“Fans in Russia cheer louder than in Canada. They are a driving force for the team." Yegor Serdyuk returned to the JHL and won a bronze medal

11.05.2022 в 13:00

“Fans in Russia cheer louder than in Canada. They are a driving force for the team." Yegor Serdyuk returned to the JHL and won a bronze medal

The forward became the Omskie Yastreby’s top scorer in the playoffs.

Omskie Yastreby sensationally reached the 2021/2022 playoff semifinals. The team was ranked sixth in the Eastern conference after the regular season. They finished off their first-round playoff series against Mamonty Ugry (ranked third in the conference) in Game 3 and advanced to the quarterfinals. Yastreby won their second-round playoff series against the top team of the Eastern conference, Stalnye Lisy in Game 5. Only Krasnaya Armiya, the top team of the Western conference, managed to stop the Omsk junior team.

20-year-old Yegor Serdyuk was one of the leaders of the Omsk team. He made his JHL debut in the 2017/2018 season, then played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for three years, and returned to Omsk to start the 2021/2022 season with Omskie Yastreby. Yegor scored 20 (5+15) points in 13 playoff games and became the assists leader and the points leader of his team.

In a wide-ranging interview, the JHL alumnus talked about his experience of playing in Canada and in Russia, how Omskie Yastreby managed to reach the semifinals, and why he decided to stay in the Avangard system for two more years.

“When Canadians heard I was from Siberia, their first questions were about frost, bears and vodka”


– You started playing hockey in Novosibirsk. How did it happen?
– I was seven years old when I happened to be at the skating rink for the first time. Nothing was working out at the start, I fell many times. But when we came there again, I hit the ice and skated right away. Some man saw me and advised me to try my hand at hockey. My parents reacted positively: they loved sports, and dad used to play hockey at the junior level. So, he was happy to sign me up for Sibir hockey school.

– Did you play any other sport?
– I played soccer when I was an elementary grader. It worked out pretty well, I went to some tournaments, but I chose hockey. My family preferred this sport and I liked it too, as it gave me lots of emotion. I played soccer for a pretty short period and it was more like a hobby.

– In 2014, you joined Avangard Omsk system. Why?
– I was looking for a stronger team. I didn’t see myself developing with Sibir at that time, I wanted something new. Omsk was close, we played a lot against each other, there were many exhibition games. I went there for tryouts, everything went well and I moved to Omsk.

– Four years later, you left Russia to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. How did the option to continue your career in North America appear?
– I played in the JHL, was a national team player, was recognized as the best player of several tournaments. My agent informed us about the opportunity to go to Canada. My parents didn’t mind, so we decided to take a chance. I was drafted by Victoriaville and I went to Canada. Being far away from my family was hard at first, but I spent three years overseas.

– What was your level of English at that time?
– I had almost no knowledge of English. I was only able to reproduce what I had learnt at school. The club hired a tutor and I had English classes four or five times per week. Talking to my teammates helped me start speaking sooner. The league needed confirmation that I was learning the language, so I had to take tests on a regular basis.

– Where did you live in Canada?
– Players reside with local families. I was staying at a married couple’s place with another guy from Russia. They treated us well. We lived on the ground floor, we had two bedrooms, a living room with a TV, and our own bathroom. Our billet family was helping us in everyday life and with the language. The majority of people in Quebec are Francophones, but my billet father spoke English. As a result, I speak good English and some French.

– How did you get adjusted to the team?
– When I arrived, it was hard. Everyone asked me about Russia, but I couldn't say anything in English. So, at first, the coaches and the guys used translation tools to communicate with me. People in Canada have a positive attitude towards Russia: everyone is friendly and ready to help. I spent my free time with the team: we walked, went to cafes, went to play golf or tennis. The guys invited us to their places, we swam and took boat rides.

– Did you mention you were from Siberia?
– Yes, and their first questions were about frost, bears and vodka. They asked me how we could live there, they thought that we always had snow and frost.

– What are the differences between junior hockey in Canada and in Russia?
– Canada has more hockey rinks and arenas. Canadians love hockey - I played in a city with a population of 40 thousand people, and we had a full house every game. Also, there are no preseason training camps, the team starts practicing two weeks before the start of the season. Players should be professionals and prepare in the summer by themselves.

– What do you like more about Russia?
– Fans in Russia cheer louder than in Canada. Despite a full house at every game, the way they cheer the team on is not the same as it is in Russia - there are no fan sectors there. Russian fans are a driving force for the team, emotions are running high, everyone is shouting. That’s really cool.

“Omskie Yastreby were underdogs, we didn’t feel any pressure”


– Why did you return to Omsk before the start of the 2021/2022 season?
–I didn’t manage to become a full-time player and to play at the senior level in Canada. I received a call from Avangard at the end of previous season, they offered me to come back. The current system in Omsk does not differ greatly from what they have in North America: offensive playing style, many battles, blocked shots. So, I decided to go back to Russia.

– You played in the JHL in the 2017/2018 season and then in 2021/2022 season. Has the league changed during three years?
– It became much younger. When I made my JHL debut, there were only four or five guys of my year of birth in the entire league. Now there are a lot of young players in every team, and there are almost no older ones. It's good that young hockey players are given opportunity to develop, older guys make their KHL debut earlier, spend full seasons in SHL. It's a great thing for development.

– How can you evaluate the season?
– I had a good season after coming back to Russia. Previous ones were not that successful, both in terms of statistics and performance. Here I got better at conditioning, I gained trust of JHL and SHL coaches, I played one game for Avangard. I was worried before my KHL debut, but the team supported me, the coaches explained everything about the game. I liked the speed in the KHL - the guys are very skilled, they think faster, they are better at stickhandling. There's been a veritable firestorm of emotions after one game played.

– Omskie Yastreby was not a much-fancied team of any of the playoff series. Did it add up to the motivation?
– It was a good thing for us, because we were underdogs, we didn’t feel any pressure. Many experts said that we had a small chance to beat Mamonty Ugry and Stalnye Lisy. We discussed this, we wanted to prove the opposite, and we did. All the guys worked hard, showed character and commitment. I think that was why we managed to reach the semifinals.

–Playoff games were like an emotional rollercoaster. What are your impressions?
– Our overtime win over Magnitogorsk brought us the most vivid emotions, and the toughest moment was the one-goal loss to Krasnaya Armiya in Game 5. We gave a lot of energy and emotions in the playoffs. When you face strong opponents, you do your job at full capacity. Great wins are more emotional for me than losses. So, we had to recuperate after such games in order to be fully ready for the next one. I slept a lot between meetings, got massages, worked out and did stretching.

– After the series against Stalnye Lisy, you said that you had an emotional ­burn-out and thus did not score any points. How can this be avoided?
– When you start thinking about goals you need to score, passes you need to send, points you need to score - nothing works out. You should get rid of such thoughts, and think only about the team result. Winning mindset is also important. I always feel worried before games, no matter who we are to face. So, I try to get charged with positive energy, I talk to everyone. If you are in a bad mood before a game, nothing is going to work out on ice.

– Omskie Yastreby won more home games than away games. What is the game atmosphere in Omsk like?
– I think it was the best in the playoffs. We always had full building, the fans cheered us on nonstop. Now Avangard is coming back to Omsk, I think that the year will be very emotional: people have not seen major hockey for a long time, the atmosphere will be great.

– How do you feel about the attention from the fans?
–I try not to read what fans write on social media during playoffs. Apart from that, I interact with fans – it feels good. They congratulate on wins, wait for you after games to talk or get an autograph. When we were to play the first game against Krasnaya Armiya in Moscow, I saw a guy wearing Krasnaya Armiya apparel and holding a poster that said "Yegor Serdyuk, give me a stick, please." I was surprised, too bad that there was no chance to give him one.

“A family vacation is the best option for me”


– You signed a two-year contract with Avangard. Did you have any other options?
– No. I didn’t want to go to North America, and in Russia I like things just like they are in Omsk. Coaches trust me here, I got an opportunity to play in KHL - I can continue my development. Moreover, Avangard is returning to its hometown - it is a big plus for both the fans and the club.

– What are your vacation plans?
– I plan to stay in Novosibirsk with my relatives until the start of the training camp. It has been a while since I was able to do it - I lived in Canada for three years, and couldn’t come home because of the pandemic. So now a family vacation is the best option for me. I’m having rest now, then I’ll start training: swim in a pool and work out in a gym. Recently, I started skating again, it felt like I was doing it for the first time, as if I was an amateur, I need to start preparing. In June, I will go to an agent company training camp in Moscow, and then the preparation with the team will begin.

– What do you do in your free time?
– I don’t like lying around on the sofa all day, I prefer outdoor activities. In addition to hockey, I play tennis. It is an active sport, very exciting, I always played it when I had some free time in Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Canada. I also watch American Vloggers on YouTube: I love funny videos, pranks.

– Does it help you to maintain your English level?
– Yes. I also stay in touch with my Canadian billet family. We try to talk every day despite the time difference. They became accustomed to me after three years we lived together, they treated me like their son. Leaving them was sad, and my billet parents were crying. Now they are following my statistics, congratulate me on my successes. They are always ready to welcome me at their place, invited me to Canada for vacation, they really want to see me again.

Ksenia Goryunova