Linda "La Canadienne" Sparks: From Canada with Love!

  1. Couple of words about yourself.

My name is Linda Sparks, I am a Franco-Ontarian, who was born and raised in Canada’s National Capital in the city of Ottawa in the province of Ontario, but for the last twenty five years, I have lived in the province of Quebec. Growing up in the city of Ottawa in the province of Ontario, I use to play hockey with my kid brother and all his friends over at Stanley Park on the outdoor rink in the winter time in our old New Edinburgh neighbourhood by the Rideau River. We weren’t really allowed to play hockey on the frozen river (but we did some times!) When my brother was 5 years old, my father enrolled him in an organized hockey house league team at the old Vanier Arena. I wanted to play hockey indoors too, but at the time, there wasn’t any hockey for girls and I was very disappointed. So I continued to play pick up hockey with the boys at the outdoor rink and I played defense. I think I would have continued to play hockey and eventually join a competitive team but unfortunately I suffered a sport injury to my left eye, which detached my retina and I became blind in my eye. Many years later, I took up writing about hockey and I once won a hockey writing contest to see a National Hockey League game live! I am presently working on my first fictional hockey book about growing up and playing hockey in Canada.

  1. Are you a casual or a hardcore hockey fan?

I’d have to say that I am a hardcore hockey fan, it’s in my DNA!

  1. What are your favorite teams and hockey idols?

My # 1 favourite team in the National Hockey League is the Montreal Canadiens, I grew up watching Jean Beliveau "Le Gros Bill” including Yvan Cournoyer "The Roadrunner”, and Guy Lafleur "The Flower” play at the Old Forum in the city of Montreal in the province of Quebec, Canada.

I have been following the Habs all my life as the team and the dynamics have changed over the years including closing the old Montreal Forum and then playing in the Molson Center now call the Bell Center in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In the National Hockey League’s 2007-2008 season the Kostitsyn brothers, Andrei and Sergei made team history by becoming the 13th combination of brothers to suit up for the Montreal Canadiens and to be the 1stborn European hockey players to do so and I began to followed their hockey careers all though the National Hockey League. Nowa days, I get to see the Kostitsyn brothers facing off against each other in the Kontinental Hockey League since I am now a Traktor Chelyabinsk fan for whom Andrei plays for while Sergei plays for Avangard Omsk. I like the unique styles of play that each brother brings to the ice including their different set of hockey skills and talent, but AK # 46 is my # 1 player.

  1. Your take on the lockout?

This is my 3rd National Hockey League lock out, a complete work stoppage. The 3rd in Gary Bettman’s career as the "one and only” Commissionaire of the National Hockey League for over 20 years, I say it’s time for a change of the old guard, the world is moving on.

  1. Is there any chance of seeing the NHL season in the nearest future?

I personally doubt it. The whole collective bargaining agreement is way too complicated even for the lay person to understand, so therefore this might turn out to be the longest lock out in the history of the National Hockey League in North America.

6. How did you come to support Traktor?

Simple, Andrei Kostitsyn signed with Traktor for the whole season and having seen him play for the Belarus National Hockey Team in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Worlds over the years, I was familiar with the concept of "ice hockey” and the Kontinental Hockey League format such as larger rink surfaces and different rules and regulations and I applaud several of them.

I find KHL hockey to be a completely different style of play, less bump and grid as in the National Hockey League with more emphasis on hockey skills, such as stick handling, or longer possession of the puck as I‘d like to say as opposed to the dump and chase method or the dreadful "trap” style of play that has turned off a lot of hockey fans in North America. I find that teams that play in the Kontinental Hockey League focus more on team work and spirit, less on "individuality” status quo and really just focusing on playing a good solid game of hockey for 60 minutes. It is very entertaining to watch, and the fans in Chelyabinsk are very supportive of their team. They are very vocal fans and I always hear the drum beating in the background in the rink, I like that.

  1. How do you watch Traktor's matches?

On my computer and live very early in the morning around 8:00 am when the team plays on home ice. I don’t mind that, I pour myself a nice hot cup of coffee and Eddie and I (my one year old English Cocker Spaniel), we get all set up to watch the game. But when the team is on the road…oh la la, that becomes more complicated to watch with the multiple time zones, the farther away the team goes and that can really mess up my schedule for my writing day. Sometimes, I might miss a few minutes of the game… due to circumstances that are beyond my control, I mean like when Eddie does have his morning routine!

  1. What do you think Traktor's prospects for this season are?

Excellent, they have a good mix of young and veteran players that can bring a lot to their "A” game each and every night backed by solid goaltending. The team needs to keep strong and healthy, because injuries play havoc on the composition of the lines but so far so good, we don’t have too many injuries and the coaching staff is rolling all four lines, trying to mix it up and working hard on trying to match up the players to close down their opponents each game. I also find the coaching staff is working hard to keep the guys motivated and with everyone working together and on the same page, the team will get the best results!

9. You are pulling for your compatriot Michael Garnett, aren't you?

I’m pulling for my team, Traktor, and Michael Garnett happens to play for the team, so of course, being a team player myself I am pulling for him naturally!

10. Have you heard something about Traktor's head coach, Valery Belousov?

I’ve heard he is a very well-known and respected coach.

11. Chelyabinsk will be hosting the 2012-2013 KHL All-Star Game.

Yes, I think that is wonderful for the city of Chelyabinsk and for the fans of the home team.

It’s going to be a fun-filled weekend!

Are you going to watch it?

Of course!

Do you know if there are any differences between these two events in NHL and KHL?

Obviously, the longest shot competition, the ice surface is longer than what I am use to in North America.

Any propositions to make them better?

As far as the All Star game goes, I think that Michael Garnett’s suggestion of wearing a helmet cam and being mic’up would be fun for the fans and the television viewers, either during the warms up or the team practice and perhaps briefly for the skills competition. I think it would almost be like one was there, actually on the ice and in between the pipes facing a hockey super star. Then as far as the accuracy shooting goes, I would have two team mates on each side of the net feed the puck to the shooting player; I think they would hit the four targets in each corner of the net better, if they were receiving the pucks, it seems like a more natural instinct that standing in front of the net and firing away with the pucks all lined up.

12. How do you think KHL could increase its popularity among the foreign viewers?

Well so far, the Kontinental Hockey League seems to be doing a good job with the television contracts that they have in place with the American viewers including the British and Asia viewers who can watch the games. The fact that the team highlights of the games can be seen and heard with English commentary is good and if you include the English version page on the Kontinental Hockey League’s web site that is also very encouraging for hockey fans around the world to visit. I also like the fact that Traktor’s official web site has an English version; this helps me follow the team tremendously via the coach’s line up combinations for games and the press conferences and what the team players are up to both on and off the ice (such as book readings, charity work and autograph sessions) including their interviews and the new hockey museum within the Arena. I think that is so "kewl” as the kids now days say to have a hockey museum and I think that the items that the people have loaned or donated to the hockey museum are wonderful!

13. Another Russian city, Ufa, will be the host for U-20 World Championships. Are you planning to watch it?

Yes, I am looking forward to that hockey tournament and I will be watching it live in Canada very early in the morning too!!!

Your predictions?

Well, I can’t really predict, but I would certainly like the Canadian boys to bring home the gold medal. I kind of get the feeling that it might end up being another Canada vs. Russia game for the medal and that would be a very exciting game to watch, because I truly believe that Russia is Canada’s only rival when it comes to ice hockey! Really, any hockey game with a match up between those two hockey countries is always a nail biter match to watch either live or on television in any hockey tournament. And I do wish all the teams participating good luck!

Whom do you think we have to pay special attention to?

Besides all the great talent on the Russia team and three players from Traktor?

Well I do follow the Canadian Hockey League, this includes the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and on the Canadian National Junior Team roster for Team Canada there is # 22 Boone Jenner, who plays for the Oshawa Generals and he is a team mate of my nephew Scott Sabourin (my kid brother’s son) who also plays for the Gens, so I have seen both of these lads play hockey live against the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL. So I’d definitely keep an eye out for # 22 Boone Jenner. There is also # 30 Malcolm Subban who also plays in the OHL and he plays in the nets for the Belleville Bulls and of course, he has played against the Ottawa 67’s and the Oshawa Generals in the OHL. Now he is a team mate on Team Canada and he is an excellent player also to watch.

I also follow the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Gatineau Olympiques and I have seen numerous players from Team Canada’s roster many times on the ice playing against my home team, the Pics for short. Players like # 23, Nathan Mackinnon who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Q league (short for QMJHL) in the province of Quebec and his team mate # 29 Jonathan Drouin. I am also very excited because there are several other players from the Q league in the line up for Team Canada, such as # 11 Jonathan Huberdeau who plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs and # 16 Xavier Ouellet from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada team and then you have # 10 Charles Hudon from the Sagueneens Chicoutimi and # 21 Phillip Danault from the Tigres Victoriaville

So also having seen these lads play hockey live and in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League against my home team, I’d keep an eye on them too!

But no matter which hockey team any player on Team Canada plays for whether it is in Ontario, the Q or the Western Hockey League and even the American Hockey League, all are dedicated hockey players!

And I think that Team Canada has a great core of young and talented players, including several with International hockey experience to represent Canada in 2013 and I wish them all the best of luck in Ufa, Russia.

14. Your impressions from Traktor's young guns performance thus far like Kuznetsov, Nichushkin and Shalunov?

A while back, I watched an old hockey documentary by David Bidini, called "The Hockey Nomad goes to Russia.” (2005), and in it was a segment of a very young and mature Evgeny Kuznetsov and his parents. It was very emotional and moving and I will always remember it. When I see # 92 on the ice for Traktor, I am always reminded of another hockey player, Alex Kovalev – "L’Artiste” as he was known – to the Montreal Canadiens fans in the National Hockey League. Both of these players can do amazing things on the ice and with the puck and have a lot of talent. Evgeny has come a long way in his hockey career, fulfilling his dream of playing on a professional hockey team and I wish him all the best for the 2012-2013 hockey season and I would like to see him and the rest of the Traktor team run deep into the playoffs and hoist that Gagarin Cup, proudly in front of the home crowd!

Now to Valery Nichushkin # 43, I like to call him the "Wonder Kid”; I saw him in the Subway Super Series on television in Canada. I find that he is really mature for his young age. And I was so happy for # 43 when he got to play for Traktor, because he is always playing so hard all the time! He is a very lucky young man to be surrounded by a coaching staff and players who are helping him along the way to better his game and adjust to the faster pace of hockey in the professional league.

Maxim Shalunov # 88; he was also in the Subway Super Series on the television in Canada, what a great series he had too! In the first game against Team Ontario (OHL) he put the nail in the coffin in the third period as Russia defeated Canada 2-1 on the insurance goal by Shalunov and what a beauty of a goal it was. I remember that particular hockey game in the Subway series well because two Canadian players from the Ottawa 67’s, Tyler Graovac got a goal and his team mate, Sean Monahan had the assist on the goal that night, against Team Russia and Boone Jenner of the Oshawa Generals was the Captain of Team Ontario. It was a heart breaker for Canada but the Russia team played well and deserved the win. I also remember that Nikita Nesterov # 89 was playing in that series.

15. Do you have any preferences in music, literature, movies?

My taste in music goes from classical pieces to the good ol’ blues. I enjoy reading both in English and French and I prefer Canadian authors, including Quebecois writers and internationally known Francophone writers from around the world. As far as movies go, I prefer the foreign language ones with either French or English subtitles because that way I can get a better understanding of other cultures and people from their point of view , which is good because the world is a changing place and we all need to understand each other better.

16. What would you like to see under your Christmas tree?

Funny you should ask. A nice white Traktor baseball cap signed by # 46 Andrei Kostitsyn would be nice. Thank you.

17. Ever thought about going to Russia?

Actually, I have and even more so now, because of the team in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

I follow their home and away games and I look up the towns/cities of which team they are playing on home ice or where they are playing in an away game and the surrounding areas on the Internet and then I look up historical data or cultural events. This also includes what museums or World Heritage Sites of Unesco are situated in different parts of the Russian Federation and needless to say, that makes me want to travel!


My knowledge of Russia was once limited by the Canada- Russia 72’s series.

Like I said before, I think that Russia is the only hockey rival that Canada has and my knowledge of Russia has expanded over the years, but I have really gained a lot of insight by following Traktor in the Kontinental Hockey League these past few months.

I am self-taught in a lot of ways so this works well for me and I have traveled abroad before to the United States of America and to several parts of Europe but never to Russia.

What cities would you like to visit?

Russia is such a big country, so to begin with St-Petersburg to see the Hermitage Museum; then on to Moscow to see the Red Square and the sites of The Kremlin and finally the Luzhniki Sports Palace that hosted games 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the 72’s Canada–Russia Super Summit series.

Time to wrap it up, any last comments?

I‘d like to wish everyone happy holidays from Canada (smiles).

And may you receive what you wish for under your Christmas tree and all the best for 2013!