This off-season Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk suffer great losses – due to age limit in Junior Hockey League their team will see departure of several key players. One of them is Vladislav Karpus – ‘Tigers’ captain and top forward. His best season in JHL was 2014-15. Karpus ended up leading his team in every statistical category – he was ‘Tigers’ top goal-scorer, top-scorer and also had the most assists and the best plus/minus among forwards. Overall he played 179 Junior Hockey League games, scoring 44 goals and notching 53 assists for 97 points. We met ‘Tigers’ captain at a training camp and asked him about his stubbornness, chemistry with his teammates and his best moments in JHL.
As per tradition, let’s get back to his junior hockey school days.
“I was the one who initiated my hockey career,” reminisces Karpus. “One day when I was five years old, we were walking through a park with my parents and I saw some kids running up and down the hill. I walked up to their coach – well, obviously, I didn’t know he was their coach at the time – and told him I wanted to join them. He said – bring you parents over here and join the group. I started going to practices. I liked it a lot and I didn’t want to leave. The older I was getting, the more I understood that hockey was the thing I wanted to do in life.
“There was one game in junior hockey school that I remember the most. I was already playing with 96 year-borns, and I had played with 95 year-borns for a while before that, and we had an important game against Sibir [Novosibirsk]. I was playing on a line with Dmitry Shaburov and Alexander Kregan. So we won the game 7-1 and our line scored all the goals. I scored a hat-trick, so did Kregan and Shaburov added another one. There was another memorable moment. We were taking a train to play in Kazakhstan and I got a very bad food poisoning. They needed to take me off the train at some town and I was taken to the hospital. I spent about a week there and then my team picked me up on their way back from the games.”
- You joined Junior Hockey League together with Shaburov and years later your dynamic duo became a force to be reckoned with on the ice. When were you put on the same line? How did the dynamic duo come to be?
- That happened when we were still kids. I was playing center with 95 year-borns, while Shaburov played center with 96 year-borns. Later he told me he had been worried that I was to be sent down to play with 96 year-borns, he would be demoted to the second line. When I was sent down to play with 96 year-borns, our coach decided to put us on the same line. He put him on the wing and I remained at center. So we’ve played together since we were 12 or 13. We are good friends off the ice as well so we have great chemistry on the ice. I think it helped us a lot. When we joined JHL, we were put on the same line almost all the time. Even when they would put us on different lines for a while, we would be put back together eventually.
- There’s a popular video on the Internet where your duo scores an amazing goal. You make a behind-the-back pass and Shaburov scores. Was it something you’d worked on at practices or did you decided to go for it on the fly?
- Yeah, it was a good goal. We talked about the games and discussed them often. We lived together on the road so it wasn’t difficult to do. We watched a lot of highlights and talked about different plays. Sometimes we would go too much into detail but it was equally important. That particular play was impromptu, we had never worked on anything like that. I skated towards their defenseman and I saw that Dima had an opening to skate to. I just had to draw the defenseman further away and make a good pass. That’s just chemistry. I just knew he would be there. We’ve played together for so long that we often just know who’s going to be where at a certain time.
- You played four seasons in the JHL. When you look at your statistics, it’s a rollercoaster. While your low production in rookie season can be explained by the fact you had to adapt to new team, low numbers in your third season pose a question.
- Rookie season was tough. It was a whole other level of hockey comparing to Junior Hockey School League. We played against 93 year-borns and we didn’t have a lot of game experience. The fourth line consisted of young guys and we only started getting some decent ice-time closer to the middle of the season. And even then we just couldn’t capitalize on our scoring chances. The 2015-16 season was really tough. New head-coach came in, he had a new approach and a set of goals and, perhaps, I wasn’t ready for it. Perhaps, after a good season I thought it would be easier. Anyway, I began playing on the top line and we had a lot of scoring chances, our line spent entire time in the offensive end, but we hit a slump and just couldn’t buy a goal. Coaches began losing their trust in us and I was being demoted further further down the lines. It came to a point I was almost a healthy scratch. It was all my fault. The important thing is that I learned my lesson, worked hard and tried to prove – most of all to myself – that the 2014-15 season wasn’t a fluke. I think I was successful at that.
- What would be your personal most vivid Junior Hockey League moments? What stood out for you? What was your happiest moment? What was the most memorable?
- Sophomore JHL season. I topped my team in points after a not-so-great debut year and we made the playoffs. Amurskie Tigry had longed for that. Although, it’s a shame we got eliminated so early. We had done so much to get there and we had taken such a long route to the playoffs, that in the end the whole thing was very emotional. I also remember a playoff game against [Loko] Yaroslavl in the 2015-16 season. We played five periods in front of hometown crowd and I scored a goal, which was very important. Unfortunately, we lost the game and the series. There weren’t any positive emotions but I still recall the game quite vividly. And, obviously, the last game of this season. It was a very weird feeling. It was very emotional and I was thinking a lot about my junior hockey career coming to an end and that I had to go further.
- What does the time that you spent in the Junior Hockey League mean to you?
- It was a great period of my life, which gave me a lot.
- For example?
- It gave me an opportunity to develop as a leader and professional hockey player. JHL gave me a lot of friends, emotions and memories.
- What was the greatest pep talk you ever gave to your teammates? When and where it took place?
- I shouldn’t quote it (laughing). I always tried to somehow fire up my team, focus them on winning and it’s a pretty emotional thing to do. Most of the time I would deliver the speech after off-ice warm-up in the hall where it was taking place, and before on-ice warm-up right before we hit the ice for the game. Sometimes I would do it in the intermission or right at the bench when the boys needed a boost. Sometimes I would just gather the whole team a few days before the game or after the game. I didn’t have to do it often but I did it a few times. Especially after blowout losses.
- This season you had a chance to feel like a coach and work with some kids. What did you focus on?
- I worked with some really small kids – 2010 and 2011 year-borns. It was fun to see how they look at you and eagerly try to do everything you show and tell them. I tried to focus on their stance – I wanted them to make sure their knees were bended and their head was up. I focused on skating, too. And, obviously, the discipline so they wouldn’t fool around at practice. Generally, I was there to give them advice and help them whenever it was needed. I think I was successful at that.
- Do you think about becoming a coach one day?
- It was fun working with kids. Maybe someday I will think about it but right now I have a different set of goals.
- Tell us about the training camp you’re at right now.
- It’s a 2-week camp in Riga with Leonids Tambijevs and Igor Gorbenko. We have two on-ice practices and two off-ice practices everyday. You could say it’s a mini-camp before everybody goes to their teams’ camps. There are a lot of players from JHL, VHL and KHL – we work altogether. I went to this camp last year as well. That’s why I decided to come again.
- Have you decided where you’re going to continue your career? Do you have any offers from any teams?
- There are a few VHL teams that are interested in me. They have invited me to their camps but I haven’t decided where I’m going to go yet. I will make up my mind in a few days, I think. I have to talk it over with my agent and family. Then I’ll go for a try-out. I don’t have any stats in either VHL or KHL and that poses a problem. I’m not going to name any teams yet. Let it be a secret for now.
We’re going to finish this interview with some advice from Junior Hockey League alumnus. Here you go – these are the rules Vladislav Karpus lives by.
- I’m pretty superstitious. I live by the rule – opportunity loves those who prepare. I think that there are now coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that everything comes around just like a boomerang.
- I can’t sit and do nothing. I always look for something to do.
- When it comes to clothing, I prefer sneakers and hoodies. I have a loooooooot of sneakers and hoodies (laughing).
- I don’t like nosy people and people who always lie. I hate liars and hypocrites.
- I’m very picky. It goes for everything – food, clothes, every little thing.
- I can’t eat breakfast in the morning. I do it very rarely. When I do, I eat either cereal with milk or curd with fruit and jam. I always fall asleep in front of turned on TV. It became a habit.
- I’m a Capricorn so stubbornness comes natural to me.