About the League
Hockey came into my life when I was six years old when one my dad was watching an Avangard game on TV. I loved kicking the ball around and I was excited to see a new and, as it turned out, the biggest game of my life. I listened to what commentators were saying and asked my dad what all of that meant. My father grew up in a village in Kurgan Region. When he was a kid, his dream was to play hockey. He never missed any Team USSR games. Valery Kharlamov was his favorite player. Dad loved the game so much, he even put the legendary hockey player’s jersey number on his coat – 17. He played hockey on the lake in winter and made his sticks from suitable branches. When my dad told me about that, I was amazed at how much he wanted to play the game. His dream never came true but I’m going to do whatever it takes to make him proud.
My dad saw right away that I fell in love with hockey and he talked to me about it. A little later we went to an outside rink to see if I should start going to practices. I will always look back with a smile at the first time I stepped onto the ice. I fell a number of times that day. My father was very worried. He was afraid I was going to tell him that I didn’t like it and that we would go home. But I was watching other people skate around me and knew that I was going to get better. When it got darker outside, I could more or less stand up on skates and I was very happy. I remember that day as one of the most vivid of my childhood. We came back home and I went to tell my mom all about it right away. I told her that I loved skating. She found out where I could sign up for hockey practice and where I should go.
Viktor Alexandrovich Zykov was my first coach. He spoke to me and my father. A little after that I began practicing with my peers. I knew right away that I wanted to be a forward because when I played soccer with my dad I was always happy to score goals. Actually, I spent a lot of time outdoors when I was a kid. The only thing I needed back then was a soccer ball in the summer. In the winter all needed were a hockey stick and a puck. I would go to school in the morning, then practiced in the afternoon, then I would spend sometime outside and would crane over my homework till early morning. That was my schedule almost everyday. I almost didn’t notice how my childhood ended. I was never bored. Now that I got older I understand how big of a role my parents played in my life. They gave me everything they could and I’m eternally grateful to them for everything they have done for me and our family. I have an older sister, who also helped me a lot when I was a kid. I remember how she used to drive me to practices and carried my bags for me. I’m very grateful to her for the support she continues to give me even these days.
Avangard-1997 was my first team. At first we weren’t losing any games at all. We didn’t know any losses literary. I remember we had a 36 game season and we finished it with 36 wins and no losses. I believe it was because of our coach that we had such a great team. When we got a little older, other teams caught up to us and began stepping on our toes. We made it all the way to the top with some guys from that team and we still play together. One of them is my friend Maxim Mineyev, who has already been called up a few times to Olympic Team Russia.
I had #27 throughout my entire childhood because I was a huge fan of Alexei Kovalyov. But since that number was taken, I had to take another one. I just liked #39 better than others.
Joining Junior Hockey League
They began calling me up to practice with JHL team since I was 16 years old. I knew almost everybody on the team from junior hockey school. When I graduated from junior hockey school, I made my major junior debut. First we played two pre-season tournaments and then we went on the road. Our first game was against Ladiya and we lost that game blowing a 3-0 lead. I got my very first Junior Hockey League point on that road trip and on my next road trip I scored my first regular season goal. It happened in Naberezhnye Chelny and it had something to do with the specialties of the local arena. Early in the third period home team defenseman started the rush. The ice was still a little wet and there were even a few puddles here and there. I went on the forecheck, picked up the stuck puck, got in on a breakaway and made it count. We won and went back home in a good mood.
My first season was eventful. I played in almost every regular season game and then in the playoffs as well. Omskie Yastreby play at Omsk-Arena so I had the chance to follow our first team – how they practice and get prepared for the games. I quickly adapted. After a few preseason games I knew what I had to do and how I should play at different ends of the ice. Our team finished the regular season second in the standings and we went on to face Tyumensky Legion in the opening round of the playoffs. We won the series 3-0 and in the next round we had to play Reaktor Nizhnekamsk. They had an older team. The series turned out to be intense and every game was a 1-goal game. In the end Nizhnekamsk won the series 3-1. That season taught me a lot. I definitely became a more experienced player.
JHL Challenge Cup
The Challenge Cup is a great event. Ufa held that All-Star Week at a high level. It was a true spectacle for the fans. It all began with the Challenge Cup. East versus West. Ufa Arena was absolutely packed. It was my first experience playing in front such a huge crowd. I was a little nervous but a few shifts into the game I got in the rhythm and it was easier from that point on. We were trailing 1-0 but managed to tie it up late in regulation. The game went to overtime and then to the shootout. Team West won in the shootout. It’s always tough to lose such an intense game. When I was named one of the top players of the game, I had mixed emotions. Shortly after I realized that it was great because I got the opportunity to participate in the KHL All-Star Game.
This new rule is a great opportunity for young players to step onto the ice with the top Kontinental Hockey League players. I was on Team Division Bobrov. I wanted to be on that team from the beginning because that was the team with the most famous players. Shortly before the game they told me that I was going to play with Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. They are great hockey players and world class stars. I was just happy to be there. They turned out to be easy-to-approach people in real life, despite everything they have won.
2017 line: Kovalyov, Manukyan and Tretiakov
In the 2016-17 season our line was very productive. We were just having fun out there, played the passing game and improvised. The coaches gave us a lot of freedom, a lot of ice-time and that helped us to get confident. Artyom is a real motor of the team. His activity always proved to be troublesome for the opponents. Stas always saw the ice well and could make any kind of pass. You just had to wait for it. We scored almost in every game but that season had a bad ending because we missed the playoffs.
Kontinental Hockey League debut
I made my KHL debut in Omsk. We were going to play Jokerit Helsinki. I was told the before the game to come practice with the first team. Andrei Vladimirovich Skabelka told me that I was going to be dressed as the 13th forward. Early in the game one of our players got injured and the coaches told me to get ready. Jokerit is one of the fastest teams in the league so we had to keep up with them. It’s an indescribable feeling to step onto the ice in your hometown. Omsk fans are absolutely fantastic. They always cheer for their team. That was my first career game for Avangard.
Sibirskie Snaipery are the arch-rivals of Omskie Yastreby in the East. Games against them are always intense with a lot of physical battles. Siberian rivalry is a special game and everybody gives it a 100%. It’s difficult to score on Konstantin Lobachyov, just ask any forward in the East. He always plays till the end and if he gets in the zone, you’re going to have to get really creative to get anything past him.
Now the team is in the rebuilding mode. There are a lot of young players, who need time to become team leaders and gain confidence. As far as I know, there will be a lot of young players next season, who can bring the team to another level. If they’re going to work hard and listen to the coaches, the team is going to do well. Omskie Yastreby have some talented players.
This season I played in three leagues. I had to adapt every time, which took a bit of an effort. I spent the first half of the season in the VHL, then went back to JHL, played a few games there and was called up to Avangard. The season turned out to be very interesting. VHL was a great step towards the next level. It wasn’t easy but I managed. I knew well what I needed to do. Hard work always pays off. That’s something I believe in and I always follow the rule.
The time that I spent in Junior Hockey League will always have a special place in my heart. The league taught me a lot and gave me a lot of great options for further development. I even managed to make my mark in JHL history, which came as a nice little bonus. I have to keep moving forward and set new goals for myself. I wish JHL further development and quality progress.
Shortly before the end of the regular season I was sent to Karaganda to play for Saryarka. The VHL Playoffs had started by then and we were facing Metallurg Novokuznetsk. It was an interesting series, which went to Game 7 where nobody wanted to lose. Game 7 went to double overtime and, unfortunately, we lost. I would like to thank the coaching staff and Saryarka team management for their trust and the development that I got there. I spent almost four months in Kazakhstan and gain a good experience.
I’m graduating from university this year. Higher education is very important in our days. I have almost no time for studies during the season. That’s why I go hard at it on vacation and go through all the tests. I think, most hockey players can relate to that.
I was born and raised in Omsk, in Stary Kirovsk. The locals now that it’s not the safest place in our city. My parents still live there and I visit them often, especially in the off-season. I like my city. Everybody knows that people love their hockey in Omsk and passionately support Avangard. I prefer to spend my spare time with my family and friends. In the summer we often go to Kostya Lobachyov’s country house. It’s almost a tradition at this point. There’s barbecue, soccer and sauna.
I don’t have any idols. Although, of course, I follow the sports. I read sport news everyday. As I said, I’ve loved to play every sport since I was a kid. Aside from hockey, I’d say I like basketball and soccer. I just like ball games. In the Stanley Cup Finals I rooted for the Washington Capitals, of course, because they have our Russian guys. I’m very happy that they will bring the trophy to Russia. I also follow the NBA Finals. I root for Cleveland because I’ve always enjoyed the way LeBron James plays. And, of course, soon our country is going to host the FIFA World Cup. I’m to follow the tournament closely and root for Team Russia.