Mikhail Grabovsky: my dream came true

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At the beginning of 2007, a regiment of Belarusians who appeared in the NHL arrived. The seventh after Oleg Mikulchik, Alexander Andrievsky, Vladimir Tsyplakov, Ruslan Salei, Konstantin Koltsov and Andrey Kostitsyn was the center forward Mikhail Grabovsky, in three games trying on a sweater “Montreal “, the best club in the history of the NHL. But soon our compatriot was returned to the AHL, where the striker continued his adaptation in North American hockey.

– Finally, my dream came true – I played in the NHL. I’m not upset that I played only three games for Montreal and then returned to Hamilton. I’m happy – a start has been made.

– Why didn’t you stay at the Canadiens for a longer period?

– They didn’t explain exactly why they returned to the AHL. The agent said that my appearance in “Montreal ” was possible due to a stomach virus that mowed down three people in early January. And the gaps were patched by the players of the farm club. After the leaders recovered, the youth were “lowered” to the “Hamilton”. In addition, Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau may have wanted to see how I would look in the first or second lines. However, in the top five there are pros, the amount of contracts for which far exceeds the numbers in my contract. And these people – the stupid NHL system – cannot be moved anywhere. On the other hand, if the management of the Canadian club decided that I fit the team style, they probably would have left it.

– In “Montreal ” they are in no hurry to introduce young players into the composition. Initially, they are tested in a farm club for two or three years.

– The agent said that they were satisfied with my debut and did not intend to exchange for other teams in the near future. The same story with Kostitsyn. Andrey was in Hamilton without proper playing practice for almost three years. It is unclear what to expect from the leadership of “Montreal “. Hopefully the Canadiens’ management methods will be of use to me.

– Have a lot of patience and expect your next chance?

– Now I have faced other problems. They brought me up to the Canadiens in January when the team was on the move. And the results of the last weeks testify to the gaming decline. I know from Don Lever, the Bulldogs mentor, that there have already been two requests for my name, but in one of the recent matches I was seriously injured. Understandably, with the current health problems, I’m not ready to play in the NHL.
We met with Wilkes-Barry, a farm club in Pittsburgh, and one of the rivals played with a hip in my knee. Received a serious sprain, severe contusion and inflammation of the periosteum. I missed three matches, and there was a pause in the calendar, so I managed to recover. Healing the injury, I lost my playing shape. Now I am gaining the former condition. It is necessary to start all over again, but from time to time a bruised knee reminds of itself with wild pain. I do not know what to do. I constantly consult with doctors. I think I need to take a break for a full course of rehabilitation. In addition, the second option is acceptable for Hamilton. If Don Lever wants to see me in the playoffs in fighting form, then now he must allow me to heal. True, with smooth skating everything is fine, but in martial arts or under stress I feel that my leg can not stand it.

– Maybe somehow get away from the power struggle?

– In the AHL, such a number will not work. There is constant contact here. The playgrounds are small, it is unrealistic to avoid collisions. If you avoid martial arts, you will be seated on a bench in no time. In addition, Hamilton differs from other AHL clubs in that it preaches combination hockey. And the rivals mostly adhere to the power style and constantly annoy us. So the club infirmary “Hamilton ” is not empty. There are, of course, tough guys in the team, but there are not enough intelligent ones capable of protecting the leaders. Therefore, it is often necessary to enter into a power struggle and to design team actions. After all, the concepts of combination hockey here are strikingly different from European ones. In North America, a pass is defined as simply throwing the puck over the side into the opponent’s zone. You need to adapt to the manner of your partners. Moreover, transmissions from them are a rare occurrence. While Andrei Kostitsyn was in Hamilton, at least someone could win back. And the rest of the guys are trained to pass from the side, where you always come into hard joints.

– Your trump card is playing at speed. Did you manage to find its application on smaller in comparison with European overseas sites?

– Trying to drag the puck closer to the goal, you constantly get your hands, feet, body with clubs. Therefore, it is necessary to act more carefully. How did I get injured with Wilkes-Barry? I decided to exacerbate the situation at the expense of an individual passage. And one of the “little penguins ” – this guy “fucked ” me the whole match – crippled me. Here you need to constantly be on the lookout. At first, I didn’t understand where to go, where to open. Now I have more or less adapted. It was in Russia that he boldly climbed the patch and was sure that the partners would notice the opening and pass it on. In North America, the game is played on the boards, from where the puck is constantly thrown towards the goal.

– Misha, you, who played in the Russian Super League, NHL and AHL, have something to compare with …

– The main features of the American style lie in the smaller ice rinks. This makes the speed in the game just crazy. The time for making a decision is minimum. In my opinion, North American hockey is straightforward and predictable. At least in the AHL. I am not going to judge the NHL in three games yet. In Russia, however, everything is slower, but more combinational. There are teams in the Super League that excel through excellent defensive performance. Someone takes the power of the attack. Some coaches vary tactical patterns depending on the opponent. In a word, there is always something new. In principle, there are teams overseas that can play pass, but more monotony in the spirit of “throw-run “. Those clubs that prefer combination hockey, as a result, score more.

– Do you miss the European style?

– Very. When called to “Montreal “, no problems arose. The Russians Kovalev and Samsonov were not greedy and always tried to play pass. I felt that if I am in an advantageous position, then the partners will notice it and thank you with the transfer. On the other hand, in Moscow “Dynamo ” came out in the same three with Sushinsky and Kharitonov, no less skilled hockey players.
We understood each other from a half-glance, because Vladimir Vasilyevich Krikunov always let us out on the ice at crucial moments, often went to the site when playing in unequal compositions. In America, things are different. There is a system, established special teams for the implementation of the majority, and it is practically impossible to take someone else’s place.

– How was it received in “Montreal”?

– I was already known from the September training camp, so there were no problems. In addition, the Canadiens have four Russian hockey players, which made life somewhat easier. Around encouraged: “Do not be afraid, everything will work out. You can play with us. ” Perhaps there were disaffected among the center forwards. Why should they have an extra competitor for a place at the base? But he did not pay attention and tried not to lose his face in the dirt in his debut match in the NHL. Against the Rangers he looked, in my opinion, normal. He went out on the ice with Samsonov and Kovalev. True, he did not play in the majority. Defender Sheldon Surei praised after that fight. On leaving for Hamilton, he also wished a speedy return to Montreal. Sometimes, instead of Samsonov, another Russian appeared on the edge of me – Sasha Perezhogin.

– Did you quickly find a common language with Alexei Kovalev, the NHL star?

– I liked playing with Sergey Samsonov more, who could give an accurate pass at any moment. And for some reason I had less contact with Kovalev on the ice. This is probably a coincidence. After all, outside the site, they normally communicated with Alexei. Although, I confess, in “Montreal” I was more on my own. Sometimes with Maxim Lapierre, with whom we started the season in “Hamilton”, and his wife they had joint breakfasts. But there was no free time. We played for three days in a row. In the morning – for rolling. In the evening – for the match. Then – to the hotel to rest.

– How did you feel about returning to Hamilton?

– As a need for further improvement, elimination of minor flaws, which, unfortunately, are still inherent. I was a little upset because no one really said anything. The general manager said that Hamilton is on the road, so it is necessary to join the team in Winnipeg. There was no time to say goodbye to the Canadiens players. However, I felt that there was nothing wrong with the NHL, it was quite within my power to gain a foothold in it in the near future. By the way, it’s harder to play in the AHL.

– Misha, once you mentioned the need for improvement, what is missing to gain a foothold in the “Montreal”?

– First of all, physical condition. It’s not easy to get used to the hectic game graphics. Especially in the first North American season. Any hockey player who comes to Canada must adapt to the local style, rhythm, and fit into the system. For example, we play today at seven in the evening in one town, and tomorrow at one in the afternoon we are already going out on the ice in the opposite end of the province. We always travel by bus, the distances are rather long, and the seven to ten hour journeys are very exhausting. Therefore, I teach the body to such loads. True, while I was treating my knee for ten days, I lost the habit of such trips. And the first matches after recovery were hard. In Russia, everyone operates in four links, there is time to smoothly gain optimal condition. And here they prefer to play three quintets, plus a majority or minority is added. You fall out of the rhythm – it’s hard to roll back.

– Aside from hockey, how much has you adapted to America? Found yourself in a foreign country?

– Partly. At first, I could not even really explain myself with partners or ordinary passers-by. He knew the simplest words in English. Now I am no longer embarrassed, on occasion I talk to the guys. Sometimes we discuss how to interact on ice. And when Andrei Kostitsyn left for Montreal, it got even better. In the sense that he must express himself independently, which means that language practice increases. Before that, if problems arose, Andrey came to the rescue. Although, I confess, the Americans are rather bored. (He laughs.)

– Why did you dislike the locals?

– I understand that in order to achieve something, you need to sacrifice something. But the soul stubbornly requires communication with people similar in mentality and views. I acutely feel that the Europeans are absolutely alien here.

– The World Championship can be an outlet. But “Hamilton” is still confidently going to the playoffs. Therefore, we will hardly see you in Moscow …

– In my opinion, when I gave an interview to “Soviet Sport”, I said unequivocally that I really want to take part in the world championship. And soon the information surfaced that the mentors of our national squad might not count on me. Never said anything like that. Much depends on the performance of “Hamilton” and “Montreal”. Both teams have good chances. Although the World Cup is another reason why I want to take a short break and heal my aching knee. I don’t want to come to the national team injured.

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