Ladiya Togliatti forward Stepan Steshenko enjoyed a dream vacation.
Last season Stepan Steshenko played 36 regular season games in Parimatch Junior Hockey League, scoring 15 goals and notching four assists for a total of 19 points. Even though his team ended up missing the playoffs, Ladiya battled hard for a post-season spot, while the forward scored several highlight reel goals.
Many hockey players prefer spending their vacations in warm countries. However, Ladiya Togliatti forward Stepan Steshenko spent his vacation in the mountain part of Altay, trekking uphill for about 20km every day. Steshenko spoke about his unusual adventure, why he spends more time on the phone now and reads more often.
“I had to pose in ice-cold water to take a picture for Instagram”
According to Steshenko, he decided right away not to spend his vacation at the beach. Ladiya forward watched a lot of videos about mountains and since the borders were shut down, he made a decision to travel to Altay with a friend.
“Truth be told, it’s a peculiar way to rest…” says Steshenko. “It really wore me down physically but it was worth it. It’s easier to breath there. The air is very clean and local lakes are amazing. I didn’t even know there were places like that in Russia. But I never regretted going there. There was no network connection there either. At first, I thought I couldn’t survive without the Internet but after the first day I realized that it was very cool. Nothing was distracting me from my vacation.”
The road to Altay was long and difficult. The boys first traveled to Barnaul and later on to the village of Barangol. From there they took a van up into the mountains heading for Multiskie Lakes.
“We stayed next to Lower Multinskoye Lake at a campsite,” continues Steshenko. “We spent about a week there and ventured out to different locations everyday. We walked for about 22km on our first day there. We visited Lake Kuyguk. It’s the most amazing place I have ever seen in my life. It’s so beautiful! Later on we went up to Higher Multinskoye Lake – that’s a 26km roundtrip. We also went to Poperechnoye Lake and we had to walk for about 28km to get there. I enjoyed all of that, even though we got caught in the rain once. We went tobogganing from mud-slides (laughs). It’s a good thing that we had our rainwear with us.”
Steshenko says that vacation at a campsite was a new experience for him that he enjoyed on this vacation. At first he and his friend put it up the wrong way and as a result they had to struggling sleeping on top of small holes. Eventually they re-pitched the tent and it got comfortable. Stepan admits that he truly enjoyed sleeping in a tent under rain as it was very calming.
“Actually, it was rather chippy up in the mountains – we always wore sweaters and pants,” says Steshenko. “And when we made the climb up to Higher Multinskoye Lake we decided to take a picture of us standing in the water. And the water was ice-cold. But it’s reasonable to dealt with it for an Instagram picture (laughs)”.
Steshenko says that after spending his vacation up in the mountains he now spends less time on the phone, checks his social media profiles less often and reads more instead.
“Incidentally, before the trip I enjoyed playing videogames with a friend of mine,” says he. “But ever since I came back from vacation I’m not as interested in fiddling with my phone or playing videogames. I just don’t feel like it at all. I read more often now. For example, I read Beartown by Fredrik Backman now. I saw the book on Artemy Panarin’s Instagram. I like it a lot so far.”
“The choice is pretty scarce right now,” says Steshenko. “It’s unclear what the situations with the borders is going to be like. I have been outside of Russia just once when I went to Tunisia. I went there with my mom when I was still a kid. I often went to Yeysk at the Azov Sea with my grandfather. At first we would stay at sanatoriums and later on at our friends’. But right now my only plan is to have another vacation up in the mountains. It’s so beautiful up there that it makes you want to stay. You just want to pitch a tent up there and never have to leave”.
Interestingly, Steshenko is even more interested in making a car trip around Scandinavian countries. According to him, it’s important to him to be independent of anything and go wherever he likes. He also looks forward to making many stops and spend the nights anywhere he wishes in his tent.
“If you drive, for example, to Norway you can also visit Finland and Sweden,” explains Steshenko. “You get to spend every day in a new town – it’s awesome. You don’t have to hurry to get on a train or flight. You plan everything yourself. I would like to visit Norway and Switzerland the most. These are the most beautiful countries in my opinion. As for Russia, I would like to visit Northern Osetia and the Caucasus. Again – for its lakes and mountains.”
Steshenko admits that in his ideal future he buys a house somewhere in Switzerland so that he could live next to mountains and a water body.
“After last season ended I didn’t practice for a few days – it was even less than a week,” says Steshenko. ”Later on I just couldn’t sit idly so I would either ride my bike in the morning or I would go jogging. I would also do some bench-pressing next to my place outside or some pull-ups. There’s also a hockey net next to my place so I could work on my shooting over there. Later on I started going to the gym. It was also exciting to get into boxing a little bit and just learn a few techniques. I believe I have prepared well for the pre-season. Last year I felt kind of off at the first few practices but everything’s great now.”
According to the hockey player, he’s totally fine with living by season schedule. Steshenko is currently at the pre-season camp with a VHL team – Lada Togliatti. He stays at the training facility campus, where nothing distracts him from getting ready for the season. He practices twice a day.
“I don’t have any favorite drills but there are some that I wouldn’t call easy,” says Steshenko. “Those would be power-skating drills on the ice and aerobike off the ice. You have to burn off a lot of calories in 30-40 seconds and you have to get your arms and legs going for that.”
It’s the second year that Steshenko attends the VHL team’s pre-season camp. He played half of last season for Lada.
“I was very nervous prior to my first game,” admits Steshenko. “After all it was my dream to represent my hometown team. I took a look at the stands in my very first shift and it gave me goosebumps.”
According to Stepan, there are difference between Parimatch Junior Hockey League and VHL in physical battles and pace of the game.
“In VHL you receive the puck and you have to get your head up right away because there’s already someone who’s ‘flying’ towards you,” says Steshenko. “You have to think ahead of time what you’re going to do with the puck. I believe, Junior Hockey League brand of hockey is more about finesse – it’s all about passing and making plays, while in VHL there are more battles. It’s something you have to be ready for.”
This season Steshenko plans to become a regular player on Lada Togliatti roster. According to him, whereas at first he couldn’t wait for the pre-season to start, now he longs to play at least in an exhibition game.
“I would very much like to become a more consistent player,” says Steshenko. “Last season I would play well in one game but I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I don’t know what it stems from. It’s almost like I want to do one thing on the ice but I end up doing something completely different. The biggest thing I have to work on is skating with the puck. Sometimes I get too nervous and fail to create a scoring chance. It’s something I have to improve at. I want to increase the level of my play and play more of men’s hockey. One of my biggest goals right now is to get better and have a good season.”
“My grandfather still plays hockey,” says Steshenko. “He’s a sports guy and he can’t sit idly doing nothing. He used to play with hockey old-timers so he has a good experience. He has even traveled to the Czech Republic and Canada for amateur tournaments. I’m very glad that he did sign me up for a junior hockey school and not a junior soccer school. Because I’m not really into soccer.”
Practices, school and homework would eat up all of Steshenko’s time in childhood.
“I would go to school every morning and after lunch I would always go to practice,” says Steshenko. “After that my whole family would help me with my homework (laughs). That’s why I didn’t have any spare time. I could get rested on weekends if they wouldn’t ask us to learn a poem by heart in literature class. But I wouldn’t say that hockey was getting in the way of my studies at all. Quite the contrary. I was able to do everything.”
Steshenko looks back at his life and admits that the only time he thought of quitting sports was when he was of a very young age after several unfortunate games. Later on the hockey player learned to treat losses philosophically. If something goes wrong, it only means you have to work harder to fix it.
“When I was about eleven years old, I played poorly in several games,” reminisces Steshenko. “My grandfather told me, ‘Since you don’t feel like doing anything, you should quit hockey’. I thought that he had a good reason and the thought of never going to practice again even made me said. It’s a good thing we had three days off after that. I realized that I couldn’t just walk away from hockey like that. I even called my grandfather and asked him to give me one more chance. I think it was his way of testing me. After that incident I have never thought for a moment of quitting hockey. I began taking losses less hard. The only way not to make any mistakes is not to do anything. Losses add up for experience, which allows you to know what you need to improve.”