About the League
Goaltender Alexei Artamkin is still uncertain whether he should consider himself a Kharlamov Cup champion. In 2016 he didn’t play a single Junior Hockey League playoff game with Loko Yaroslavl but he was still named a champion at the season closing ceremony and was given a jersey with golden lettering.
In any case, Artamkin is proud of his two biggest achievements in his junior career, which are two bronze medals that he has won with Loko and Almaz Cherepovets. In this interview to Junior Hockey League media relations department Alexei Artamkin shares which bronze medal is most valuable to him, his friendship with Anton Krasotkin and Ivan Provorov and what facing his former team was like.
- You won a bronze medal in your debut Junior Hockey League season. What was that like?
- I began the 2014-15 season on Loko-Yunior but I was promoted to JHL team pretty quickly. All in all, my debut season was a success, aside for a minor injury. In the semifinal series against Chayka Nizhny Novgorod I collided with Mikhail Gorshkov and got a concussion. I missed three games in that series because of that. Loko were trailing 2-0, brought the series back to even but still lost in Game 5, settling for bronze medals.
- Oleg Bratash was Loko’s head-coach in that season. He is known for his goaltending past.
- I had known Oleg Vladimirovich before I joined Loko. I watched his expert commentaries when he worked at KHL-TV. He didn’t spend the whole season with us. He was called up to first team a few times, and Dmitry Ivanovich Krasotkin had to fill him in. Although, I spent more time working with Yegor Gennadiyevich Podomatsky, who is Loko’s goaltending coach. Oleg Vladimirovich also was giving me game advice on how I should play in certain situations. For instance, he taught me the right way to play behind the goal and how to stop the puck.
- Yegor Podomatsky is also a legendary goaltender. Did you follow his career?
- I don’t remember well how Podomatsky played. I went to my first Lokomotiv game in 2004, when Marc Lamothe was the starting goaltender. As a coach, Podomatsky was very positive and talkative. The day after the game, all goaltenders would gather in his video-room, where we would go over the mistakes that occurred in the game. And everyone could say whatever he wanted, argue and even joke.
- Despite putting up decent statistics in your debut season, you spent most of the 2015-16 season on Loko-Yunior. Why?
- Loko had a lot of great goaltenders that year, all of which were more or less of the same level. So I was sent down to JHL-B to gain game experience. When the playoffs came, Yegor Podomatsky came up to me and told me that Anton Krasotkin was going to be Loko’s starting goaltender. He offered me to play for Loko-Yunior, that were also in the playoffs.
- Loko won their first Kharlamov Cup in franchise history that season. How frustrating was it following your team from the outside?
- It was my decision to play for Loko-Yunior. I had a choice back then – either play in JHL-B or sit on the bench in JHL-A. I chose the first option. Loko-Yunior were just in their third season, they had a very young group of guys, who were a few years everyone’s junior, so I had a lot of work. In the end we went on to win the first bronze in Loko-Yunior franchise history. I didn’t envy or hold any grudges. When Loko beat Chayka in the final game of the series, I texted my congratulations to all coaches and players. I was happy for them.
- Moreover, you were invited to share that championship moment with Loko at the season closing ceremony.
- I was on JHL-A the whole season and played only several games in JHL-B. I was told that Loko is a big family and they wanted to see me up on stage with Kharlamov Cup along with everyone else. Junior Hockey League rules say that all players who were on the team’s active roster by the end of the season receive gold medals and it doesn’t matter how many games did they play. I didn’t get the medal but I have Loko jersey with golden lettering to remember that season by.
- You met a lot of players on Loko. For example, Anton Krasotkin. How was your relationship with him?
- Back in junior hockey school we played for the same team – Lokomotiv-1997. That’s why either one of us was always in goal at the tournaments. He’s a very calm person and we have never had any conflicts. In the 2017-18 season we played against each other in KHL when Severstal faced Lada. We met after the game by the dressing-room and said a few warm words to each other.
- Ivan Provorov practiced with that 1997 team.
- We played less with each other because he left to America when he was 14. Nevertheless, we have stayed in touch all this time. We talk via Skype and still are friends. I follow his career as I watch almost all NHL highlights. This summer I met him and Mikhail Yesayan in Yaroslavl. We hung out. I asked him about his injury and Vanya said that he felt much better and that he was going to be ready for next season.
- Your brother plays for Yaroslavl junior hockey school team. How is he doing?
- He’s also a goaltender. Although, back in day I tried to convince him against it but he didn’t want to hear of it. He has a few achievements already. Last year Maxim was named the top goaltender of Lokomotiv-2005. It’s exciting that we play the same position. I try to help him avoid the mistakes I’ve done. When I played for Yaroslavl, I would go to his practices, give him advice and take shots on him. We call each other all the time these days and he tells me how his games go.
- In 2017 you joined Almaz from Loko. How difficult was it to make that decision?
- Before the season they gave it to me straight – I didn’t have much chance to play for Lokomotiv’s KHL team, while I wanted to go forward. I took that information calmly. I just asked my agent to look for new options for me. It took him a while. The fact that I had an active contract with Lokomotiv only made things more complicated. In the end, the season was just two weeks away and there I was still without a team. I was practicing by myself. Loko-Yunior goaltending coach Anton Igorevich Shustov found ice for to practice and worked with me, putting me threw drills. In the last moment I got an offer from Almaz.
- In your first season with Cherepovets Almaz eliminated Loko from Kharlamov Cup Playoffs.
- I was great to beat my former team. I was excited to play against the guys with whom I practiced just recently. During the series I still hung out with a few Loko guys. Despite the fact that we played for different teams, we still maintained a great relationship. Nobody held any grudges and there were no conflicts. After the series they all wished us to win the Kharlamov Cup.
- In the next round of the 2017 playoffs you knocked out SKA-1946 St. Petersburg.
- When I was watching the final series of this season, it occurred to me that last year we had beat both finalists. Those losses definitely did them good.
- You got your first paintjob in Cherepovets. Why hadn’t you done it earlier?
- I didn’t want to. In 2017 I signed a 2-year deal with Severstal and I decided to celebrate it this way. I got a boxer painted on my mask – it’s Silvestre Stallone as Ricky Balboa. Rocky is a great motivational movie. Many fans noticed NHL logo at my mask stripes. It wasn’t my decision. The factory produces it like that.
- You won bronze medals with both – Loko and Almaz. Which one to you cherish more?
- The bronze medal that I won with Loko is valuable as it was my first trophy in junior hockey. But I cherish the 2017 medal more. I was the starting goaltender throughout the playoffs for Almaz. I played almost every minute of it.
- On Severstal you were the backup to one of the most exciting KHL goaltenders – Julius Hudacek.
- Julius is a very open person and he speaks Russian really well. We had a great relationship with him. We still keep in touch and text to each other. Julius had great stories about everything – about his daughters, his life in Slovakia, the time he spent in Sweden. He joked a lot. You could put his jokes on schedule. Actually, we he told us about his time in Sweden, he explained how he got the Huda-show idea. Frölunda goaltender did something similar and when he retired, Julius inherited that tradition.
- Vitaly Vishnevsky played for Severstal last season. He also had played for Yaroslavl. How was your relationship with him?
- Actually, I met Vitaly in Yaroslavl a few years ago when he was practicing with our junior team. He didn’t have a signed contract back then and was getting ready for the season individually. That’s why he practiced with the junior team. Vitaly is a great man. It was great to hear him talk about his time with Lokomotiv and his life in California.
- Many Junior Hockey League alumni are married men but only a few have kids. You are among these special few.
- The most important thing in family is to have the right wife. I am very lucky in that regard. She can feel when she should just leave me alone and let me rest. If our daughter cries at night, she goes to another room so she wouldn’t wake me up. I thought it was going to be a lot harder but my wife takes care of everything and supports me in everything.