The Belye Medvedi netminder about his passion for aviation, the piece of advice given by Roman Will and a furious desire to play goal.
Vyacheslav Buteyets is a native of Chelyabinsk and a Belye Medvedi trainee. He spent three years in the Junior Hockey League and made his Supreme Hockey League debut with Chelmet in the 2021/2022 season. The goaltender was moving up the tiers within the system of the club, he played for U16, U17 and U18 teams. In the 2020/2021 season, he appeared in four games for Chaika, but returned to his home team after that.
In an interview with the JHL website, Vyacheslav talked about getting a craving for hockey after watching a game on TV, begging for goalie equipment through his tears, being interested in air pilotage and dealing with failures.
– You were born in Chelyabinsk, which is often called a harsh city. Do you agree with this stereotype?
– I can’t say it is a harsh city. There are old and modern districts in Chelyabinsk. I live close to a bedroom community, with no plants and factories there. Most people coming to the city rent or buy apartments in such places. But there are areas packed with factories. Perhaps such places are the causes of this stereotype. When I played in Nizhny Novgorod, I did not see much of a difference with Chelyabinsk. Novgorod is larger, but it is also known for the entwinement of modern and old buildings.
– How did you start playing hockey?
– My parents asked me what sports I would like to play. I saw a hockey game on TV, saw people skating, and I told them I wanted to do the same. So, my dad signed me up for hockey. I started skating at the age of four.
– What were your first impressions?
– I remember using special boxes as skating aids. My parents were watching me learn from behind the glass, then they talked to the coach, and we decided I would go with hockey. Everything was easier back then. Now they want to sign my younger brother up for sports, but all sections accept kids from the age of six or seven.
– Why did you become a goalie?
– It is a funny story. I remember I was watching 18-year-olds practicing and saw goalie pads. They sank into my mind, I told my dad I wanted to have a pair of those. Later, he told me the full story: I burst into tears and spent the following week nagging my parents into buying goalie pads for me. So, they got pads, a small blocker and a trapper, and I was given a goalie stick. It was wooden and heavy, it would be hard to hold it even now. I went out on the ice and tried to catch pucks. There was no talk of a goalie coach at that time, I was just told: “Give it a try and then we’ll see.” I started doing better with the passing of time.
– Have you ever thought about what you would do in your life if it wasn't for hockey?
– I was asked this question once, and it made me think about it. I like the profession of a pilot. Traveling around the country and the world, flying a plane – that’s so interesting. But I understand that you have to be very responsible and disciplined to do this job.
– Have you ever had the fear of flying?
– About seven years ago, my family and I flew abroad for vacation. The flight duration was three hours, but my ears popped badly on takeoff and landing, I suffered excruciating pain. I was given a bunch of candies and chewing gums to stop it. And the flight back was just as awful. But now flying is a pleasure for me: you get on a plane, take out your headphones, turn on music or start a movie, and nothing else bothers you.
– Have you ever tried flight simulators?
– I played a flight simulator using my phone. I completed my training, no big deal: you move the phone to the right, the plane flies to the right (laughs). Joking aside, there are a lot of buttons and knobs in the cockpit. You need to know the functions of each of them, it takes a long time to learn. It is not the same thing as learning how to drive a car. Pilots are responsible for lives of many people, they need to be stress-resistant.
– Why did you happen to be with Chaika in the 2020/2021 season?
– My agent and I decided to give it a try. Everything happened quickly: I signed the termination agreement, the next morning I flew to Nizhny Novgorod. I played against Sarmaty and Omskie Yastreby, was a backup and replaced the starting goalie in two games against Kuznetskie Medvedi. Then my agent told me that Chelyabinsk wanted me back and I returned to my home club.
– How can you evaluate the 2021/2022 season?
– The most important thing is that I was getting crease-time. I was given a chance to play in the JHL and the SHL, to feel the difference between the leagues. Surprisingly, getting adjusted to the SHL was easier. When you play SHL games, you don’t have time to think about things – opponents shoot a lot and those are quick release shots. In the JHL, a players can receive a pass, raise his head, and then shoot.
– In what way have you changed over the three seasons in the JHL?
– I felt pleasantly shocked the first two months in the JHL: new organization, they bring you water, they have a team massage therapist. The majority of guys were two or three years older than me, I tried to match their speed, improved my quickness. Then I got adjusted, and I was in my element during my third season in the JHL.
– In the offseason, you were drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, NHL. How do you feel about it?
– It was the only draft that I followed. Representatives of Anaheim Ducks contacted me in advance, I talked to the goalie coach, I remember he pronounced my name in a funny way. I found live updates of the draft on the Internet, then the club scout sent me a link to the video.
– You talked to the goalie coach without an interpreter. What is your level of English?
– I understood him, and he understood me – that’s the most important thing. I used to be a linguistic class pupil at school and had advanced curriculum in English until the ninth grade. Then I realized that I would not take a graduation exam in it. So, I was allowed to have English classes twice a week, and dedicate the remaining three days to preparing for other subjects.
– How do you get prepared for games?
– There are certain actions I perform before every game – they bring confidence. I also follow some rituals. For example, I always put the right skate on first and never seated, and then I tie my laces.
– Do you feel jittery before games?
– Of course. Last year, I talked to Roman Will at the training camp and asked him a question related to this. He quoted a tennis player who said the following: “If I stop feeling jittery, I'll know it will be time to leave.” I did not attach any importance to it, but then I started playing more and realized that these words turned out to be so true. In the JHL we play back-to-back games against the same team. Let’s say, you win the first one and you might feel relaxed, lose concentration. The opposing team is charged-up, you feel even more jittery. The main thing is not to show it and work even harder.
– Some hockey players try not to think about the game before it starts, others concentrate all their thoughts on it. What about you?
– Before a game, I only have trivial thoughts in my head: to drink some water, to get the gear. I think about the process of dressing for a game, about going out on the ice. But not about catching the puck, that’s for sure.
– What type of person are you?
– I am a calm person, but it wasn't always like that. When I was a child, I wanted to be like all those cool goalies: once I tried to smash my stick against the post. But my dad nipped it in the bud: he shouted from the stands that if I hit it again, he would take it away and I would never get it back. So I stopped doing it (laughs). I believe that it makes no sense to be nervous and raise your voice whatever the situation is. All problems can be solved by calm discussion, and no one will suffer, that’s the most important thing.
– How do you deal with failures?
– They are part of every journey, there always are ups and downs. Saying that something isn't your thing because of a failure is not an option. You need to analyze mistakes, draw conclusions and move on.
– Who are your favorite goalies?
– Andrei Vasilevsky. I think everyone likes him - a man who won two Stanley Cups in two consecutive seasons. Carey Price is a great goalie too, he reads the game well. Despite all his problems, he was able to return to his level.
– How did you spend your offseason?
– First I had end-of-year exams, then I took my driving test. Lately I haven’t gone anywhere in the summer, it’s been a very long time since I was at the seaside for the last time. If I had an opportunity, I would be glad to have a change of scenery. There are many great places in the world that I want to visit. Cities, seaside and mountains – I am attracted by everything.