Ilya Kovalchuk: “We need to win now like never before” (Photo © Bruce Bennet/Getty Images)
Ilya Kovalchuk gave an interview to Russian newspaper Sovetskiy Sport where he talked about going to the World Championship without a contract in the NHL, his favorites to win the Stanley Cup, what Russian players agreed to do after failing at the Olympics.
RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation.
Many thought that you won’t play for the national team. It is very risky as you don’t have a contract for the next season in the NHL. Besides your wife gave a birth to your son in March. Was this decision hard to take?
Kovalchuk: “After failing in Vancouver all guys agreed to go to the World Championship if there is a chance. We must win and make this season end well.
My wife Nicole understood me at once, told me that the whole family would be watching games on TV and cheer for us. She and the kids stayed in Miami. I spent a week there and flew to Russia.”
Many teams will have either weak or very young rosters. It will be easier for Team Russia to win the gold?
Kovalchuk: “In first place we have to think about our team. It doesn’t matter against whom we will play. All teams will fight against Russia. Especially the young guys, who will want to show themselves. But our team is young too, we have Kulikov, Anisimov, Varlamov, Radulov, Ovechkin, Semin… They aren’t old men, are they?”
But now there is more responsibility. What if we lose to the youngsters from the USA team in playoffs? It will be a low blow like at the Olympics 1980 in Lake Placid. What a shame it was…
Kovalchuk: “You think the Americans will ice students against us? (laughs). No way! The USA will have a good team, as well as Canada will. I saw the rosters, there isn’t a trace of the Miracle on Ice. And besides I don’t even want to think about losing, we aren’t going to Germany to lose.”
Have you talked with Ovechkin and Semin?
Kovalchuk: “Yeah, right after the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs. I was really surprised that they lost to Montreal. It’s illogical when the 8th team in the East defeats the first. But such surprises are usual for the NHL. Every team has a chance. The Canadiens fought hard and they deserved to advance to the second round.”
Who is going to win the Stanley Cup now?
Kovalchuk: “I think it will be either San Jose or Chicago. Most likely the Sharks. They had hard time defeating Colorado in the first round but now they are 2-0 against Detroit and have good chances of getting into the semifinal. Moreover, I think that the Sharks will be on fire later.”
Do the coaches name the captain?
Kovalchuk: “We had and have the captain, it’s Alexei Morozov. It just happened so that this year he won’t be at the World Championship.” (Morozov is injured – RussianHockeyFans.com)
What would be your reaction if you became the captain?
Kovalchuk: “I was the captain in Atlanta, I know what it means. But we have a lot of leaders in Team Russia. You know, to win the gold you must have 22 captains on the team. And it doesn’t matter who has the C letter on his chest.”
Some say that there should be no World Championship in the Olympics year. What do you think?
Kovalchuk: “I don’t agree. A lot of our fans will go to Germany. And besides, it will be a huge event for Europe. Take the opening-game Germany – USA as an example! It will be played in a football stadium, there will be 76,000 spectators! It will go right into the Guinness World Records. And who can say that we don’t need such a championship?”
Russia’s first game will be on May 9 against Slovakia. Germany, 65 years since the Great Victory. What does it mean for you?
Kovalchuk: “A lot! The Victory Day is a marquee event for our country. We must pleasure our veterans and fans.
My grandfather fought in the war. He was a tankman, he reached Berlin. When I was a kid he told me lots of stories about the war. The WC final will take place in Cologne. And let’s hope that Russia will reach it’s own Berlin — win the gold. We need it now like never before.”
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