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Gennady Razin. Not only does Chelyabinsk have a hockey team; it has a great hockey team!

It’s always easier to become a part of a winning team

Is this season more difficult for Traktor than the previous one?
I think yes, a bit. Other KHL teams have realized that we are among the leaders on a consistent basis, thus they are a whole lot more motivated in matches against Traktor.

We would like to know your opinion on the newcomers like Karpov, Nichushkin and Dugin. What’s the reason why they fit so well on current roster?
I don’t know. In my opinion, it’s always easier to become a part of a winning team. Everyone has their obligations and responsibilities, but the hope that the result will be satisfying drives the players to perform in a more relaxed manner.

Who’s been the most difficult opponent for Traktor so far in this season?
We had several of them. I would like to mention Avangard – a very disciplined and skillful team. Donbass has surprised me as well; but the team that impressed me the most is Lev; they are a very fast and at the same time very experienced team.

Which one of the opponents has the most uncomfortable style of play for Traktor?

Yugra, Avtomobilist and Amur; we often cannot get ourselves together in matches against these teams.

You’ve mentioned Avtomobilist that is now the ultimate underdog in KHL. Does it often happen that there’s lack of motivation in matches against teams like these?
Yes, it definitely does. Imagine a player sitting in the locker room thinking: ‘We’re atop the leaderboard, our opponent is not. Since the opponent has nothing to gain, probably we may not necessarily give it our all tonight’. Thinking like this is dangerous because no matter the opponent, every point is valuable.

We’ve talked about the adaptation of the newcomers. Have you had at times felt yourself out of place when you arrived in a new team?
Yes, I have. During the previous lockout when I played for Ak Bars, a lot of NHL players arrived in Kazan. I felt out of my element because at first I played on a regular basis, but it all stopped when these guys appeared on the scene. To make it even worse, I could not even hold a legitimate grudge because they were better than me. Very unpleasant feeling, I should say.

Is lockout good or bad for Traktor?
At first glance it is not good because other teams, unlike Traktor, have made some serious acquisitions. However, it’s certainly a positive for the natives, so to speak, because you might have worries before the match against the teams with NHL players on the roster, but when it’s all said and done, they think to themselves: ‘Well, for better or worse, we had a evenly matched contest with those guys’. It is certainly good for their self-esteem; besides, the NHL newcomers won’t be here forever, they will leave someday, but those guys who played against them might boast the experience they have gathered in these matches. So, whether lockout is good or bad is an arguable point; it might be bad for KHL overall leaderboard, but not for the future of the players.

In your opinion, is it possible that the lockout is going to last for a year or even more?
I can’t rule this one out completely; NHL is having quite a few problems right now. As far as I understand, the negotiating sides have decided to settle their differences in court. Besides, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes games and politicking in the players union. NHL players do not want to sign just any piece of paper, so chances are we won’t see an NHL season this year. Even if the NHL season restarts the next year, players will no longer have the salaries this big. Hockey fans have already begun to turn on those players who get astronomical salaries and still complain about how poor they really live.

Captain is the heart of the team

Recently a well-renowned sports journalist Vasily Utkin have cited soccer team Germany as an example of an alloy of great playing style and team spirit. What’s Traktor’s playing style and who’s the epitome of team spirit in Traktor?
To answer your second question – it’s the captain. Vladimir Antipov is Traktor’s heart that pumps the blood around the body; the rest of us are other organs and body parts, and our functions are also very important (smiles). As for style I’d say Traktor is an attack-oriented team that likes long combinations and many passes. Sometimes it’s also our downside because we often forget about the defense.

Completely different question – do you like reading? If you do, what books do you read?
I read a lot of press, especially when it concerns NHL. Sometimes I follow the careers of guys I know. As for books, I used to read a lot of fiction stories and sci-fi, but now I prefer documentaries. Now I’m reading ‘The Five Thousand Year Leap’; this book is dedicated to the US and how people want to build a great state overnight.

Tell us more about your first trip abroad.
I was a bit shocked and did not understand what was going on around me. My first trip abroad was to Quebec; it’s the French part of Canada, thus everyone spoke French, which I of course did not understand at all; it was bitter cold there as well. We arrived there for a sixty- or eighty-team tournament; we were all given new equipment, we lived in Canadian families. I thought to myself: ‘Why would anybody treat us so well? They do not know us! And gosh, why is it so clean around here?’ When we returned to Russia, I could not tell whether it was real or not, but when I went there several times, I realized that this was just the Canadian mentality.

What piece of advice could you give to the young players who go the States and Canada?

They have to survive the culture shock. Everything is different in North America, from everyday life to hockey. I had a great experience there, everybody treated me well; guys always invited me to go out someplace, even if I did not have the money. These young guys, they should not think that if they are from Russia, they have to be like Russians in the States or Canada. You have to adjust to the lifestyle. You don’t get offended by their jokes; you have to talk more to your teammates and coaches because in general they are a lot more sociable and outgoing. I had great coaches, by the way; they fined me though when I could not pay, but it was for my own good.

You can play a hundred games a season, but the fans won’t be interested

Has your family arrived in Chelyabinsk?
No, not yet.

Did you go home during the last break in the season?
No, I decided not to, because I would have gotten even more tired of these flights and what not. I would love to see my daughter though; she’s now in the first grade in elementary school, and she’s also learning to play the piano with the aid of a professional pianist.

NHL season has 82 games. Some of the fans want to make the KHL season equally long. Do you think it’s possible?
You can play 100 games if you want to, but let’s not forget – we have more time zones than North America which results in more flights, more time swings; do not forget the Euro Hockey Tour. If we did not have all of this, we could add a dozen of matches to the season, not more. Sure you could play three matches in three days, but the fans will be disinterested in the third match because the teams will be mentally and physically exhausted.

Once you said you were a nature lover. Have you had any chance to visit any of region’s natural parks and reserves?
No, I have not. I don’t like cold weather that much; however, I have always wanted to try ice fishing. Some of the guys from Traktor also like it, they even have the necessary stuff to put on because the weather here is sometimes blistering cold, and you have to wear a lot in order to keep warm.

What’s the difference between Russian and North American fans?
Quite frankly, I have almost forgotten how North American fans react to what is happening on the ice. There’s one thing though that I can tell – Russians fans are more raucous, more boisterous; they are somewhat close to soccer fans in this regard. However, there are teams the fans of which do not scream and shout all that much because they like to follow and concentrate on the developments of the game. Besides, arenas in North America don’t have separate stands for visiting teams’ fans. Everyone sits where they want to. We have this ‘distinction’ to avoid confrontations between the fans.

Where did you go for your last summer vacation? What country has impressed you the most?
My wife and I have been to three places – Mexico, Hawaii and Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. I liked Hawaii the most; it’s very warm up there – no temperature swings, no insects. You can also rent a car there, and you will not get lost because it’s an island, you’ll eventually get to the place you have started your trip from. We have been in many places during our three-week stay, including the beaches and forests where Lost shootings took place.

Dmitry Ryabykin once said in an interview that superstitions are a sin. Do
you have any hockey superstitions?
I don’t know. I like to tap my partners on their sticks or gloves; it’s a silent signal that you are confident and ready to go.

Chance to touch history is priceless

Chelyabinsk is preparing to host the All-Star Game. Are you going to visit it?
I think I will watch it at home; there will be tons of people in the arena, so it will be more comfortable to stay at home.

What performance or show would you like to visit then?
Cirque du Soleil (smiles). My wife and children have visited it once and liked it a lot, so I would love to go see them perform too. Besides that, I have always loved Metallica, so it would be fun to visit their concerts as well.

How about football?
I once went to a football game; I have to say it’s also better to watch it at home. The game is split into short 20-second pieces; the rest of the time you just have to wait what’s going to happen next. When you watch it on TV, you get the replays and commentators often explain the rules and intricacies of the game. And yeah, by the way, I like college football more than NFL.

Last year you said in an interview that you had prepared Christmas gifts for your nearest and dearest beforehand. Are you planning to do the same thing this year?
Yes, I’ll just have to buy them here and send them to the States. I have to do it soon because Christmas in the US is three weeks’ time.

Last Saturday Traktor opened the club museum. How important is this for the team and for the fans?
I think it is a very important milestone for Traktor. Sport connects people; when the fans see the progress of their favorite team, they want to follow it closer. We had a great last season, so when the boys and girls grow up, they will hopefully boast about what an outstanding team they watched. The chance to literally touch history is also a great experience.

What associations come to your mind regarding Chelyabinsk?
For whatever reason, it is the camel from the city’s coat of arms. And of course, it’s very cold here (laughs).

The US has a lot of hockey towns, e.g. Detroit. Could you call Chelyabinsk a hockey town?

I think I could. I’ve noticed a lot of Traktor merchandise and attributes in cars etc. When someone recognizes you, it’s often seen that they follow the team, even though it may not be that closely. And certainly, Traktor hockey school is one of the most renowned in Russia and well-known in North America. When I played for Amur, things were a bit different, but that can be easily explained – the only sports team Khabarovsk has is Amur.