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KHL » Viktor Tikhonov: “I will have to return to America next year”

Viktor Tikhonov:

Viktor Tikhonov: “I will have to return to America next year” (Photo © khl.ru)

Viktor Tikhonov, loaned to Severstal Cherepovets of KHL by the Phoenix Coyotes of NHL, gave an interview to the official KHL site.

He talked about the reasons behind his decision to leave for Russia, his converstaions with Gretzky in Phoenix and the fact that he can spend only one year in Russia after which he will have to return to America.

RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation.

– Why did you decide to return to Russia?
– One of the reasons is my contract with the Coyotes. There is a clause that if I get sent to the AHL during the first two years, I have a right to play in Russia on a loan basis. After two months in the farm-team I decided to use this right because I think that hockey level in the KHL is a lot higher than in the AHL.

– Your start in the NHL was rather successful. What do you remember the most from the first season?
– Oh, it wasn’t just good, it was great! I don’t know why but the things I remember the most are sold out arenas and unbelievable noise. It was great to play with this noise around. I experienced a bit different attitude towards the players and the team there; the team spirit was very strong. My move to America was quite unexpected because when I went to Phoenix for the first time, I didn’t think that I would stay there; it was more like a prospecting. I wanted to spend one more year in Russia but when I proved myself in the training camp, the team told me: “Find a place to live”.

– Did you have thorough converstaions with Wayne Gretzky?
– Not that they were thorough but we would always talk tête-à-tête. He explained me my role in the team, what he wanted me to do. He strongly adviced not to try jumping over my head and just do what the coaches said. Since the very beginning of the season they played me in the third line. Our goal was to play against the opponent’s first line. The coaches didn’t demand a lot of scored goals from us, the point was to prevent the opponent from scoring. I think it was a very responsible role.

– What do they know about the KHL in the North America?
– Actually I was very surprised at how much they knew. Guys asked me a lot of questions. Players from the AHL asked me if their skill was enough to leave America and play in the KHL.

– Did Gretzky’s firing have something to do with you being sent down to the AHL?
– There was no direct connection, it was a bit more complex than that. Our team happened to experience financial difficulties. The owner stated that he’d like to sell the team, but they couldn’t find a buyer for a long time. As the result the NHL started to pay the salary to the players, not the team. And young players automatically got sent to the farm team — me and other three guys.

– So Russia is a like a stopover for you before returning to the USA?
– Yes, you are right. I will play in Russia till the end of this season but I can’t stay here any longer. As I already said, I have a 3-year contract with the Coyotes and according to it I have to spend the last year in America, and I have no right to leave for Russia.

– Judging by newspapers your father wasn’t really happy that Severstal saved rights on you. What about you, were you happy to return to Cherepovets?
– Yes, I was very happy. I’ve got an ocean of friends here, I know the city. I even remember the address I should say to a taxi-driver. I spent two perfect years in Cherepovets and I missed it very much, espcially during my first months in Phoenix.

– You know that you will leave the team after this season. If you don’t play well, nobody will blame you. What will motivate you? The fact that the Americans will keep an eye on you?
– Of course they will but it’s not the point. It’s very important for me to prove myself and help my team to win as many games as possible.

– What was you grandfather’s reaction to your return?
– He was very happy but hoped I’d play for CSKA.

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