About the League
Defenseman Nikolai Sulima spent his entire junior career in St. Petersburg. He played for JHC Dynamo for four years and won Junior Hockey League bronze medals with this Northern Capital team. The league’s jubilee season was the final year in juniors for Sulima. He shared his memories and switching to professional hockey with JHL media relations department.
- What did your JHL debut go and why did you decide to be a defenseman?
- I left Serebryanye Lvy [St. Petersburg] in 2015. I was a free agent when I received an offer from Dynamo. I got to know the team at pre-season camp, the players of the system knew me well. I became a defenseman in my rookie JHL season, following the advice of Leonid Grigoriyevich Tambiev. I played my first official JHL game in the 2015-16 season when we faced Krasnaya Armiya [Moscow]. I remember well that I was nervous and worried too much. I was afraid of making many mistakes. But older players such as Artyom Prokhorov, Viktor Plastinin and Valery Belinsky calmed me down and told me that everything was going to be alright. The coach came up to me after the game and praised. I was 17 at the time, just a few days short of my 18th birthday.
- Did you feel that you got to another level?
- I did. The pace of the game was entirely different than in junior hockey school. Junior Hockey League is very different in terms of skill and the level of responsibility is much higher. Now that I’m an alumnus, I know perfectly well how much progress I have made.
- Why did you have to switch schools so often?
- There were several reasons for that. I left Neva for Forward along with the whole team, because Forward junior hockey made a better offer. As for Serebryanye Lvy, I had a few difficulties with the coaching staff there. Although, that’s where I met Andrei Altybarmakyan and Alexei Polodyan over there. We’re still on very good terms. As the matter of fact, I had a great experience prior to moving to Junior Hockey League. I’m grateful to everyone I’ve played with in junior hockey.
- Did you feel nostalgic on road trips to Vladivostok where you faced Taifun?
- My family left Vladivostok when I was very young, so I remember almost nothing of my time there. My grandfather worked in St. Petersburg and my entire family followed him there. So I had to re-discover Vladivostok. Everything I had known about the city was that I was born there.
- What is your most memorable JHL moment?
- The moment when we came back to the dressing-room after winning bronze in 2016. I think my rookie JHL season was the most successful one because I won a medal with Dynamo. Even though it was a bronze, we were overwhelmed with joy. Unfortunately, our team didn’t get to win anything else. Back then it didn’t look that way. I thought I had a lot of time ahead of me to win the main trophy (smiles).
- Defensemen don’t score goals very often. What was you first career JHL goal?
- In the 2016-17 season I took a shot from the blue line in the game against Amurskie Tigry [Khabarovsk] and it went in. I don’t collect pucks, it’s not my thing. And I don’t score all that often.
- In the 2017 Kharlamov Cup Finals you lost to Krasnaya Armiya Moscow, who went on to win the cup. How tough was the series?
- We really had a team of a championship caliber. I felt empty after that loss, everybody on the team felt the same way. However, a year later everything was different. We wanted to get our revenge badly and we did. After that crazy game that we won 8-7 emotions we flying high. We thought we could do anything. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to win the cup but it’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Krasnaya Armiya is one of the toughest teams to play against in the Western Conference. They are on the same level with Loko [Yaroslavl] and SKA-1946 [St. Petersburg]. They always play great and treat these games as something special.
- What was the most difficult JHL game for you?
- It was a game in my rookies season. We faced Chayka [Nizhny Novgorod] in the playoffs. Post-season games are always different from regular season but that series was really difficult. It took a lot of effort.
- How do you see your future in hockey?
- I really hope that ten years later I will still play hockey. I currently study at Russian State Education University. I’m majoring in teaching. I would like to be switch to coaching after I retire.