Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Notes from the Underground: The Translated blog of Alexander Nikulin, Part I
An articulate NHL player is a rare and special species. Alas, in the Sens system, we are fortunate enough to have one, although not in English.

Alexander Nikulin, Sens prospect and Binghamton Senator, has been writing a blog for a Russian site. He gives valuable insights into the Senators training camp and personnel personality. Here is an archive of a translated version by ThirtyFive of HFBoards. You can also find a version of this at HFBoards. All links were added by me.

Nikulin did not make the Ottawa Senators, and will start the season in Binghamton. His posts will be divided into three posts an entry.

4 September - Why I'm going there, and some are coming back.

Since childhood I've dreamed of playing in the NHL. Why? It can be explained with a trite but true phrase: it's the best league in the world. For me it's a real challenge.

Yes, I know that many guys are returning now to the Russian league. Some due to age and injuries. I'm talking about Alexei Yashin. Oleg Saprykin just returned to CSKA, and from Ottawa, where I'm headed. What was his reason, I don't know. Perhaps he didn't get along with someone. But I looked over his stats, they're good. He was playing and scoring.

At any rate, I'm sure Oleg will be back. If not now, then in a year. He'll play here and get a decent invitation. I think he had problems with someone there. [ed.: Bryan Murray?]

I also don't know why Alexander Perezhogin returned. Looks like he spent too much time in the farm club. Perhaps they didn't trust him enough. But when I think about the fates of my countrymen in North America, I see Nashville's Alexander Radulov as an example. Because he left long ago and went through all the stages and is playing on the big team. And it wasn't smooth for him. But he went through it with clenched teeth and hard work. He set a goal for himself and reached it. Others did not endure as long, but I don't blame them, of course. [ed. That's two Alexanders, three if the writer is counted. So many Alexanders, so many puns.]

Who else came back? Alexei Kaigorodov. I heard he's got back problems. Maybe that was the reason, but as far as I know they were happy with him. Enver Lisin shouldn't have even returned. They were letting him play there, but somehow he ended up in the farm club. And he didn't like that. I believe Enver made a mistake. At any rate, he's gone back to the NHL now.

Certainly they pay a lot of money now in Russia. And to be honest I was offered a contract that was higher than that of the Senators. But for now money's the last thing on my mind. I'll get that later, probably, but my chance now is the trip to the NHL.

I haven't even mentioned contractual bonuses to the team. I've got a two-way contract. I fully allow that I may get sent down, and I'm ready for such a challenge. Only I have to know that I'm playing for the farm team with the prospect of making the big club. Otherwise I'll return to CSKA where they're waiting for me.

Many people are asking me whether I'm scared. I'd have to say no. The main thing is to get there. The flight is a really tough one, with two stopovers, in Frankfurt and Toronto. In Ottawa, though, I'm sure everything will be fine. They'll meet me, lodge me at a hotel. And it should get easier from there. By the way, Ilja Zubov and Anton Volchenkov are already in Ottawa. I hope they'll help me out, especially since my English is not so good. I know some things, tried working with a tutor, but to study a foreign language during the season is very difficult, as you can imagine. Hopefully I'll quickly catch on during training camp.

I only know the plans going forward in very broad terms. I think it's practicing until September 13, and then all the prospects are gathered. There will even be three games. Oleg Saprykin says they show the fastest hockey in the world during these games. Everyone's flying, showing themselves off. Twice as interesting.

September 5: Jumpsuit for Parshin.

I kept thinking here about what sets the National Hockey League apart from others. Probably it's that if you've made the team, it's because of you. Doesn't matter who your agent is or who your father is. They don't pull strings over there. You get your spot in the lineup yourself, without anyone's help.

I didn't take a lot of things with me to North America. Some clothes, my laptop, some equipment. Not everything, of course, but it's better to have your own skates and shin guards. Took a couple of sticks, but obviously also ordered some in Ottawa. But what if they won't be there right away? You still have to skate.

Don't know how I'll cope with acclimatization. First time in Canada, I can't imagine what awaits me. And there's a practice on the day I get there. Maybe they'll let me just skate around and not ride me too hard right away.

My CSKA teammates for the most part were really good about my leaving. They joked, of course. Denis Parshin and Sergei Shirokov, my linemates, ordered a bunch of things and said to come back quickly. Not that they wished I'd fail, but we've really gotten used to one another. Finish each others' sentences. Too bad our line's breaking up.

By the way, Denis ordered a jumpsuit. Gave me his size. If I come back, I'll definitely bring him a present. I want to stress that I'll return only to the CSKA. It was very important for me to leave the team on good terms with everybody. And we settled everything with the team president and the head coach. When will I be back? We'll see how it goes. Maybe in time for the New Year, but I'll reiterate that my goal is to secure a place in the Ottawa organization.

I feel confident, however the only thing I lack is the physical part. But everyone who went through the North American system says I'll pick up on that in no time. The physical conditioning will improve, the shot will become more powerful, endurance will rise. The rest is pretty much in order.

Also it's curious just to live in another country. Everyone says Western people have a different mentality. Not that many NHLers played for the CSKA. Peter Skudra, David Nemirovsky, but they're almost Russians. As far as actual Westerners, only this year Dragan Umichevich, a Swede, arrived. I didn't have a problem communicating with him. We attempted conversation. I was using my mixture of English and Russian. Yes, English is a weak point for now. But I'll try learning it. Perhaps in October my girlfriend will arrive, she's fluent in English. She'll help.

I'll be staying at a hotel for the time being. If everything goes well, then certainly it's possible to start thinking about real estate. But that's really far off.

September 11: It'd be nice to see Ottawa.

As expected, a team representative met me at the airport. Started saying something in English very rapidly. Obviously, I didn't understand anything and shied away a bit. My girlfriend helped: I phoned her and she translated. Turned out it was nothing serious. We had to wait for somebody else.

What that means is that I need to work on my English as soon as possible. The first day I had a physical. Ottawa's defenseman Anton Volchenkov helped there. Thanks to him for that. By the way, Anton is training on his own for now. The training camp for the big club hasn't started yet.

We're staying at this five-star hotel, a very nice one. I'm sharing a room with Ilja Zubov, who arrived in Canada earlier and has become accustomed to the local way of life. So he's helping me. Ilja describes his first impressions of being in Canada and they're similar to my own. He too was in shock from the practices and games, but then got used to that.

Certainly, to better learn the language, it'd be best to room with a Canadian, but, truthfully, I don't think I could do it. We wouldn't understand one another and just not talk, basically. That would be tough.

Haven't been out to the city yet. Absolutely no time because of the prospects tournament. And our rink is located in the suburbs, and the hotel is nearby. I hope there will be time to see the city, though. Right after the prospects tournament.

Visitors to the blog are asking if there is interest here in the Super Series between Russian and Canadian junior teams. To be honest, I haven't noticed any excitement. And no one's asked me anything.

We don't have practices as such. Prior to a game we skate a bit, and not even every time. Before the Pittsburgh game they let us sleep. And before that the practice was a simple one: we worked on shooting the puck and entering the zone. Nothing supernatural.

Haven't made friends with any of the locals as yet. Spend all the time with Kasper from Latvia (Kaspars Daugavins), my linemate, and Ilja Zubov. By the way, Kasper speaks Russian and English well. He helps whenever any problems arise. And another curious detail. We've played three games, but I haven't met any other Russian players. In Ottawa it's just us two, and that's it for now.

I saw that the visitors to the blog were asking about my chances with Ottawa. Said I couldn't count on the first two lines of the roster. Let's wait until the main training camp starts. Undoubtedly, it will be extremely hard but I'll try to make the team. Even on the third line. That's still not bad.

Want to say to Denis Parshin that I haven't gotten the jumpsuit for him yet. Let him cope on his own, there's no problem in Russia with it. I'll buy it only in case I'll have to go back. And I wouldn't want to go back - I'd really like to cement my place in the NHL.

September 5th - Jumpsuit for Parshin and

September 11th - It'd be nice to see Ottawa.

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Anonymous el said...

Hey thanks for posting to the translation of Nikulin's blog.

I enjoyed watching him play in the pre-season, and the blog is quite interesting and insightful.

07 November, 2007 13:36  

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