Kontinental Hockey League/SKA Saint Petersburg Evgeni Nabokov press conference

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Monday, August 9, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Kontinental Hockey League SKA Saint Petersburg Evgeni Nabokov Alexander Medvedev Denis Grebeshkov press conference

The KHL released a partial transcript of Friday’s press conference to announce the signing of former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, and former Kings/Islanders/Oilers/Predators defenseman Denis Grebeshkov with SKA Saint Petersburg. They were joined by KHL/SKA president Alexander Medvedev to answer questions from the Russian media.

[Q] How did your relatives feel about the move to Russia? It’s no secret that Evgeny Nabokov’s kids don’t even speak Russian.

[Evgeni Nabokov] The fact that my kids don’t speak Russian was one of the reasons for the move. They should know their roots, the country’s culture. My wife supported me completely on this. My parents were really happy, especially my father, who’ll be able to see me play more often.

[Denis Grebeshkov] My parents were also very excited. My mom will finally have a chance to visit me during the season, and my father will be able to watch hockey on TV at a normal hour in the evening, instead of late at night.

[Q] Seeing a goalie wear No. 20 reminds everyone of Tretiak. What led you to that choice, Evgeny?

[Evgeni Nabokov] That’s the number my father wore.

[Q] As you were signing contracts with a Russian club, were you at all motivated – in addition to the good terms – by a desire to benefit Russian hockey with your play?

[Evgeni Nabokov] Without a doubt. That’s exactly why we’ve returned to Russia. Russian players want to perform at home, that’s logical. I think that’s a trend that will continue for the near future.

[Denis Grebeshkov] Perhaps it would be a bit immodest for us to say that we’re going to take the KHL to a new level with our play, but we’re going to try to do everything possible to improve our hockey. It’s more satisfying to compete for your own native Cup.

[Alexander Medvedev] I’d like to add that 250 Russian hockey players have left for North America over the past decade. Of them, just 15 played in the NHL. And of those who returned, just 10 players have been able to continue their professional careers in Russia. This is yet another reminder that no one is planning to interfere with players who want to test themselves in the NHL. It’s just a question of at what age, and at what physical and mental state, it makes sense to do that. It’s no coincidence that we want to include age restrictions in our future framework agreement with the NHL, in order to protect the futures of kids who not only do not develop there, but often degrade as players. Don’t forget that Ovechkin and Malkin, before their NHL debuts, played more than 100 matches each at Russian hockey’s top level. Before leaving for North America, you need to learn something at home first. So that some North American coach in the AHL won’t tell a young defenseman: “Forget all your Russian tricks and just fire the puck along the boards.”

[Q] In the upcoming season we’ll once again have pauses for the Euro Hockey Tour. How would you prefer the season be held: with four breaks in the calendar, or with all of regular season games in a row?

[Denis Grebeshkov] Of course it’s easier to play 82 games in a row and not have to think about anything else. But it’s always a pleasure to travel for the Russian national team. We’ll play for the fans.

[Evgeni Nabokov] I’ll answer briefly: If it’s necessary, I’ll come.

[Alexander Medvedev] I want to stress that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (FHR) will fulfill all of the contract obligations that it has agreed to. We anticipated a “window” for the national team. There are no Olympics this year, and the world championship time frame is reasonable. That allowed us to schedule the playoffs, with the exception of the first round, without so-called doubled matches, where the first and second games, as well as the third and fourth games, are held back to back in two days.

As for the players who will be called on to compete for the national team, it’s entirely logical that Russian fans want to see the best. The only question is how strong these competitions will be. Which is exactly why for the 2011-12 season, I, as a member of the IIHF, and FHR President Vladislav Tretiak will propose ways to reform these competitions, to improve them. We need higher-quality competitions without losing money for the FHR. It’s no secret that the Euro Hockey Tour is a source of financing for the FHR. But the KHL also has a financial relationship with the FHR. And that means that from September or October we’ll be discussing the competition format with the Federation. Russia has the ability to influence the fate of this tournament.

In conclusion, to make this press conference even more interesting, I’ll add that I’ve received confirmation that forward Maxim Afinogenov has agreed to the terms of his contract with SKA. It’s a so-called 5+1 deal, where he’ll sign for five years with an option for a sixth season if both sides agree. Maxim Afinogenov is returning to Russia.

[Update] Nabokov talks about coming home to KHL, why league isn’t ‘step back’ – Dmitry Chesnokov for Yahoo’s Puck Daddy.

Nabokov: “It’s very interesting, why does everyone always think that when you come back it’s a step back?”

Reporter: I mean that the level of competition is a little different.

Nabokov: “Let me ask you, would you want to play for the Edmonton Oilers, for example?” [laughter] “Let me tell you that when you have a choice and you have something to choose from, you always want to play for a good team, compete for medals and such. I will speak for myself, but the situation was such that I had no choice of a good team to play for and to play at the high level. To me it was very important to play for a good team, to try to win.”

Nabokov also said that he wanted to stay with the Sharks saying “when my contract with the Sharks ended my family and I discussed my career options and decided that if I was offered to stay with San Jose I would definitely have to agree. Overall all NHL teams are full of players so there is nowhere to go, you can say. Before, when a player became a free agent, he had a lot of choices, he was sought for. It all different now … At the end of June I spoke with the Sharks GM who told me that the club would not be able to keep me. They needed to “fill other holes.” It was a difficult decision for the club as well.” He added: “the situation is such that clubs’ management has to choose whether to sign a second line player or a goalie. That’s why right now they are seeking second goalies, younger guys are given a lot more chances. It is a question to GMs.”

The combative side of Evgeni Nabokov comes through in his comment about Edmonton. It should be noted that 4 days before Nabokov’s comment, the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers agreed to a co-affiliation with an ECHL team in Stockton. For the Sharks, the contracts that needed to be locked up were 4-year deals for Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. GM Doug Wilson opted to go with a tandem of Niittymaki and Greiss instead of the veteran workhorse Nabokov, and the move allows him more flexbility under the salary cap to make adjustments for 2010-11.

[Update2] More bits from championat.ru (rough google translation):

[Q] You know about the transition Afinogenov?

[A] I do not know, but it’s great! SKA – a good team. I want to play it in such a team, which set itself the task to win in the league, and not just get into the playoffs.

[Q] You have an American wife, and she supported your decision to move to Russia? It’s amazing.

[A] We’re going out of our comfort zone. Six or seven years ago such a scenario would have been unrealistic, but I spoke with Alexander Medvedev on the conditions he saw his attitude, and a desire to move to the SKA. Based on this, to weigh all the pros and cons easily.

[Q] Did you consult with players on SKA?

[A] Yes, I spoke with Maxim Sushinski, Sergei Zubov, Andrei Zyuzin. They outlined the situation to me. I need to know what’s what, before making a decision.

[Q] SKA now the most-most star team composition.

[A] Probably, I may say so. But this does not guarantee victory. Buy a cup is not possible. How old is the Rangers could not win the Stanley Cup. In San Jose “We had a good team. But somewhere out of luck, somewhere injury.

[Q] What in “San Jose” was not enough?

[A] It would be nice if I knew the answer. Over the past five years, we claim the high ground, but always something was missing.

[Q] Many people in general have drawn parallels between SKA and the “San Jose”. Teams perform well in the “regular season” and then something happens in the playoffs …

[A] We will try to overcome this. When you come out on the ice, all these thoughts and calculations are forgotten.

[Q] You have heard that Sergei Zubov had difficulty adjusting after the NHL? He complained about the weather, and the fact that he could not get his car repaired…

[A] Well, in Chicago, there is bad weather too (laughs). I can not say anything about this, for myself I have not experienced it.

[Q] Do you fear that you will be focused on with much attention as the star?

[A] It will be interesting championship for the spectators.

[Q] Still, why you decided to go to the KHL? After offering the same in the NHL to stay?

[A] I ended the contract with the San Jose, we discussed options with his family to continue my career and have decided that if the offer to stay in San Jose, you certainly have to agree. In general, NHL teams are now full of players who can say that nowhere to go. Previously, when a player becomes a free agent, he was a great choice, he was snapped up. Now everything is different.

[Q] When did the option come with the SKA?

[A] In the circle of loved ones we have discussed that option before, but so far acted in my contract with the San Jose, I thought much about it.

[Q] During the Olympics representatives SKA with you contacted?

[A] No. SKA has expressed interest during the week before July 1.

[Q] Of other CHL clubs were suggestions?

[A] For me it was important to get a good city and the team claiming victory.

[Q] From Moscow was there interest?

[A] No.

[Q] Your family has come too?

[A] No, they come closer to the end of August.

[Q] “San Jose” in general tried to keep you?

[A] In late June, I spoke with general manager, who said that the club can not hold me back. They had to “fill other holes”.

[Q] And other NHL clubs?

[A] I was eager to make a decision. Maybe if I waited, the proposal would have received. But I never regret my choice.

[Q] Finally when they decided to go to the SKA?

[A] 4 or 5 July. I do not want to wait. It is psychologically difficult.

[Q] Ovechkin said he was extremely surprised by your decision and was waiting for you in “Washington.”

[A] What, he did not call me (laughs)? General Manager of “Washington” said that they have two young goalkeeper, and “Semyon Varlamov” very promising …

Full video of the press conference is available from championat.ru here, in Russian.

[Related] Former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov signs 4-year, $24M contract with KHL club SKA St. Petersburg – Sharkspage.

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