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Mikhail Grigorenko: “I don’t think about the NHL for now”

Mikhail Grigorenko:

Mikhail Grigorenko: “I don’t think about the NHL for now” (Photo ©

Mikhail Grigorenko is arguably the best 1994 born player in Russia. He plays with the 1993 national team and has played in this summer’s Ivan Hlinka Tournament, playing against 1992 born players.
In the latest World Under-17 Hockey Challenge he scored six goals and ten points in six games, and Team Russia finished the tournament at the fourth place.
In this interview given to Russian website he talked about his performances with the national teams, about his future plans and he also replied to some personal questions. offers you a translation.

How did you start playing hockey?
Grigorenko: “My parents brought me there. We were still living in Khabarovsk, I was five. At the beginning I didn’t want to play, but then I liked it and I made my way into it.”

Why did your parents choose hockey?
Grigorenko: “Frankly speaking, I don’t know. Maybe because of my brother, he played hockey too.”

Earlier you said that at the beginning you didn’t want to play. Why?
Grigorenko: “Probably I was just a little kid back there (smiles). At the beginning I wasn’t good and I think that’s why I didn’t like it.”

When did you realize that hockey is “your” kind of sport?
Grigorenko: “I think I fully understood it when we moved to Moscow. I understood that hockey would be my profession.”

Why did you start playing for CSKA when you moved to Moscow?
Grigorenko: “Simple because my brother played there too. (smiles) It was comfortable to go there together, and our apartment was near too. And so we decided to play for CSKA.”

You are a center forward. Have you never thought about changing position?
Grigorenko: “No. I like playing on the center. You are always in the middle of the game. You have to work on both attack and defense. And I love that.”

But you never thought about becoming a goalie?
Grigorenko: “No. I always preferred opposition’s creases (laughs)”

You played a number of time in national teams with guys older than you. Do you remember the first time they called you?
Grigorenko: “Yes, of course. It was last year, before Christmas. They invited me to a tournament in Czech Republic. We can say that all went good for me there since the beginning. I scored a goal during my first shift.”

How did you know that you were invited to the national team?
Grigorenko: “CSKA coach came and said that me and other guys were invited to the national team and the training camp was going to start a week later.”

Let’s talk about the latest events. You’re just back from Timmins, where you played the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. How did you like the tournament?
Grigorenko: “I really liked playing there. Only one thing was different, the ice surface. And thus some games were needed to adapt. Later we played not bad, but we could have done better.”

What was the hardest thing for you in the little ice surfaces?
Grigorenko: “On the North American rinks there is less room, there is little time to think and you have to decide very quickly what to do. This is the main difference, I didn’t notice other ones.”

Judging by your words it looks like you aren’t too happy about the team’s results in the tournament.
Grigorenko: “What can I say? We weren’t there for such a result. We aimed for a medal, but we couldn’t get that.”

But this result was one of the best of the latest editions of this tournament.
Grigorenko: “Yes, we know that the latest team that got to the semifinals was the 83 one, with Kovalchuk. This was 10 years ago. It’s good that we got to the semifinals, but a fourth place… it’s really different from what we expected.”

What the team lacked during the bronze medal game? The morale or something else?
Grigorenko: “Probably it was a matter of morale. But most importantly, we spent a lot during the semifinals against Ontario. We had not enough freshness to win the third place game.”

Before the tournament you lost the exhibition match against team Ontario 9-1. What was the problem?
Grigorenko: “We have just landed, we had no time to acclimatise. Moreover, the game was at 3AM Moscow time. We weren’t ready to play and that’s why we had such a defeat.”

Such a result didn’t play a role over your morale?
Grigorenko: “No. That defeat didn’t mean much to us. In the following match we skated past Team Oceanic 6-2. You see that it had no impact over our morale.”

Team USA was the tournament’s champion. How did you like their team in the match you played against them?
Grigorenko: “I don’t know. In that match we were even up 1-0 after the first period. They have a good team, but I think that we could have won that match. There were some not needed penalties, the ref helped them in some moments.”

Many say that the team accumulated too many not needed penalties. Why was it like that?
Grigorenko: “The fact is that in Russia they don’t penalize you for most of these actions. Here the refs were strict. If you hooked a bit your opponent, then it was a penalty. In Russia there is a bit more loyal treatment. We can say that we weren’t ready for this.”

This summer you played in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, playing against players 1992 born. You were the youngest player there. Was there some bullying from the older guys?
Grigorenko: “No, of course. (smiles) Only that at the beginning it wasn’t really comfortable. The team mates were good, they helped and supported me. And I scored there too, in both exhibition and official matches. And then we lost the final match.”

You played in different national teams, with different team mates and different coaches. Was the atmosphere different?
Grigorenko: “I wouldn’t say that the atmosphere was really different. It was great in both teams. All the guys from the 92 and from the 93 teams are great, they all supported me and gave good advices. There was really nothing wrong.”

Do you have a hockey dream?
Grigorenko: “Sure I have. I would really like to be called to the Russian national team. And win the Olympics and the World Championships. (smiles)”

Have you already collected any trophy?
Grigorenko: “Yes, I won the Russian championship with the Moscow selects. That’s all for now. It’s not a lot for now, but I hope that more will follow.”

And what about your near perspectives? Don’t you dream about the NHL?
Grigorenko: “I haven’t really thought about the NHL yet. My main thought for now is to get into a MHL team and then to the KHL. I’m thinking about this only.”

In what KHL team would you like to play?
Grigorenko: “I don’t really know. I consider CSKA Moscow as my mother club. They grew me up as player and so I’d really like to play there, it would be a reward for my mother team. We’ll see.”

Do you have a non hockey dream?
Grigorenko: “Not yet, I didn’t think about this yet. (smiles)”

How do you spend your free time?
Grigorenko: “More then everything I try to rest and thus I spend most of my free time at home. But well, of course I do also such things like meeting friends, going to the cinema. Nothing special.”

With friends from the team or with “non hockey” friends?
Grigorenko: “Usually with my team mates.”

We can consider you a professional player. Is it hard to deal with people outside of the sport industry?
Grigorenko: “No, absolutely not. Such a communication is perfectly normal. There are other things than hockey to speak about. “

And what are your interests besides hockey?
Grigorenko: “Hard question… probably, like all the guys, I like football, computers. (smiles)”

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