ANDREI KUZMENKO: “I WALKED UP TO MY FATHER WHEN I WAS EIGHT AND TOLD HIM I WANTED TO BE A GOALIE”

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15.07.2017 в 06:00

ANDREI KUZMENKO: “I WALKED UP TO MY FATHER WHEN I WAS EIGHT AND TOLD HIM I WANTED TO BE A GOALIE”

Kharlamov Cup champion and MVP Andrei Kuzmenko spoke about his first steps in hockey, time in Junior Hockey League and most vivid Krasnaya Armiya memories.

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- Andrei, how did your hockey story begin?

- I was born in Yakutsk and literally 18 months later my dad took to my first skate. I played there till I was four and when I was five my dad offered me to move to Moscow. As a coach, he wanted me to have an opportunity for further development.


- Would you say that your dad is your key mentor?

- My dad is always be my side. When I went to kindergarten, he got a job there. He was coaching Belye Medvedi 1996 team at the time, too. When I went to school, he quit his job in kindergarten and got a job there. My dad was always by my side till I turned 12. Whenever I had any trouble, he was always there and he always knew what to say.

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- Who put you on offense?

- I always wanted to be at the opposite net as a kid. When I was eight years old, I walked up to my father and told him I wanted to be a goalie. “And who’s going to score the goals?”, he replied. I’ve never thought of becoming a goalie ever since.

 

- Do you know any Belye Medvedi alumni?

- Famous 1992 team. We used to go to their games. Nikita Gusev and Igor Ozhiganov didn’t know me but we followed them closely. They had a great coach.

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- How did you join to CSKA?

- When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my dad told me that if I wanted to develop as a hockey player I needed to join a better junior hockey school. I don’t want to throw shadow on Belye Medvedi but CSKA is just a whole different level.

- Do you remember your rookie season in the Junior Hockey League?

- I do. I joined Krasnaya Armiya when I was 16. It was a very young team and we didn’t have a great season. Andrei Golovanov was the oldest guy on the team, he was 21. He gave us a lot of advice and always tried to help.

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- Aside from winning the Kharlamov Cup, what was your most vivid JHL moment?

- 2014 finals against Spartak Moscow. I scored the second goal in Game 7. It was very emotional. We had a lot of time left and we believed that we could still win the cup.

 

- After all these years in Junior Hockey League, what did you learn?

- The most important thing is that I play with more confidence now. Skills that I didn’t have when I was 16 and I do have now when I’m 21. I’m grateful to all Krasnaya Armiya coaches who worked with me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have become the player I am today.

 

- What is the biggest difference between Junior Hockey League and other leagues?

- There’s more room for improvisation in Junior Hockey League. A lot of goals are scored off individual effort. That’s the way it should be because JHL gives you a chance to show what your capable of and get yourself noticed.

 

- What was your funniest JHL moment?

- I remember we went to play our first ever JHL game and I was worried I would forget something or do something wrong. So here comes the first road trip. They gave me a practice jersey. Everyone goes gets on the ice for practice and it turns out that I left my practice jersey at home. So what do I do? I had to practice in my game jersey. When I hit the ice the coaches were already joking about me.

- Does your family come to the games often?

- My dad comes to every game. Actually, he cares about it more than anybody. My mom doesn’t go to games because she worries too much. But she asks my dad about the game when he gets home.  

 

- What is your main character trait on and off the ice?

- I’m a positive and kind person. I don’t think I’m a tough player. I can laugh right in the middle of an important moment – even at the face-off. There was one time when I burst out laughing with my buddy when the put music on right before the play resumed. I’m not different off the ice. I’m always being myself. Perhaps, sometimes I lack my dad’s focus.

 

- Let’s talk about your camp in Chicago. How valuable was that experience?

- It was a wonderful trip. I came back from there in June and I absolutely don’t regret that it shortened my vacation. There were four guys from Russia including me and three Canadians. I learned a lot. Practices were tough and tests very difficult. I had never been so tired. At 21 I saw a whole different brand of hockey in Chicago. You have to put in a lot of hard work to play in the NHL. It was very interesting to go there.

 

- How soon do you expect to get there?

- It’s everyone’s dream. But if you’re not considered a leader over here, you’re not going to be one there either. There’s no point in being a bench jokey in the NHL. That’s my opinion.

 

- What do you like besides hockey?

- I love being active. I drove a quad bike in Cyprus and flew on a paraglider in Turkey. I don’t like to sit and do nothing.

 

- Are there any other places you’d like to visit?

- Of course. As the matter of fact, I want to travel the whole world.

 

- Who would you be if it weren’t for hockey?

- I would probably choose another sport. When your parents are athletes it’s hard to do anything else.

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