24 years old Karri Ramo is one of the top KHL goalies. His NHL rights were recently traded to the Montreal Canadiens and he's expected to join the Habs during the next summer as his deal with Avangard Omsk of the KHL will run out on the next April 30th. In this interview with Ilya Elchaninov of sports.ru Ramo talked about his future plans, about his past experiences with Tampa Bay and about life in Russia.
RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation.
You played under John Tortorella. Is it true that he considers you late at the practice if you arrive only two minutes before its start?
Ramo: "He always wants you perfectly on time. John always says playes to come earlier. If we agreed to meet, let's say at 2 PM, then you should be there at 1.50 and if you'd arrive at 2 then you'd be late. We always knew that the bus wasn't going to wait us. We really needed to get there earlier."
And someone still arrived late?
Ramo: "I don't remember I did. Once we were in Toronto, it was the first of January. We were in a very large hotel and we had to take the elevator as we were on the 30th floor. The hotel was full and everyone wanted to get out. We had to wait the elevator for a bit and we arrived five minutes before the planned time. It was literally the last minute! However I heard stories of people arriving with the plane already gone, and no one waiting for them."
With whom from Norfolk and Tampa Bay you still talk?
Ramo: "I was glad when I met Brandon Bochensky before facing Barys Astana, I didn't know he signed there. I still talk with young Finns from there, I write them through Facebook or the e-mail. I played for some months with Martin Karsums, who plays in Riga now. We don't talk often, but after any game we always have a little chat."
Did you learn from Olaf Kolzig when you were playing together?
Ramo: "Yes, I did. You can learn a lot from a player like Olaf. When you're next to him you understand that he didn't simply play 20 years in the NHL. When you see him it's easy to understand how he could have such a great career. I learnt a lot from him."
Do you want to get back in the NHL or are you planning to stay in Omsk another year or two?
Ramo: "The next season is far. I'm yet to think about it."
Your rights now belong to the Montreal Canadiens. What did you think when you got to know about the trade?
Ramo: "Montreal is a big hockey city. The fans are very loyal to the team and they love hockey a lot. When I played in Montreal with Tampa there was a very good atmosphere on the stands. But I can't say anything concret about the trade. My rights belong to the Habs and this is part of the game."
What team has the craziest fans?
Ramo: "I like a lot hockey culture in Russia, after the game people wait for you, it's really pleasant. Maybe in Moscow they don't have big crowds, but in Omsk, Astana, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk arenas are always full. Sometimes fans sing for the whole game. In the NHL there are loud and crazy fans as well. I've heard that in Montreal, after they won a playoffs round, there were some riots, and they almost burned the whole city!"
How do you like to spend your free time?
Ramo: "I live a hockey life, I spend 4-5 hours at the arena. When I get out, of course, I won't go to a museum. I'd like to go to the cinema, but I understand nothing there. I tried going to some clubs a couple of times, but I didn't like it, it was too crowdy and smoky, you couldn't breath. I love visiting good restaurants."
You spent more than one year in Russia. Probably you came here with a good bag of prejudices. Which ones you could confirm and which ones you couldn't?
Ramo: "Yes there is such prejudice that Russian language is very hard, and that's definitely true! (smiles) Also that Russia is very big, and that was confirmed as well. I've been told that in Russia you can trust no one, but this isn't true. They also said me that walking on the street is dangerous, mafia is everywhere."
Is people more friendly in the USA or in Russia?
Ramo: "This is a hard question, I don't understand Russian. In the USA I could understand people more. It was easy for me there as I could care about everything myself. I can't compare due to the language barrier."
What do you like here in Russia? And vice versa, what you don't like?
Ramo: "I like the food here. I also like watching at the old Russian houses, great architecture. I don't like when on the stores everyone is rushing, pushing and tries to take your place."
Would you call yourself a cosmopolite, a world citizen?
Ramo: "I can adapt to any country of the world and live there. Of course I'm not such a world citizen like Wesley Snipes. (Laughs) But I guess you could say that as I don't live in Finland since I was 16 and I never spent more than 2 years on the same place."
Sergei Fedorov said that once he'll quit with hockey for a couple of years he won't do anything but travel. What will you do once you'll be done with your career?
Ramo: "Now I think that after my career I'll do something completely unrelated to hockey. I don't even watch games. I don't want to do something hockey-related as a matter of principle. But sometimes when someone retires he just needs to rest a couple of weeks then he would miss the action and find very hard to stay without hockey. But now I can say that once my career is done I'll turn my phone off and will go to a secret place. I want to try normal life and do things that all people do."
Did you befriend someone in Russia?
Ramo: "Yes, I can say I've picked up a couple of new friends here. When I got here last year I knew only Lasse Kukkonen, and now I'm familiar with many guys."
Will it be hard without him?
Ramo: "I'll survive, I think."
Are your team mates used to Finnish heavy metal?
Ramo: "Maybe some of the younger guys. I knew that some one already listened to such music, but I didn't want to risk to play it on the locker room. But now it's played more often."
If the opponent goalkeeper runs at you, there will be a fight?
Ramo: "Of course!"
But earlier in the season you didn't fight Alexander Vyukhin from Metallurg Novokuznetsk. What happened?
Ramo: "Well, that was another situation, he didn't come to me, but I skated to him. In that case the fight would have been two against one and I didn't like it. I think he understood me, I just wanted to step up for my team mates."
Mika Noronen fought Travis Scott during the RSL 2007 finals. Did you see that?
Ramo: "Sometimes such things happen. It doesn't mean that you want it. You don't plan it. If the same would happen to me, I am not scared, I will fight."
You didn't want to imitate Ron Hextall?
Ramo: "When I was playing in the AHL I fought in my second game. My team mates called me Ron for two months."
Sometimes fans joke and say that 90% of Finnish population is made up of good goalies. Do you think that Finland has the biggest number of talented netminders?
Ramo: "Funny. But nowadays we'd lose this title to Sweden. But Finland is a good country for hockey, many good goalie prospects come from there because they know how to train and develop them. In the NHL there is plenty of goalie stars from Finland, young players watch at them. It's good to have such examples just in front of you and I hope that in the future Finland will keep on having so many young talents in this position."
Finally the Finnish fashion reached the KHL?
Ramo: "Nowadays it's easy for Finns to get here. Many guys play here and they have a good opinion about Russia, they are a good advertising for other players. And more and more Finns keep on coming here. People love us!"
Who's the most technically gifted player you ever faced?
Ramo: "It's hard to say one name only. In the KHL of course it's Radulov. In the NHL there are many talented players. Steven Stamkos, he's always shooting and he manages to score. He's a true North American player. Many players have a talent for creating such moments in which you can simply do nothing. Kovalev is a very talented and skilled player. Ovechkin too. You can't stop him, he's always going to find his way to the crease and score."