Another epic Russian style interview, this time with Nicklas Bäckström. The link was provided by our field reporter Emily.
Moscow, Russia, Oct. 27, 2012 - The signing of Swedish forward, Washington Capitals Nicklas Bäckström during the lockout by Moscow Dynamo, was a big event for the white'n'blue. It's hard to imagine any KHL club that would refuse to have such hockey player in their lineup. He is shining in the games and is not lost in everyday's life. He came to the interview smiling, open, friendly. And answered all questions from the "SE" without any reserve.
It will be interesting for me to play in the KHL
Nicklas when you watched you team playing vs Atlant from the podium, what thoughts had flashed in your head?
I sat and thought that came to play for a good team. And not just because we won that game. I knew that Moscow Dynamo was the leader of the Western Conference before that. In addition I felt that Ovechkin and the rest of the Dynamo players wanted to see me in their lineup.
You've probably seen a different hockey compared to NHL...
Yes, it was different. But I still thought it was pretty good, very fast. Most of the teams have a system they follow. And on the whole, KHL has a very decent level of hockey. It will be interesting for me to play here.
Actually, you've already begun to do so. You have debuted with the team vs Locomotive in Yaroslavl. What were your feelings?
I was happy to finally go on the ice, not just train, but play! I didn't play for four and a half months. We won confidently. But for me personally it was a typical game of the hockey player who was taking a long break. Besides, I can still feel the difference in time zones to acclimate.
In other words you are aware of the fact that you are not in shape yet...
Of course. What is there to hide? I only worked on the individual program. Had no game practice. Its hard to say how I am ready percentage wise. The only thing I know that it's not a 100%. But not to worry, I will get better.
In what exactly?
I just need to get into a rhythm. As they say, need to move the clock handles. When I will do it right and on time, it will immediately have a positive impact on the game.
Were you upset that you failed to score on your old Caps friend Varlamov? There was a good moment after Ovechkin's pass, but you could not close it on the far post...
I agree, I had to score. But I'm still happy because the team won. And our trio had two goals out of three. The more to it, one Caps player still scored on Varly. So everything is fine (laughs).
When will you score yourself?
You know, I've never make such plans. And I am never wondering when will I score and how much. I'm more worried about the team result. Of course, I want to make a contribution at the same time. For example, block opposite player when we score, give a good pass. Always nice to score, but I'm not obsessed with this idea.
If you remember, Ovechkin after a verbal altercation pushed Yaroslavl defenseman Guskov. What they didn't agree on?
I honestly didn't see the whole episode, so I can't answer. When I turned Guskov was already falling on the ice. But this is hockey. Nothing terrible has happened. The guys got excited at first, then they settled down.
And if someone in the game would rough you? What do you think would Ovechkin rushed to protect you?
I think so. He has done it in the NHL. Hopefully, in the KHL he will do the same.
I want to play in Sochi Everybody heard that you came to Moscow Dynamo because of Alexander. How long he tried to persuade you to sign with them?
I talked to him at the beginning of October. Then, to be honest, I was hoping that the new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players union would still be signed. I was planning to play overseas. Then the situation changed. It became clear that the issue, so to speak, hung in the air. That's why I decided to play in the KHL.
You have consulted with Ovechkin. And what about some Swedish hockey players? Maybe Tony Martensson of SKA St. Petersburg?
You guessed it right. I spoke with Tony earlier. Asked him about the league. And he said that KHL is at a very decent level. So after talking with Ovi I had no doubts remained. Then there are technical nuances. We had to make a visa, obtain the necessary documents. All this took time. If not that I maybe would have come earlier.
Really? But I have some information that you were going to play at home for Brynäs originally...
You are right. At first I thought of the home team. But the situation in the Swedish elite league was incomprehensible. Some clubs flatly refused to invite NHL players. Brynäs, in this respect, did not have any plans for us, as well.
The leaders of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation did not recommended to sign NHL stars for a short period of time. It actually sounded pretty ridiculous. Or do you think otherwise?
They seem to be confused. At first they said that clubs should not take players from the NHLduring the lockout, then they gave it all to the mercy of the general managers...
And why Swedish players mostly prefer to play at home and reluctantly come to Russia?
Reluctantly? It's a moot point. I think one has to make his own decision. There is no clear answer. Some prefer to stay at home, while others, on the contrary, want to experience something new. In short, it comes to individual decision.
You probably know; the other day NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that it seemed the season is gone, it's unlikely any agreement would to be signed...
Sure, everybody listen to the opinion of such person like Bettman. But it is quite possible that this is a cunning ploy by the NHL. We can't foresee whta would happen. Although, of course, at the moment situation is not very good. Let's see how things will develop.
As the NHL is idle, you have a great opportunity to play for the "Tre krunur" in Euro Tour. If they call you, will you go?
I'm afraid that I won't be able to. I still need to make a multiple entry visa to Russia, to address other technical issues. But I can go to other tournaments of Euro Tour later and with pleasure. To play for your country is a great honor!
The Sochi Olympics are not far off. I am sure NHLers will play there. Do you dream about it?
Of course. I want and I am ready to play in the Olympic tournament. They held only once every four years. This is a great event in the life of any athlete. In the meantime, I will get in shape with the Moscow Dynamo (laughs).
GIRLFRIEND LISA WILL COME OVER AFTER THE CHAMPIONSHIP BREAK
As far as I know, you live at the team's training facility in Novogorsk.
You are absolutely right. A little later I will get my own separate apartment. Perhaps this will happen after the November break in the championship. Then my girlfriend Lisa will come over. Do you like her? (He shows the photo of the striking blonde in his iPhone.)
Perfect choice. And who is now helping you at home?
I take care of myself. Just kidding, of course. I get help from all the people around me in Dynamo. First of all it's Ovi, Gynge, my agent Gleb Chistyakov.
In general, are you comfortable on the line with Ovechkin and Gynge?
Absolutely. On the other hand, we have only played together two games, so it's early to say anything definite yet.
Nevertheless, is the line combination justified in your view?
I think it's a good combination. We played with Ovi for five years on the same line. He can score. And Gynge can score too! With him, by the way, I have played for one year at home with Brynäs.
The Dynamo head coach Oleg Znarok naturally has taken into account all of these "little things". And did you have a personal conversation with him?
It was the case. We communicated through an interpreter. What he said if I may ask?
He explained the system team played. You understand I can't tell all the subtleties. And that I should conform to certain requirements.
What is it?
He said that I need to follow the game plan, in any case not to deviate from the team's system. And to play for the team to win.
What was your impression about Znarok?
First of all, it seemed to me that Oleg is a good man. And second, he is a good coach. Dynamo won last season's major trophy, it says a lot. For example, I clearly feel that the team has established discipline. That, of course, is very important.
Would you play for Znarok in Washington?
If the club will hire him, why not? However, for this Oleg will need to learn English (smiles).
SPASIBO, BHAZA, BORSCH...
And you have studied Russian before coming here?
I already know a few words that do not relate to the game. Spasibo, bhaza, borsch... and not going to stop there. (Spasibo - Thank you, bhaza - team's training facility, like Kettler Capitals IcePlex, borsch - Russian soup made with beets and cabbiage - tj)
Do you regret about your choice?
Not at all. I like everything here. You can write that I even feel happy. Naturally, it takes time to get used to the new atmosphere, different size of the rink. But in the days that I spent there, I had a positive experience. About the city, the club, the people. In short, all is well, except for the traffic jams on the roads.
Have you used subway yet?
Not yet. I am sure I will, but I'm more comfortable to travel by car.
Do you miss Washington?
What do you think? I lived there for six years. Capitals is a good team. But now we have what we have. I repeat, I am satisfied with everything.
The reason I am asking is that with Washington Capitals you've spent a lot of time together with Ovechkin, Semin and Green even off-ice...
Yes, especially in the early years. And on the road we were trying to keep one company. It is true that the longer you live in a city, the more friends you get outside hockey. But with the boys we were doing fine. Now there is always something to remember. We had all kind of fun stories.
Can you share?
Sure. Once on my birthday in Ottawa, I was interviewed by reporters. So Ovi crept from the back and smeared my face with the shaving cream. A year later, he spoke to the press in Washington on his birthday. And I did the same to him. As they say, returned the favor. So on this account it is 1-1 (laughs).
Now, almost all the old Washington company is here in Russia. You and Ovechkin in Dynamo, Varlamov in Locomotive, Semin in the Torpedo. By the way, how come youlost in Nizhny Novgorod with shutout?
Well, any team can lose. We didn't play well. Semin, by the way, came to our training. We greeted. And now we need to concentrate and play well on Monday in the next game.
What do you think about your opponent Riga Dinamo?
This is a team from the capital of Latvia (laughs). But seriously, I know goalkeeper Mikael Tellqvist. I crossed paths with him several times playing for the Swedish national team.
Are you going to talk to him?
Maybe after the game. During the game I will greet him with a goal.