The forward is in his final JHL season.
Ignat Korotkikh is a Khabarovsk hockey trainee. He relocated to St. Petersburg at the age of 13, but did not manage to make it to JHC Dynamo SPb upon graduation from the hockey school, and returned to his hometown to become a leader of Amurskie Tigry and receive call-ups to Amur to play KHL games starting from the 2020/21 season.
The 20-year-old forward is in his final Junior Hockey League season. He has taken his place in the history of the Khabarovsk club as the Amurskie Tigry all-time top scorer. Korotkikh has scored 136 (56+80) points in the space of four years in the JHL. In the 2022/23 season, he has scored his first KHL goal.
In an interview with the JHL website, Ignat talked about his childhood, injuries, love for exact sciences and opera, and the Russian players he looks up to.
— You have made it into the history of Amurskie Tigry as the all-time top scorer. What emotions does such an achievement induce?
— It feels great, but I wasn’t actually following the stats. I saw a fan’s comment somewhere, checked it out and it turned out to be true. I am glad that it has happened. I wasn’t chasing for a record, I didn’t even know how many points other players had scored. But leaving a mark in the history of my club is really nice.
— You are now in your final JHL season. How have you changed in the space of four years?
— I am the oldest player now and it makes itself felt, because when I was in my first season, I was the youngest guy and didn’t always match in conditioning. Things are different these days. As for mentality, I would say it has always been pretty much the same. I didn’t feel too jittery back then and I still don’t, I play with confidence.
— And when it comes to the JHL, how has the League changed?
— There haven’t been any major changes except for the new format introduced in the 2022/23 season. Now we have more time for practicing, but the number of teams has increased, so the number of games played hasn’t decreased dramatically. If you check the League’s points leaders, you will see some representatives of Silver divisions. They have come into the spotlight, they see a chance to prove themselves and move up the tiers.
— How can you evaluate the run for Amurskie Tigry in the 2022/23 season?
— I was not with the JHL team for the most part of the first half of the season. We have picked up steam and perform better now. I like the progress we have made and what we have been showing lately.
— You have played 18 KHL games in the 2022/23 season. What are your impressions of playing in that League?
— I feel comfortable there. The biggest difference between the KHL and the JHL for me is the number of fans in the stands. The attendance of KHL games is way higher, the atmosphere is great and the team is in the limelight not only in Khabarovsk, but at country level too. Players spend less time with the puck, make more passes, so hockey becomes more fast-paced. The overall skill level is much higher. But I’m already used to everything. Two years ago, moving from the JHL to the KHL was a big change. Things are different these days.
— You have already scored your first KHL goal. Does it feel different from scoring goals in the JHL?
— It does feel different, even though I enjoy scoring goals at the junior level too. But notching a goal in the KHL is a big thing. When I scored my first goal, I didn’t really understand what had happened. We played against CSKA in our barn and managed to erase a two-goal deficit in the course of two shifts to tie the game. It was an unforgettable experience.
— Your parents said that you had had a desire to play soccer. Why did you choose hockey?
— I wanted to be signed up for soccer because I often played street soccer. But my father insisted on signing me up for hockey. He had played it until he turned 17, he told me he knew nothing about playing soccer, but he could help with hockey in the beginning, as he was familiar with this sport. I was five years old and I wanted to try anything and everything. I started skating, I liked it, and continued to play hockey. As for soccer, I stopped following it, and it was not before a while later that I became aware of all soccer rules.
— What are your childhood memories of practices?
— I remember that we did not have all the gear on from the very beginning, we added something from practice to practice: knee pads, then pants, shoulder pads and elbow pads after a while. My parents told me that at the first practice I hit the ice and skated right away. Other parents asked them if I had skated before, but it was the first time I had ever done it.
— How do your parents support you?
— They give rhetorical support. My father sometimes gives me a few pointers, but as a fan, with emotional words. My parents, our family friend and my girlfriend attend all JHL and KHL games. My grandmother watches all the games, even though she lives in the western part of Russia. I am very grateful to them.
— What would you do if it wasn’t for hockey?
— I have done well in studies and have always been good at math. Being at my final year, I missed school quite often, but still managed to pass the Unified State Exam in math with 80 points. So, I would go to university to get an education related to the exact sciences. But I pursue a degree in coaching now. I can get the second education after finishing my career, but I hope it’s too early for me to think about it (laughs).
— Have you ever considered quitting hockey?
— I have never had a firm plan, only some fleeting thoughts in the heat of the moment of a failure or an injury, especially when I was a kid. I had several fractures one after another. It was a difficult period: I joined JHC Dynamo SPb at the age of 13 and broke my finger the very first summer. Having recovered, I started skating and broke my arm. I am grateful to my family for their support during that tough period. I also had a good coach - Sharakin Vadim Valerievich. He put a lot of time into working with all the players and me, in particular. We had many guys from other cities, our parents were not with us. I even remember his wife taking me to a hospital one day. Having some people who could help me played a big role back then. I tried to overcome all the difficulties and being supported made it much easier to do.
— How tough was moving to a new city alone at the age of 13?
— Being far from my family was tough. But I wanted to try my hand at playing against more skillful teams, as that region was at a higher level back then. I went for a tryout to then live my dream. It was a good experience that helped me learn how to live on my own and paddle my own canoe. It helped me mature much quicker.
— Why did you return to Khabarovsk?
— It is a simple story: I did not make it to the JHL team upon graduation from the hockey school. I decided to go back home and try to get into the JHL in Khabarovsk. And I did make the team after the tryouts.
— How do you get prepared for games?
— I just warm up before games and hit the ice, there are no special rituals I follow. Playing in the men’s league implies greater responsibility and I take games more seriously. I try not to get all worked up, because being on wires won’t do any good in a game. I do my best to find balance between composure and being at ease. A game is not an exam, playing hockey is a pleasure. Every game is important, but the beauty of hockey is that even if you fail to do something right, you can make the difference in the next game.
— What kind of person are you on and off the ice?
— Pretty much the same. When I am on the ice, I play with aggression and passion to win, these are things we cannot do without. In real life I also want to be the best and always be the winner.
— Who are your favorite hockey players?
— If we speak about current players, it’s Connor McDavid. When I was younger, I was fascinated by Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeny Malkin. I was taken by their dangles, their skills. I liked that Datsyuk was always a gentleman on the ice, he never played rough. I enjoyed watching Malkin scoring goals, his stickhandling, his knack for the net, his shot. I like their style, game intelligence, the way they read plays.
— Which KHL players do you look up to?
— I like Philippe Maillet and Nikolai Goldobin from Magnitogorsk Metallurg, Nikita Gusev from SKA. I remember Gusev playing in Khabarovsk, I used to follow him closely back then. They are skilled players with great game intelligence.
— You once said that you love St. Petersburg. What exactly do you like about that city?
— Some people say that the weather is always hazy there and the city lacks sunshine, but I don’t really care about it. It’s just not something I pay attention to. Well, it often rains there and streets get slushy – it is a negative side. But I like the city itself, the people, there are many places to visit: museums, cathedrals, gardens, parks. I love opera. When I was studying in St. Petersburg, we used to go to the opera every now and then. We attended stage performance performances, visited museums, the Hermitage, Peterhof. I remember having a demonstration lesson at the Mariinsky Theatre, we spent eight hours there: first we walked around staff-only areas, took an inside look at everything, saw how the stage was arranged, how everything operated, and then heard a three-hour opera. My love for opera was cultivated when I was a kid.
— And what do you do in your spare time in Khabarovsk?
— I walk around the city, spend a lot of time with my younger brother, my family and my girlfriend. We like playing board games all together. I enjoy hanging out with my brother, he is ten years old. I give him some pointers so that he avoids the mistakes that I had made. He used to do sambo, now he plays soccer and learn English.
— Do you like reading books?
— Yes, I do. I had been a glutton of books until I turned 14, and then a five-year period followed when I was a seldom reader. Now I have again come to realize the importance of reading. The book I am reading now is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I also love watching movies, I’m a movie buff. My favorite genres are thriller and drama. The most recently watched movie is Good Will Hunting, it is a drama about how a person changes from a good-for-nothing fellow to a big company specialist. Another movie I was impressed with is The Founder and I liked the line from this movie: “Nothing in this world can take the place of good old persistence.”