The player of the St. Petersburg team has many hobbies: fishing, chess, English, books and playing guitar.
The 2021/2022 season was Sergei Ivanov’s second year in the Junior Hockey League. In the regular season, he played three games for SKA-Varyagi and 26 games for SKA-1946. In his debut playoffs, Ivanov was the starting goalie, played every game and finished the season with 93.1 save percentage and 2.10 goals against average. He became the Kharlamov Cup winner with the St. Petersburg team.
The 18-year-old player was born in Chernushka, a town in Perm Territory with a population of 30 thousand people. He started playing hockey in Tyumen, played some soccer, chess and did karate. Spent two years in the Metallurg Magnitogorsk system, and then moved to St. Petersburg.
In an interview with the JHL website, Sergei Ivanov talked about his family supporting him and moving from one city to another together with him, about goalie Alexander Sudnitsin having influenced his career, about difficulties in the playoffs, reasons for not being an active social media user, his preparation for the Unified State Exam, love of fishing, books and music.
– You were born in Chernushka. What kind of place is it?
– It is a small town in Perm Territory, its population is about 30 thousand people. I lived there until the age of seven. I visited Chernushka this summer, met with the local hockey team: a sports complex has been built there, hockey is developing. But I started playing hockey in Tyumen when my family moved there.
– Why Tyumen?
– My parents are oilfield workers. We had relatives living there, and the city was closer to their work location, so we moved there. My parents wanted to keep me busy, and signed me up for chess, soccer and hockey in Tyumen.
– How long did you play soccer and chess?
– I played soccer for about a year, and played chess for a little less than that. I remember I competed in a soccer tournament and broke my finger and I said that it was a high-injury sport and I did not want to play it any longer. So, I continued playing “less hazardous sport” of hockey, and on top of that I became a netminder (laughs). I had to quit chess because I was having many practices. But now I'm trying to catch up on it: I often play chess with my teammates. In Chernushka, I did karate. But all I remember from there is running laps and warming up.
– You’ve said that Rubin Tyumen winning the Bratina Cup factored into your decision to play hockey. Is it so?
– It factored into my decision to become a goaltender. Alexander Sudnitsin was the goalie of Rubin back then. I had a desire to play goal before that, but his performance pushed me for the decision. Coaches brought a trapper and a blocker, they asked us who wanted to try. I stepped forward, and one thing led to another: I was given the gear, I liked it, and became a goaltender.
– Why did you join the Metallurg Magnitogorsk system before the start of the 2018/2019 season?
– I was invited by Stanislav Andreevich Shumik: his team was ranked first, played with clubs from other regions. Magnitogorsk has one of the top teams in the KHL. I understood that I needed to move on, I had a better chance to succeed with Metallurg. So, I moved and stayed there for two years.
– How long did it take you to get adjusted?
– It doesn’t take me long to blend in, I start communicating with everyone right away. I knew many of the guys as I had played against them. There were no problems in terms of everyday life either: my family moved with me, we rented an apartment and were getting used to the city together.
– Why did you move to St. Petersburg and join the SKA system?
– After participating in Junior Olympic Games, I received a call from SKA, they offered me to come and join them. It was wintertime, I decided to finish the season in Magnitogorsk, and then think about moving. The coronavirus pandemic started, the season was over earlier, in March. I went to my grandmother’s place in a village in Perm Territory. I was negotiating remotely from there. When we came to an agreement, I didn’t even feel that I had changed the club.
– Did your family move again, too?
– Yes, they are always with me. It's great when the whole family is always able to move. You don't feel lonely, you are supported – it's very cool when you are a child. Now I am 18 years old and I live by myself. My parents moved to Perm, got settled, my sister goes to school there. She is 14, moving from one city to another was tough for her: getting adjusted to a new school, making friends and having to leave again.
– In the 2021/2022 season, you became a SKA-1946 player. How did it happen?
– After moving to St. Petersburg, I played for SKA-Varyagi, I was getting used to the league. It was a good experience: I stopped many shots, the team was great. SKA-Varyagi has given me a lot. In the 2021/2022 season, I was called up to SKA-1946. We had a good season, especially in the playoffs (smiles).
– It was your first experience in the JHL playoffs, you played every game. Did you feel jittery?
– Only in the first game. It was the first playoff experience for many players of our team, everyone was a bit jittery. But one period was enough to calm the anxiety. I felt calmer after that. It's very cool to play Kharlamov Cup playoff games when you are trusted to hit the ice every night. I am grateful to the coaches and the team - those are unforgettable emotions.
– How do you prepare for games?
– I follow usual routine that pays off: sleep, eat pasta with chicken and go into action. I do not hide from anyone, although I try to limit communication. I also try not to think about the game before the pregame skate. The sport of hockey is a fun game. You need to enjoy every moment of it. I even derive pleasure from preseason preparation. It’s my mental training - to keep enjoying the moments.
– Were there any difficulties during the playoffs?
– Our goalie coach always says: “A game played is filed as a history, let's move on.” Even after a big defeat in Game 5 against Krasnaya Armiya, when I was pulled after allowing four goals, I didn’t take it hard. We came back home, analyzed the mistakes and won the Kharlamov Cup in the next game.
– In the first two series you eliminated Krylya Sovetov and Dynamo Moscow in Game 3. Did you feel relaxed?
– The coaches warned us: as soon as we start feeling relaxed, it will make things hard for us in the future. Therefore, we were preparing, we knew that the opponents will be tougher. We didn’t expect to see such a speed and physicality from Irbis. The first game was a surprise, but we gave it our all and played a good game.
– What were your feelings during final games?
– It's always great to play in the final. It's a cool feeling when you approach the main games of the season and you need to make a push, to take one step toward the goal. Apart from that, you just have to go out on the ice and do your job.
– What were your thoughts when you heard the final buzzer?
– My first thought was: “We did it”. It was a feeling of duty done, calmness. Then I looked at the stands and saw the fans celebrating with us. For the Kharlamov Cup, tremendous credit goes to them. I called my parents right away and congratulated them on the victory. Each season makes a positive contribution, but the 2021/2022 season is the best one in my career so far.
– How did you spend the day with the Kharlamov Cup?
– I didn’t get to spend a day with the Cup yet. I came to St. Petersburg and the training camp started. I was going to take the Cup to Tyumen, but at the last minute I found out that it was at some event, and I could not take it with me. But it’s ok, I was given a warm reception at my first school even without the trophy.
– In early August, you played for the Russian U25 team at the preseason tournament in Sochi. What are your impressions?
– A new young team, we all knew one another, so we played and enjoyed it. We had been informed about the team and the line-up in advance, so I was ready for the call-up. Playing games is always a benefit, especially before the start of the season. Plus, playing against KHL teams is a great experience for us.
– You are participating in SKA’s training camp. What is the atmosphere like?
– Ten kinds of cool. Everyone is professional and knows his own mind. Being a training camp participant is a great pleasure. At first, it was a bit tough in Sochi: we wanted to swim in the sea and lie in the sun, but we knew that we were going there to work. So, we got used to it and trained, and on a day off we could relax on the beach a little.
– Have you found out who has the hardest shot in SKA?
– Valentin Zykov’s shots are the hardest and the most troublesome. But SKA plays different hockey in general: high speeds and quick thinking. It's tougher to play, but it's a great experience for young guys who are just fighting their way to the team.
– What type of goalies do you like?
– I’ll make a special mention of Sergei Bobrovsky. I like his playing style: he is very agile, quick and sharp. I follow all hockey, watch goalies playing, I try to use some things when I go out on the ice. I watched the 2022 World Junior Championship: Canadian, Swedish and Finnish goalies played great.
– Goalies are often in the center of attention. Does it apply extra pressure?
– I am totally cool about it. Great attention was paid during Junior Olympic Games, the arena was packed with fans, but I didn't over-focus on it. Social media pressure? Spend less time on social media and there won't be a problem. I don’t waste time on the Internet and hardly ever reply to messages.
– Is it due to your personal desire or lack of time?
– Both. I have other goals in life, I don’t want to waste time on something that I don’t need. It is better to read a book than to goof on social media.
– Do you make an exception during offseason?
– I have even less time then. This summer I went for vacation to my grandmother’s place in the village: rafting, fishing, hiking, playing soccer with friends. There were some no service areas. I prefer outdoor activities, I like being on the move, especially in the countryside.
– You could have shared your take of fish with your followers.
– I don't like to brag (laughs).
– What type of person are you on and off the ice?
– Pretty much the same. When I am on the ice, I am more focused, I feel the responsibility, I have a passion to win. As with many goaltenders, calmness prevails. You can’t do without it either in hockey or in life.
– In spring you were granted a deferred Unified State Exam for one year. Are you preparing now?
– Yes, I am studying biology with a tutor. I didn’t manage to take exams because of playoff games, so I decided to defer them. I was a home-schooled student, so I was able to do it. I want to enter the Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health and study to be a coach. I had a desire to study management, but I would have to attend classes, and my schedule makes it impossible. I think that this goal isn't going anywhere, it will be my plan for the future.
– You spend your spare time learning English, reading books, playing chess. How do you manage to find the time?
– We have plenty of time when we are on the road. Where there is a will there is a way. English in essential nowadays. For example, the SKA goalie coach is Swedish, he speaks English. I have difficulty with learning English, but I try to study every day. My dad speaks good English, we made a learning plan with different tasks: listening on one day, reading on the second, vocabulary on the third. Now I'm reading Robinson Crusoe in English, I can watch some movies in original. Spending a lot of time on it is not required, but consistency is the main thing.
– What other books do you read?
– I like psychology. I have just finished reading the book recommended by Nikita Sedov from Spartak - The Saint, The Surfer & The CEO by Robin Sharma. It’s very good for spiritual growth and search for life purpose. I also like to read books about management and business. For example, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The Green King by Paul-Loup Sulitzer. It usually takes me two or three weeks to read one book, depending on the schedule.
– You’ve mentioned that you like playing guitar. When did you learn it?
– My dad taught me basic chords when I was a child, and it went from there. I try to play every day. Playing the instrument calms me down. When I play, I am focused on the melody. Music inspires both before games and in everyday life. I also want to learn piano and drums.
– What kind of music do you listen to?
– I prefer foreign club music. I often listen to it before games to lighten the emotional load and set my mind on the game. As for Russian singers, I like MiyaGi and Ruki Vverh. I listen to foreign rock, I often play Linkin Park songs on guitar. For now, I am not into Russian rock, except for Korol i Shut. Their songs get your juices flowing.