Interview with the Sakhalinskie Akuly netminder from Belarus.
Goaltender Daniil Veremeichik came to Sakhalinskie Akuly from Atlant during the 2021/2022 season. He played three games for the Moscow Region team, appeared in 11 games for the Sakhalin team and won three of them. On October 30, Veremeichik earned his first JHL shutout as he stopped all 36 of the 2020/2021 champion Dynamo Moscow’s shots on net. In the 2021/2022 season, the 20-year-old player had a great social media presence and shared experience with his followers. The Junior Hockey League gave credit to Daniil for his online presence and he picked up the award for social media prowess. In an interview with the official JHL website, Veremeichik talked about the award he had received, summed up the season and shared his plans for the future.
– A leading goalscorer in the league gets a Top Goalscorer Award, but what needs to be done to get the Top Social Media Profile Award?
– To be honest, I did not expect receiving the award. There was no special preparation, I was on social media, shared some moments of my life and my emotions. I saw JHL following me. Perhaps they liked what I was posting.
– Did you realize who your major competitors were?
– I think, it was my friend from Dynamo Moscow, Ivan Didkovsky. He picked up the award in 2021. In fact, it is highly unlikely that anyone was award-oriented. We all are on social media. Perhaps this year my life was richer in bright moments, as I played in the Sakhalin region. I had lots of emotions and impressions.
– Not every person is ready to show his or her life to the public. What makes you share what you are doing?
– When certain events occurred in my life, I wanted to share them with my friends and relatives. For instance, when I was not able to fly to Belarus for six months, and then I came there and surprised everyone. I decided to make a video of my arrival to my grandmother’s place in a village. A lot of people liked it. I post everything to my heart's content, I am honest, I do not play any role. I write posts and assemble videos myself. Maybe that is why I’ve received the award.
– Is writing good captions the most difficult part?
– It definitely is. It's hard to come up with a good caption when you post a game photo, even if the pictures themselves are great. But when some heart-touching events occur, the captions are written easily.
– In fact, you were able not only to play, but also to help the Sakhalinskie Akuly press service.
– Maybe. Sakhalin has great fans who interact with us both in person and on social media. I tried to share something positive after a win and to apologize after a loss. Fans visit games, cheer for us. I want them to know that we care. We want to win and make them happy. Some people see things differently. With the help of social media, I was letting them know that we did care about the result.
– Do many people send direct messages to you? Do they ask for sticks?
– Yes, there are many messages during the season. You can’t even answer them all, I don’t even have that many sticks (smiles). People usually write words of encouragement after games. They congratulate on a win and support after a loss. Social media help to feel the support of the fans. Communication with fans is very important.
– You have also created a Telegram channel, right?
– My online presence is not aimed at getting followers and becoming a blogger. I do it for myself. It is my story. My relatives and friends can see what is happening in my life. Players also follow each other.
– How can you evaluate the 2021/2022 season?
– I can divide it into three parts. The first one is the pre-season with Atlant, which was great. We won the tournament in Cherepovets. We prepared well, but we lost two first games of the regular season. The management decided to let me and a few other players go. I had to look for a new club. The coaches I knew worked for Sakhalinskie Akuly, so I decided to go to Sakhalin. The start of the season with Akuly was good, but then the team got sick. I missed two weeks, and with the break, almost a month went by. I trained off, it was hard to take on a rhythm. The wheels came off after the sickness, it was tough psychologically and mentally. I think we deserved being placed higher in the standings, but we gave in at the end of the regular season. We were lacking team spirit, plus there were many fights and penalties. It is impossible to win when you are constantly on the penalty kill.
– Were the fights caused by emotions?
– They were caused by a great desire to win every moment. Perhaps opponents made us retaliate or we let our emotions run away with us. There were games when we had a lead, but started to fight, lost momentum and let victory slip away. We lacked composure.
– You had only three wins, one of them was against Atlant. Was it the most memorable game for you?
– It was quite special. I have some warm memories from the time I spent with Atlant. We were through a lot with the guys, clinched a playoff spot. We had a close-knit team. I was worried when I was told I would play against Atlant. I had jitters. Emotions ran high, the memories crowded in on me as I walked to the arena. But two hours before the game everything went away. I felt calm during the pregame skate. In the opening moments of the game, I did not understand what was happening. The good thing was that Atlant rushed forward and started shooting right away - it helped me. I quickly got into the swing of things. I allowed only one goal, but I wanted to earn a shutout. I profited from my former experience of practicing and playing with those guys. I had an understanding of who was capable of what. But the guys from Atlant knew me well too. There were moments that night when they tried to get under my skin in a good way and tick me off. In what way? We were standing in the hall by the ice during the intermission when someone from Atlant shouted: "Go ahead, allow some more goals!". I smiled and said nothing. But our coach stood up for me. The guys approached me during the game and asked to let them score. They wanted to win.
– You allowed one goal when facing 52 shots against, is it a good statistic?
– Yes, it is. It was one of my best games of the season. I didn’t even think that they took 52 shots, it was not so acutely felt. I thought I faced like 30 shots max. I was very surprised when I found out how many shots I had to stop. The advantage of being a netminder of Sakhalinskie Akuly is that we always have a lot of work - a minimum of 30 shots per game. It helps a lot. A goalie needs playing practice to be at the ready. When an opponent does not bother a goalie for ten minutes, and then starts to shoot, the confidence and the momentum might not be there.
– What were your thoughts when you were offered Sakhalin as an option to continue your career?
– I joined the team in St. Petersburg after reaching agreement with the management. A year earlier, I went to Sakhalin with Atlant. That trip grabbed me. The atmosphere at the stands, the fans, the sun - all this adds to the positive and makes me feel good. Beautiful nature, mountains, sun. I was happy to head to Sakhalin. I had the desire to play there during the season. All conditions for development have been created in the city.
– Are flights to Sakhalin the longest ones you have taken in your life?
– When I was a kid, I took a flight to Detroit to play there. It was a nine-hour flight, but with a layover. A direct flight to Sakhalin takes eight hours. You get used to taking such flights during the season and do not pay attention to the travel time. It feels almost like being stuck in Moscow traffic.
– What did you do on the plane?
– We always scheduled our trips with a cushion of time to prepare for games. There is nothing special happening on the plane. Everyone is usually asleep. Taking an eight-hour flight is psychologically draining. You are staring at the same screen with the same movies you watch every time you fly. We talk, some guys play games, do crosswords. You fall asleep, you eat, fall asleep again- and you are almost there.
– What else will Sakhalin be remembered for?
– It was a short season for us. I met some amazing people there. I went to Sakhalin for a month and a half after the season to get the true feeling of that place. I would like to go back there again to travel. We went hiking in the mountains, visited waterfalls, rafted down the river. The atmosphere is friendly there. All people seem to be of good character, kind and nice. It is very appealing and adds to the desire to visit Sakhalin again. If there was a senior team there, I would do everything possible to join it.
– What are three must-visits of Sakhalin?
– Gorny vozdukh – it is the place to ski and snowboard in winter time. Make sure to take a ride along the bays of Sakhalin, you will get great views. Visit waterfalls and climb the mountains. I had my first experience of hiking in the mountains there - we don't have mountains in Belarus. It is a very exciting process that gives incredible emotions. They are difficult to put into words. It must be experienced.
– This is your last year in the JHL. How do you see your further development?
– It is difficult to say at the moment. We are considering different options with my agent. I would like to find a club in Russia and try my hand here.
– How do you plan to get rested and prepared for the upcoming season?
– I went to Sakhalin for vacation, enjoyed outdoor activities there. I was always on the go, went hiking in the mountains. I am currently working off ice in Belarus. I will start practicing on ice closer to the season – I will have a full training cycle. I do not plan to fly to a seaside. I will prepare for the season and wait for offers.
– You had a bad injury two years ago, it took you eight months to recover. What did you learn from that situation?
– I learned that hockey should not be the only thing you can do in your life. Sooner or later your career will be finished. You must be ready to live a different life. Сonstant development is required. You need to look for your place in the world outside hockey. It goes without saying that you give your all to the game, but one percent should be dedicated to self-development. Now I am studying in Smolensk, getting higher education at coaching. In addition, I study business areas that may help me in the future.
– Eight months without hockey is torture for a young player. Did you miss the ice?
– It was a very stressful time. I was preparing for my second U18 World Championship. I started feeling pain after the preseason. I understood that I was not able to give my all one hundred percent, the pain limited my mobility. When it became clear that I was seriously injured and needed a surgery, we decided that I would still go to the Olympic Festival. I played several games through injury and was taking painkillers. After the Festival, my health declined considerably, it was obvious that it was time for a surgery. I had to step back from hockey. It was a hard thing: I wanted to play, but I couldn’t. I shrank into myself, focused on rehabilitation. That time still echoes in my mind. I had to change the team, no one wanted a player right after injury. And it is understandable. I am very grateful to Atlant for letting me join them. Having no game practice is hard for a goalie. I still haven’t taken on a rhythm that I had before the injury. I am grateful to Sakhalinskie Akuly for believing in me. Thanks to all the players as we went all out to win games, thanks to coaches and management. Thanks to the fans for their support – you were always loud and heard well. The JHL is a league of endless possibilities. I'm glad I got a chance to play for Atlant and Sakhalinskie Akuly.
– Is it true that you could go and play in North America at a young age?
– Yes, there was such an opportunity even before the national team. I went to the tournament in Detroit and performed well. They offered me to stay, but I was denied a visa three times. I returned home and went to the U18WC with the national team composed of players two years older than me. I have no regrets about it. I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped me. The tournament gave so much to me. It is a pity that I did not manage to continue moving further as my injury stopped me.
– You played against Canada and the USA at the U18WC. You didn’t allow Alexis Lafrenière’s goal, did you?
– I stopped his shot, it was a nice save. Each game was an incredible experience. Every shot stopped, every goalmouth scramble felt as if I was losing gravity. I was admiring everything going on around. It was something awesome. Those moments are unforgettable.