Valery Nichushkin: playoffs are around the corner, it’s time to start winning

MHL is a stage of the career every young player has to get through

Why hockey, Valery?
It’s a frequently asked question, to be honest. When I was a child, I used to watch a lot of hockey, and I believe my parents noticed that I was interested in it. Sometime later they bought me the equipment, and I went to a hockey school.

What other kinds of sports do you like?
When I was at fourth and fifth grade, I went to a tennis school, so I still often play tennis. I’m a man of sports, so I like almost all of them. Plus, we often play a game of soccer as warm-ups during the training sessions.

Do you think MHL gives a lot of valuable experience to the young players?
Absolutely! This is a stage every young player has to work through. There you can perfect your skills and prepare for the big leagues. I think it would be difficult for most young players to get right from their hockey schools to, say, the Major Hockey League, so there is MHL where guys could still play hockey and get some spotlight. MHL will prove itself worthy one day, trust me.

Do you sometimes feel like once again playing for Belye Medvedi?
I’m comfortable here in Traktor (smiles). But if I’m asked to play for Medvedi, I will not hesitate to accept. There’s no shame in doing this.

My goal is to help Traktor, not be on top of leaderboards

Do you remember your KHL debut?
Of course. I would prefer debuting under more favorable circumstances though, but our captain Vladimir Antipov got injured, so I had to replace him. Still I had motivated myself and knew that if I had a chance, I would have to take the most of it. I think I didn’t make too many mistakes; I even executed a couple of fine passes.

In your second KHL match your hit made it to the weekly KHL’s top hit list. Is that flattering to you?
Of course it is, but my goal is to help Traktor, not to be on top of leaderboards. Of course it’s always great when you make a beautiful move or score a beauty of a goal, but it’s not the beauty that matters, it’s the results.

How were you getting along in Traktor?
Just fine, I’m on friendly terms with everybody. Sometimes my elder partners would shout at me during matches, but I think it’s fine because it’s a part of the game and it motivates others.

Some say penalty shootouts is a lottery; I say it’s skill

U-20 World Championships has recently been over. Do you think the third place is a good result?
It’s great that we finished the tournament with a victory. It would have been way worse if we had finished second or even fourth. Still we wanted the gold and motivated ourselves accordingly. You know, World Championships is a tournament that takes away a lot of emotions. Some of us could not even sleep at night, so we asked the doctors to give us some sleeping pills.

What match was the most difficult for you?
Probably the first one with Canada. I let down my team and let down all the fans. Everyone was watching the game with the New Year mood, and I let them down. I did not appear on the ice in the quarterfinals, and that was a difficult match as well; we were close to being out of the tournament.

What do you think team Russia lacked in the semifinals against Sweden?
We went out there and did not understand what was going on; of course you can’t start a game like this. We were totally outplayed by Sweden in the first period; we could not even get out of our own zone. During the intermission we fired ourselves up, and this was where things got rolling. We were unlucky at times; we hit the posts on several occasions. As for the shootouts…some say it’s a lottery, I say it’s skill, and the most skillful ones won that night.

How would you estimate your performance in Ufa?
Everyone, myself included, expected more from me. I wanted to be of use in every match, but got this DQ instead.

Did you take the lucky pucks from Ufa and Bratislava?
I could not take the puck that I scored in the bronze medal game, but managed to take the one that I scored my first KHL goal with in a matchup against Slovan.

Did you celebrate the New Year after the match against Canada?
Well, the match was over at around 9 p.m. We arrived at the hotel thirty minutes before the New Year. Fifteen minutes later we went to have a dinner; some of the managers and coaches pronounced the celebratory speeches. After the dinner we went to have rest in our hotel rooms; that’s pretty much it.

Was it your first New Year without proper celebration?
No. Last year in Canada I made a wish at midnight and went to sleep.

Did your wish become reality?
Yes, it did (smiles).

We have to get out of the slump we got ourselves into

After U-20 World Cup was over, you went right to Moscow for a match against CSKA. Was it difficult to switch gears so fast?
I did not appear on the ice in this match, nor did I in any of that away series’ matches. When we returned to Chelyabinsk, we had a couple of free days, and I somewhat improved my condition. Now I feel myself fine.

What do you think is the reason behind Traktor’s current downfall?
I don’t know. We only lose by a one-goal margin; with Slovan in overtime, with CSKA – in shootouts. The only exception was the game against Metallurg, but there was Yevgeny Malkin who was the deciding factor.

Each team has its downfalls, now doesn’t it?
Maybe, but we can’t allow this downfall to continue. We have to join our efforts and find our game once again. Playoffs are around the corner, it’s time to start winning.

The next home series is not going to be an easy one…
I think everything is going to be fine.

Did you watch the 2013 All-Star Game?
No, I decided to go to the countryside where even my cell phone was out of coverage. I needed to have a good rest.

Some prefer spending their free time doing sports, some prefer intellectual activities as leisure; others just sleep during their holidays.
How do you prefer to spend your free time?
You have to listen to your body; sometimes it seems that you have all the strength in the world, but it’s not so. So as a rule, when we’re on the series of matches, I don’t like doing anything that involves a lot of energy; and conversely if I have several days out, I like doing something more active. Unfortunately, this season I did not have many opportunities to do it, like to go play tennis.

Do you, like most of the young men, love videogames?
I do play videogames occasionally, particularly on Xbox. Sometimes my friends would come to join me.

You play hockey on Xbox?
No, I like shooters more.

Couple of words for all of Traktor fans out there?
Keep supporting us, and everything will be fine. We love our fans, and I’m sure they love us too.

Photo by Vitaly Gubin, Yaroslav Naumkov