About the League
Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk forward Yegor Spiridonov’s rookie season didn’t bring him any trophies but it would be wrong to call it a failure. Spiridonov helped Magnitogorsk finish second in the Eastern Conference in regular season standings, while his play earned him a spot on U18 Team Russia. In this interview with Junior Hockey League media relations department Spiridonov shared that he didn’t expect to make the U18 IIHF World Championship team, his friendship with Andrei Mozyakin and his rookie JHL season.
“When I was four years old, my parents singed me up for several sports – swimming, table tennis and hockey,” says Spiridonov. “I did well in all of them but I had to make a choice when I was seven years old. I went on with hockey but I kept useful skills from other sports – swimming helped my overall physical condition, while table tennis improved my reaction, which comes really helpful now at face-offs.”
- Did you like hockey because you went to the games?
- My father first took me to a hockey game when I was three years old. I try not to miss any Metallurg games. Last season I went to every playoff game. I remember many important games. For example, in 2014 I was at the rink when Metallurg beat Lev Prague and won their first Gagarin Cup.
- In 2012 you participated in Gazpromneft Cup. Was it a good experience?
- That was my first big tournament. Every game drew a lot of fans and in the very first game against Sibir I was named player of the game.
- Sergei Mozyakin’s son Andrei also played for Metallurg at that tournament. How is your relationship with him?
- I’ve known Andrei for a long time. He joined the team shortly after I did. He began playing hockey in Moscow and then he moved to Magnitogorsk with his family and joined our team. He captained Metallurg-2001, while I was one of the alternate captains. We have a good relationship with Andrei and I know his family. A few years ago our whole team went to Turkey and Andrei’s family joined us. After the Olympics I met with Sergei Mozyakin and Vasily Koshechkin and congratulated them with winning gold.
- You both made your Junior Hockey League debuts in the 2017-18 season.
- I was very nervous before my first game. It was early in September and we lost to Snezhnye Barsy Astana 2-0. I scored my first goal in my fourth game on Altay. Andrei made his debut a little later – in February. I gave him a friendly advice before the game and cheered him up. I have a lot of ice-time for a rookie. After pre-season camp, which I spent with Stalnye Lisy, the coaching staff decided to give me a shot and I’m grateful to Dmitry Stulov for his trust in me.
- Several Stalnye Lisy players made their KHL debuts this season.
- Metallurg has a junior camp and last year they invited a few 1998 and 1999 year borns to it. This year a few guys – for instance, Yuri Platonov and Pavel Dorofeyev – went to a camp in Davos with KHL team. Besides, our coaches try to give junior players a chance to prove themselves in the KHL. Stalnye Lisy captain Yegor Korobkin played a few games for Metallurg this year.
- Your teammate Nikita Rozhkov was named JHL rookie of the year this season.
- We played for the same team in junior hockey school with him and also for Team Russia at various tournaments. Everybody on the team congratulated him. I believe he deserved that award. Nikita is a great hockey player, he has a tremendous scoring touch, he can create a scoring chance out of nothing and capitalize on it.
- Stalnye Lisy played five playoff games but you partook in just four of them.
- Right before the playoffs I was called up to a camp in Finland where U18 Team Russia was participating in Five Nation Tournament. I got injured there so instead of playing at the tournament, I went back to Magnitogorsk and tried to get recovered in time for Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. After Game 1 against Reaktor, Dmitry Stulov decided I had to miss a game to gain more strength.
- Stalnye Lisy finished second in Eastern Conference in regular season standings. How tough was it for your team to get eliminated in the opening round?
- At first nobody even understood what had happened. We were all a little shocked. Although, my season didn’t end with that loss to Reaktor. I played a few games for Metallurg-2001 to keep myself in shape and then left to camp in Novogorsk.
- This season you played for both – U17 and U18 Team Russia.
- Actually, I spent almost the entire year on Vladimir Filatov’s team, while Vasily Podkolzin was called up a few times to U18 Team Russia by Alexander Zybin. When I came to Novogorsk after the playoffs, I didn’t know which team I was going to end up on. There were a few options – I could make U18 Team Russia for the World Championship, I could also play at a tournament for U17 Team Russia, or I could be left out from both teams. In Novogorsk I practiced just once with U17 Team Russia and spent the remaining team with Alexander Zybin’s team. I am grateful to the coaching staff for putting their trust in me and for giving me the opportunity to play at a home world championship.
- Even though you didn’t play at every tournament prior to the world championship.
- I was called up to U18 Team Russia three times this season – I went to Canada for the World Junior A Challenge, to Veliky Novgorod for the Four Nation Tournament and to Finland for the Five Nation Tournament, where I got injured. I scored only two goals at those tournaments, but both on Team Canada. I scored the first goal in an exhibition game and then another one at the official game.
- At the U18 IIHF World Championship Team Russia’s dressing-room at Traktor Arena was concealed from the media behind a metal door. What was happening at the other side of the door?
- It’s Traktor’s home dressing-room but it was redecorated to Team Russia’s colors so we would feel comfortable in there. Aside for the dressing-room itself, there are other rooms – sauna, bath, wardrobe, special rooms for coaches, doctors and physiotherapists.
- At the world championship Team Russia players had to give up their cellphones and walk in an organized manner. Did it take you a while to get used to such strict discipline after Stalnye Lisy?
- It wasn’t the discipline and regime that took some getting used to, but the difficult practices. They were very long and intensive. I got used to it pretty quickly and got in the right rhythm.
- U20 Team Russia head-coach Valery Bragin came to the games.
- We almost never saw him. He didn’t come to our dressing-room. Perhaps, he was scouting somebody for his team but none of us tried to be a puck hog. We all followed coach’s instructions and played for the team.
- Team Russia was joined by several players who currently play in North America.
- I met Nikita Okhotyuk at a few tournaments for 2000 year borns and I played with Yegor Zamula on the same line at Metallurg. Pavel Dorofeyev also played on the same line with us and he also made the roster. We found out that Yegor was leaving very late – just a few days before the WHL draft. Everybody on the team wished Zamula good luck and to come back to Russia one day.
- Losing to Team USA left Team Russia without medals at the home U18 IIHF World Championship. How tough was that loss?
- Losses like that in front of your fans are really tough. After the game we just sat in the dressing room in silence for a long time. In any case, we did everything we could but we couldn’t look each other in the eye.