Grigory Denisenko was the youngest Loko Yaroslavl forward this season and in his rookie Junior Hockey League year he finished third on his team in scoring with 9 goals, 13 assists and 22 points. He was also one of the top Loko players in plus/minus category at plus-16, won JHL-B bronze medals with Loko-Yunior and scored a few tallies for U17 Team Russia. The forward told us about his transition from Novosibirsk junior hockey school to Yaroslavl and his relationship with women’s soccer. Also, if you’re looking for a manual on how to get a 10-minute misconduct in your debut game, you came to the right place.
“My dad also used to play hockey,” tells Denisenko. “I have an older brother. He was born in 1996. My dad decided to put him in junior hockey school, too. They didn’t really ask me whether I was interested in it or not, I just sort of hung out with them. And then when I was about six years old, they enrolled me to Sibir junior hockey school. I started out with guys who were a year older than me. Then we moved to Tyumen when I was eight. My brother’s coach, who worked with Sibir-1996, Sergei Konstantinovich Shubnikov, had moved to Tyumen to direct Gazovik junior hockey school and he invited my brother. And I went where my brother went. My whole family decided to move. After that we all moved to Yaroslavl as well, but that’s a different story.
“While I used to be a package deal with my brother, who was the one coaches focused on, Yaroslavl wanted to see both of us equally. In junior hockey coaches often confused me with my brother and addressed me by his name at practices and dressing-room,” says Grigory with a laugh. “We never played together on a JHL team. He went back to Sibir (Nikolai Denisenko played 28 games for Sibirskie Snaipery in the 2016-17 season). We never played together in junior hockey school either, except for a few times at practice. Before my rookie season I asked him for advice on a couple of things. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it consulting, though. When it comes to hockey my father is my consultant. We talk about my games and analyze them, learn from mistakes to make progress.”
ON HIS ROOKIE SEASON
“I made my way to JHL step by step,” explains Denisenko. “First I had to find the right coach in junior hockey school. The one who would see my talent and, which is just as important, personal skills and would help develop them. I was lucky. My coach in Tyumen, Dmitry Viktorovich Burlutsky, just like my coach in Yaroslavl, Boris Nikolayevich Pushkaryov, helped me to overcome every obstacle I met on my way. I’m very grateful to them for that. How to deal with times of hardship? It has to be in your system. You have to work hard through difficult situations and never give up. You have to keep moving forward toward your goal.”
“I can’t say I had to get used to anything. I adapted to everything in the pre-season – to physical battles, to the pace of the game, to having need to make quick decisions on ice. I was ready for my first JHL season.
“My first game was on the road against Atlanty [Moscow Region]. We lost 4-1 and I got a 10-minute misconduct for shooting the puck after the whistle. I hit the post with the shot. I wasn’t nervous. It was just a hockey play. We were on the rush and we didn’t have a lot of time, so I shot it trying to beat the buzzer. My most memorable moments were probably my first goal and the winning streak when Loko put together 16 or 17 wins in a row.”
In a game against Krasnaya Armiya Moscow Denisenko didn’t have to go for the buzzer-beater. He gained the zone and scored one of the prettiest goals of the 20th week of the regular season.
ON U17 TEAM RUSSIA
In April Denisenko played for U17 Team Russia at Five Nations Tournament, which took place in Dmitrov, Moscow Region. He scored a goal and picked up three assists at the tourney for four points to finish third on his team in scoring. Here’s his goal on Team Czech Republic.
Grigory shared his opinion on who he looks up to among his opponents and told about the most memorable international tournament in his career.
“You always prepare the same. It doesn’t matter if you play for your club or national team,” says Denisenko. “I’ve gained experience and had a chance to see my peers from around the world. That gave me more motivation to keep improving. The Finns and Swedes are very skilled players. They skate very different from other teams. It almost like they flying out there. I try to be like them. I like their style a lot – the way they play and the way they control the puck.
“The most memorable tournament [with Team Russia] would be Olympics in Norway. It’s something that’s difficult to forget. It may happen to you just once in a lifetime, even though, it was just the Youth Olympics (Grigory Denisenko is a bronze medalist at YOG, he also led the tournament with six assists). Hopefully, it wasn’t my last Olympics,” Loko forward adds with a laugh. “We lived in the city of Lillehammer, where they had hosted the actual Winter Olympics. It was interesting to visit that historical place. And I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the games.”
Q&A with Grigory Denisenko
- How do you spend you time with the time off the ice?
- We went to a women’s soccer game once. We just didn’t know where else to go so we went there (laughing). The game itself wasn’t that interesting but it was a positive experience. Men’s soccer is obviously way more interesting.
- What is the price of winning in hockey?
- There are no words to describe it.
- What is the most boring sport?
- Chess, even though it has a few things in common with hockey. Like thinking ahead of your opponent.
- What was more important for you – scoring your first goal for the club or Team Russia?
- I don’t think either of those goals were that important. Scoring goals is my job.