here?
- No. I always liked how Joe Sakic played in Colorado. And now I love to watch Pasha Datsyuk. He’s the model center. Plays perfectly on defense or on the attack. Very good shot, golden hands.
- Do you follow Datsyuk’s example?
- One should only be like oneself. But I can take something for my arsenal from others. It’s never too late to learn.
- Do you have a nickname?
- In Russia they called me Grandpa. It’s an old story. My friend Sasha Vasyunov, who died in the Lokomotiv crash, thought up this nickname.
- Why Grandpa?
- Because I was slow, paused [during play].
- And in the NHL do you have a nickname?
- Artie. American’s can’t pronounce my name completely.