Interview with Tolpar Ufa defenseman Yaroslav Tsulygin.
Salavat Yulaev school trainee Yaroslav Tsulygin made his JHL debut with Tolpar in the 2021/2022 season. He is the son of Salavat Yulaev coach Nikolai Tsulygin and brother of Kirill Tsulygin, who plays in SHL. The defenseman appeared in 53 regular season games and four playoff games, he scored a total of 28 (10+18) points. It is the best result among Ufa defensemen. Tolpar did not manage to advance to the second round of the playoffs, the team was eliminated by Irbis in Game 4 of the first round. In an interview with the official JHL website, Yaroslav talked about his JHL debut, working with Kirill Koltsov, the reasons for losing to Irbis, summer training and preparation for the Unified State Exam.
– You’ve mentioned that you were working out before the interview. Are you already preparing for the 2022/2023 season?
– In spite of the preparation for the Unified State Exam, I make time for training. I work out according to an individual program 5-6 times a week, and I skate 2-3 times a week. For now, I'm getting into the groove.
– What subjects will you take exams in?
– Biology, Russian language and mathematics. My plan is to enter the Bashkir Institute of Physical Culture in Ufa. I will be taking all the exams on reserve days because of my busy schedule.
– Is preparing for exams harder than playing hockey?
– I am of mathematical turn of mind. Math is easy for me. It’s a little more complicated with humanitarian subjects - Russian language and literature. Biology is an interesting subject, which is closely related to sports. I prepare for exams in mathematics and Russian by myself, but I had to get a tutor to help me eliminate the gaps in my knowledge of biology.
– Is going to an institute of higher education an insurance for the future?
– I want my life to be fully connected with sports. I’ve been devouring myself to hockey since childhood – I don’t want to give it up and do something different. Hockey is what I am very interested in. And I have my father as a great example.
– Is it hard to balance hockey with studying?
– It's not easy, but hockey has always been of top priority. My parents have been of great help. My mom always wanted me to do well at school and to be good at hockey.
– Does summer training change over the years?
– It hasn’t changed much compared to last summer. I'm working based on the same plan. I try to be a hundred percent prepared in order to perform well in the upcoming season.
– What are the specifics of summer training? What do you pay special attention to?
–I work on my conditioning in the summertime, keep myself in good shape. During ice practices, I focus on skating, shooting and other components.
– You don’t practice with your father, do you?
– Sometimes I skate by myself, and sometimes we manage to skate together for 30-40 minutes. Thanks to my dad, I have achieved all my successes, even though they are pretty modest so far. I am grateful to him for all his help and pieces of advice.
– Are you happy with your first JHL season?
– It was a pretty good season. I cannot say that things always worked out well. There is room for improvement, but it was not bad for a debut season.
– Did you quickly get adjusted to the team and the league?
– Yes, I did. I knew many of the guys from playing kids hockey together. The opponents were about the same. I got adjusted quickly. In JHL, we started working more on tactics. I think that Vladimir Petrovich coached us well, and we managed to play and stick to the system.
– When did you start feeling truly confident on ice?
– When I played my third game and scored my first goal. I started playing with higher confidence. The coaches started trusting me with more ice time. That third game was the first big step that made it easier for me to play.
– Was the number of points scored important for you? Or was playing in strict adherence to the task and avoiding mistakes in defense of top priority?
– Helping my team win is the most important thing for me. Personal achievements did not take pride of place. I was only thinking about winning. When I needed to play defense, I did. When it was necessary to join the rush and jump in on the offensive attack, I was trying to do my best.
– The stats shows that you did pretty well at helping your team initiate offense: 27 points in 53 regular season games.
– Most of the points were scored in the second part of the season - after the New Year, when the team was in a minor slump. I had to take the lead. The coaches allowed me to do it. The partners helped a lot. We had a good chemistry with Pasha Dergunov, Dinis Kadyrov, Semyon Rubtsov. We had to be the leaders of the team - and I think we did well.
– Kirill Koltsov works with defensemen in Tolpar. What did he teach you?
– I really liked this specialist. We quickly found common language with Kirill Anatolyevich. He gave us a lot of tips on how to play offense, told us some stories from his own career that helped us develop. He worked on powerplay with us, and we followed his tactics.
– Kirill himself was great at joining the rush. Didn’t you follow him as a child?
– When I was a kid, I loved hockey and followed him as well, I liked his offensive skills. He is really cool. It seemed incredible to me as a little child. Being such an offensive defenseman, he inspired me too.
– Is Kirill Koltsov still good on the ice?
– Yes. He used to really put on a clinic during practices.
– It is always a risk for a defenseman to help his team initiate offense. How can it be controlled?
– Everything should depend on the coach. If the coach allows you to jump in on the offensive attack and help the forwards, when, for example, the team is chasing the game, then you should listen to him and do it. And when you have a one- or two-goal lead in the third period, you shouldn't take risks.
– How have you changed as a hockey player during the year in JHL?
– We used to play 20-30 games per season, and in the JHL we played a lot more. Games were piling up. I was concerned about so many games to be played, but when the season started, I liked it a lot. I enjoyed playing more games instead of practicing.
– Why were you concerned? Did you think you would get tired?
– No. I was worried that I would not have enough emotion for long series of games, but everything was fine in this regard.
– Do you often manage to analyze games with your father?
– I want to thank my dad – he analyzes and explains almost all my mistakes. He spends a lot of time at the rink with his team. But he takes time out of his busy schedule for me. I am very pleased and I am proud of him!
– Do you often seek dad’s advice?
– Almost regularly. Every day, when I see something new, I want to ask him for his points of view on the episode.
– Do you think alike?
– I would not say that we always do, but we arrive at common decisions.
– You grew up in a hockey family. Being a child, did you feel overprotectiveness from your father or your elder brother, who also plays hockey?
– No, what I felt was pride for my brother who played for Tolpar, scored many points, was called up to the Challenge Cup and was selected for KHL All-Star Game. My dad played in the NHL. I have always been proud that I was born into this family.
– You faced Irbis in the first round of playoffs. Kazan vs Ufa is a fiery Green Derby. Did you feel how principal the games against Kazan were at the junior level?
– It was not a matter of principles, we treated them like a regular opponent. It was my first JHL playoff. A very interesting experience. In the first game we came back from 0:2 and managed to pull out the win. I thought it would give a boost to the series, but the second game ended with a shootout loss. When we played in Kazan, something went wrong. Losing two games was very disappointing. It's a good experience. It would be nice to do as good as possible in the playoffs next season and win the Kharlamov Cup.
– What conclusion did you draw from the playoffs?
– You pay a high price for the mistakes you make in the playoffs. Mistakes are unaffordable. If you do make a slip, your partners must save you. In playoffs, every mistake of yours helps the opponent to win.
– Were you self-chastising for a long while after being eliminated from the Kharlamov Cup Playoffs?
– First of all, I never wanted to blame my partners for losing. I’ve always held myself accountable. I believe I did almost everything I could to win. Losing the series was tough.
– So, what did go wrong after the games in Ufa?
– The rink is different in Kazan, the capacity is larger. Perhaps this had an effect - it was easier for Irbis to play at home. If we won the second game in Ufa, the series would have a different scenario. But it is what it is.
– Is it easy to put you out of temper on the ice?
– To be honest, I’ve never been in a situation when someone would try to put me out of temper. I have never been provoked. I think I would be able to deal with provocations. It sometimes happens that it’s not the opponent who riles you up, but the game itself. In such cases, I become more active to help my team win. I don’t care much about opponents. The main thing is for my team to win.
– The first JHL season goes with the first professional contract. What did you spend your first Tolpar paycheck on?
– I bought a cake and gave flowers to my mom with my first paycheck. We stayed at home, celebrated my first salary. I didn't buy anything for myself.
– Do you control your personal budget or do your parents help you?
– I haven’t thought about it as I still live with my parents. When we need something for our place, I spend my savings. Sometimes I ask my parents for something - they help me.
– Did you make any impulse purchases?
– This year I tried not to spend money on myself, but to spend it on my family. There was no need to waste money, I have everything I need. I didn’t make any impulse purchases. I was thinking about ways of improving my game, but not about branded goods or gadgets.
– You live with your parents. Are there any rules – to stay in after 10 pm?
– I don’t go outside much. I spend more time at home with my family. There are no such specific rules. I rarely go for a walk - I prefer staying at home with my sister and parents.
– What do you do in your free time?
–We often play Monopoly or Jenga as a family. We always have fun evenings.
– Who is the best at Monopoly in your family?
– It’s almost always my dad who wins.