02.03.2023 в 13:00

“I would love to play against Spartak and show my worth.” German Tochilkin – about being Kunlun import player, Chinese mindset and translation problems

The forward has brought out his potential in the KHL as a Chinese team player.

German Tochilkin is an Orsk hockey alumnus. The forward was a Kazan Ak Bars system player, then played for Moscow Dynamo and Sarmaty. Tochilkin ended up being with Spartak, but was mainly with the VHL team, Voskresensk Khimik. Just like with many other young players, the loan spell helped German to unlock his potential. At the end of December, he moved to Kunlun Red Star and scored a goal in his fourth game with the new team. In total, he scored 6 (4+2) points in 19 games of the 2022/2023 season.

In an interview with the JHL website, German Tochilkin talked about being a well-rounded KHLer, his loan spell and foreign teammates.

“Brandon Yip can hit with a tape-to-tape pass any moment, just like Shipachyov”

– In the 2022/2023 season, you played in three leagues and were loaned to Kunlun, share your impressions.
– The season was rich in the events, I managed to play in all three leagues. I am grateful to the coaches of each team for their trust and the ice time I was getting. Too bad that Kunlun did not manage to clinch a playoff berth, we would be still playing if we did.

– Do you feel less responsibility in Kunlun compared to Spartak?
– For me, hockey is hockey no matter what team you play for – Spartak or Kunlun. I am grateful for the ice time I get, I try to do my best to generate value and to be of benefit to the team.

– What can you say about the progress the Chinese players have made during the season?
– The guys do well, many of them have made great progress since the start of the regular season, there are things you can learn from them. I enjoy playing with those guys.

– Which Kunlun players stand out from others for their performance?
– The first place goes to Cory Kane, he is a great skater. I already asked him what ROH his skates are sharpened with. I have learned everything there is to know about blades. But it happens so that there is more in this than meets the eye: he works with skating coaches. I also like Brandon Yip, he can hit with a tape-to-tape pass any moment, just like Vadim Shipachyov. I also cannot but mention Zesenchik (Zesen Zhang – note). He always battles hard. In fact, I could name each and every player of the team, we have a lot of great guys, those three are right off the top of my head.

– What does it feel like to play with such a bright hockey player as Garet Hunt?
– He is a normal kind of guy in everyday life, just like anybody else – an easy-going guy you can have a few laughs with. Garet is a normal person, he puts up a good performance and is ready to stand up for his teammates whenever needed.

– Do you mainly keep company with Russian guys – Dmitry Kostenko and Ivan Lisin?
– I can’t say that our team is cleaved into Russians and foreigners. I seek to communicate with foreign guys despite my poor English. I believe they do understand me. Obviously, I talk to Russian players more, but I am on speaking terms with everyone.

– How did you take the news about Alexander Perevalov leaving the team in late December?
– We used to play together for the national team, he is a very good guy, a talented player, I wish nothing but the best of luck to him.

– Does being an import in the KHL feel strange?
– Yes, it was weird at first. Especially after being with Russian teams that only have a few foreigners on a roster. Everything is vice versa here: two or three Russian guys, and all the rest are foreigners. In this respect, it was tough, but you can always adjust to new realities. I started to devote more time to learning English. In the other scenario I would keep on shelving it, but current circumstances are forcing me to develop faster.

– Did being weak in English add to difficulties when getting adjusted to the new team?
– Yes, it did, since absolutely everything here is in English, there are no Russian subtitles, so it was really tough at the beginning. I was dressed as a thirteenth forward for my first game with Kunlun. So, during the game I heard coaches say “Toch” (stands for Tochilkin – note). I got ready to hit the ice, then I heard: “Toch, hold down”. It means something like “stay seated, you’re not going now.” But I didn’t know the meaning of “hold down” and hit the ice to play some hockey (smiles). It turned out that a different player was supposed to play, but I did serve a useful end on the ice, so there were no complaints.

– Before being loaned to Kunlun, you had had a month without playing any KHL games. Didn’t it affect your conditioning and game shape?
– It did not. I had been practicing and working out to stay in hockey shape. Playing no games was an issue, of course. But being in Voskresensk, we had scrimmages and various drills aimed at working on plays. It would be better if I could play some games too, but everything comes to him who knows how to wait (smiles).

– You used to play defense. Are defensive skills important for a young KHLer?
– Playing in the KHL, I have come to realize the importance of being a well-rounded player who is able to play in all three zones. When I had been playing a winger before that, I had only played my position and hadn’t been particularly interested in what was happening in other areas. Being with Kunlun, I was explained that there are no wingers and centers, but there are first, second and third forwards. Whoever comes first plays a center, the second and third ones are playing wingers. I used to hit the panic button at the beginning, I did not understand what to do, how to play center. Then I saw other guys play and everything returned to normal. Now, when I am the first one to enter the zone, I play center, and guys play wingers.

– Did your VHL experience help you get adjusted to the KHL?
– It surely did. Those games served a useful end, because hockey in the JHL and the VHL is different, the same is true about the VHL being compared to the KHL. You are to get adjusted to a new league. You join a league, see some new things, then you get used to everything and start to show your worth. Having VHL experience was of good help.

– Kunlun head coach Greg Ireland once said that the team “needs to find itself in order to win tight games.” Why didn’t you manage to do it?
– The games are hard-fought and often tied, everyone is all fired up and try to play defense first. Perhaps our team is out of luck sometimes, we allow some bad ridiculous goal, then we try to come back as soon as possible, play offense first and opponents turn it to their advantage. We need to be more focused on each game episode in order to prevent allowing goals when the game is tied, but to score instead.

– Does regular rotation influence team’s results?
– Well, it doesn’t happen every single game. The coaching staff decides on the lines and follows the performance of this or that player in several games. If he manages to approve himself and the chemistry is there, he continues to play with this linemates. If there is a lack of mutual understanding and the chemistry is not quite there, then line combinations are changed. This is how great lines are formed.

– Did your goal in the fourth game with Kunlun give you a confidence boost?
– It was a long-awaited moment, because I hadn’t managed to score any goals with Spartak. It was a regular game, I wanted to contribute to the success of the team, it’s great that I was able to score. I will keep working hard in order to convert more chances.

– Kunlun is in Mytishchi for the 2022/2023 season. So you didn’t have to move anywhere, did you?
– I did not. It is still the same city, which is great. It takes half an hour to get from Spartak Arena to Kunlun. I’m glad that I am just where I used to be.

– How do you feel about Kunlun planning to return to China?
– In case if such a decision is made, we will be playing there, although I don’t even know what team I will be with (smiles).


“I would love to play against Spartak and show my worth”

– Being with Kunlun you did not happen to play against Spartak. What was it due to?
– I don’t even know, it was not my decision.

– Would you like to play against Spartak?
– Yes, I would love to play against Spartak and show my worth.

– Kunlun won three out of four games played against Spartak. What did you feel after such games, given that the Moscow team was fighting for a playoff berth?
– I had mixed feelings. Kunlun is my team until the end of the season, they beat my former club. After such games I cannot be happy or sad, it feels weird. I don’t even know how to describe it.

– Do you follow Spartak?
– Of course, I follow their games and lineups. Too bad that the team is in such a situation now, they did not manage to clinch a playoff berth.

– And what about Sarmaty and Orsk Yuzhny Ural?
– Same thing. I follow their games, lineups, talk to the guys from Yuzhny Ural: Ivan Timashev and Ivan Kurdin. I remember the latter scoring a goal in his first VHL game. They are nice guys and we stay in touch despite moving to other clubs.

– You played five games for JHC Spartak, but did not score any points. Why so?
– I was very upset having 0+0 after five games played. I will keep working hard in order to be able to score points in any league. The younger guys also look up to us, we are supposed to help them. And how can I help or what can I suggest if I have zero points in five games? I will do my best to improve the situation.

“The opportunity to try hand at the adult professional hockey is a big plus for a young player”

– Do KHL loans give a great impulse to young players’ development?
– The opportunity to try hand at the adult professional hockey is a big plus for a young player.

– Do Chinese players differ from other foreigners in terms of their mindset?
– Yes, they do. There are certain peculiarities. Let’s say, after having dinner we can move sofas in the hall, brink some blankets, and sit all together to watch some movies. It is something I have never seen in Russia. Chinese players are very sociable and friendly guys, it doesn’t take them long to acquire the Russian language, especially when it comes to strong language (smiles). They don’t overreact, and are not quick-tempered, so their mindset does differ from that of other people.

– Have you tried to learn some Chinese?
– I already know a few words. For example, “ni hao ma” means “how are you?”

– Being on the ice, do you keep a cool head or do you give way to your temper?
– I can’t describe myself as a calm person. Emotions run high during games, plus fans are cheering and it also adds to the intensity of emotions, sometimes you don’t even understand what you are doing.

– Your father has a collection of pucks after all your goals. Which of them are the most important ones for you?
– He started collecting pucks after I had scored my very first JHL goal. And the tradition was established: after I score a goal in a new league, I bring a signed puck to my dad. I can’t single out any particular puck, each of them is important in its own way. The one from the JHL was after my first goal at a professional level, the one from the VHL – after my first goal at an adult level, the one from the national team – after my first goal as a representative of my country. All goals are equally valuable to me and my family.

– Your brother also plays hockey, would you like to play together with him in the future?
– He is still growing up, but I already have an impression that it is he who will teach me some skating skills, rather than the reverse. I hope I will be able to help him with some pieces of advice. I am looking forward to seeing him play at the adult level as soon as possible so that we can play together.

– Are you happy with your KHL stats?
– It is an average result. I can’t call it good. There are a many young guys who score twice and three times as many points. I am also able to have more goals and assists, I will keep working in order to convert each chance next season. I want to contribute to the success of my team, I want to score points and help my team win, it all comes from hard work.