ALEXANDER GOPIYENKO: “2-YEAR DEAL WITH AMUR IS A NEW CHALLENGE FOR ME”

ALEXANDER GOPIYENKO: “2-YEAR DEAL WITH AMUR IS A NEW CHALLENGE FOR ME”
Interview
06.07.2020 в 18:00
ALEXANDER GOPIYENKO: “2-YEAR DEAL WITH AMUR IS A NEW CHALLENGE FOR ME”
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Khabarovsk hockey school alumnus speaks about his journey to Amur’s first team.

- Many fans believe there are no local hockey school alumni on Amur but you prove to be an exception. How difficult was your journey from the hockey school to KHL’s team?
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There are as many opinions as there are people, as they say. Not everyone gets to see the everyday hockey life. From kindergarten to fifth grade we would wake up before six o’clock in the morning and we get on the bus with a bags packed. I live in South District, it’s pretty far from Platinum Arena. I would have to take two buses to get to my first morning practice. After that I would go to the kindergarten with my equipment on so I wouldn’t be late. It got easier when I began going to school across the road and we got our own dressing room. I would go to school from practice and vice versa. But I will never forget riding a bus with my equipment on and hockey stick in hands. The whole experience toughens you up.

- Your parents told in an interview published on Junior Hockey League website they had to deal with everything – injuries, adversities, blood, sweat and sleepless nights.
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That’s right. Sometimes my practice would begin at 6-45am so my parents would have to wake up at 5am to drive me there before going to work. Sometimes they had to get permission to come in late and if they couldn’t they would ask their friends and family to help me. Even now we talk after the games and discuss them. My kindergarten teacher and my former classmates follow my career. My parents were always at my Junior Hockey League home games if they weren’t busy at work. My first coaches Vitaly Pavlovich and Roman Vitalievich often came to the games as well. You can’t achieve anything without injuries, blood and sweat.

- What were the most difficult and elated moments of your young career?
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Obviously, it was recovering from injuries and first success as a kid. A lot of guys had to part ways with hockey because of injuries. I wish all of them to have great health. When I was told I was sent to Krasnoyarsk and then would compete at JHL Challenge Cup – that was an overwhelming moment for me. There were a lot of good and memorable moments when I was in junior hockey school. The most memorable tournament was in Novobureyny. We played in the winter outdoors. We were welcome there. It was great. We battled against local team Nadezhda.

- What advice would you give to parents who sign up their children for hockey school at a young age?
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I would advise them not to get mixed up in practices. There were a lot of stories like that. At first parents were allowed to come to practices but then everyone was denied access. There is a coach and he knows better. Not everyone understands that an incompetent person would never be allowed to work with children. I was lucky to have great coaches along the entire way. You know, a coach is like your second father. He knows and sees everything. I’m always in touch with my first coach these days – Roman Vitalievitch Lapshin. Last season I attended a few of his practices and helped him out with children. Kids don’t get distracted by their parents because subconsciously you still seek them out in the stands and don’t listen to the coach. I would also wish everyone to have a lot of patience and hard work.

- How difficult was it to adjust from junior hockey school to junior hockey?
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It took some time to adapt. Luckily, I was making the jump along with my coaches. Yuri Fimin knew me well/ I’m grateful to him for his trust and the ice-time he was giving me. I did my best to fully live up to his expectations. We had a good team, there were a lot of local guys and everyone knew each other well and helped each other out. Junior hockey school coaches are very demanding but fair. Konstantin Robertovich Arendov and Alexander Nikolayevich Kascheyev taught me a lot.

- You travelled often this season. You played for Amurskie Tigry and VHL’s Sokol Krasnoyarsk. How would you grade this season?
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I went into the season without thinking that I may be called up to VHL. I just played and captained my team. We had a lot of rookies this year. I managed to score my first hat-trick in Junior Hockey League. The call-up to Sokol came unexpected. I was invited there when I was at the JHL Challenge Cup. I would travel between JHL and VHL throughout the season during pauses. I logged a lot of miles. The year turned out to be a productive one and hockey gave me a lot. I got to experience VHL playoffs atmosphere and scored my first goal. It came in the last game, in the third period in Kazan. Unfortunately, we lost and our season was over but I still went home in good mood. I believe I got better as a person and as a player.

- Was it difficult to move to Krasnoyarsk mid-season?
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Basically, it was the first time I moved. I mean, Khabarovsk is my home. My parents, family and friends are there. In Krasnoyarsk I stayed at hotel at the baza. I had to adapt for everyday issues and got more serious. Obviously, I missed home meals but it went away. I would like to thank Sokol organization. They were very professional and ready to help me when the need arose.

- Did you expect to ink a 2-year deal with Amur?
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Obviously, I was very happy. It was a huge news for my family. It’s our collective achievement because behind every hockey player there is a big family and support of his loved ones. It’s a huge responsibility for me. I prepare for the season and get ready ready to work hard. I told the news to my first coaches. They congratulated me and wished me luck. They follow my career.

- Are you ready for the summer camp? Did you have time to rest?
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I didn’t have much time to rest. When I got home I had to do all the tests at my university that I missed. I recently got my diploma. I spent most of the time at the cottage, helping out my parents. Garden, potatoes, sauna – the whole deal. We even have a tractor and a field. I self-isolated myself outdoors and made the most of it. I began getting ready for the season in June. I went to the gym once they got opened and have begun skating as well.

- Are you able to use the arenas at full capacity once they got opened?
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Not all arenas operate at full capacity. I would put on my equipment at home and drive to the rink so I would have to put it on outside the arena exposed to all the bugs. I was never pulled over, otherwise it would have been a funny situation. It brought me back to my childhood, although, obviously, it’s more comfortable in my own car. Dressing-rooms and showers are currently off limits. We have to practice under these circumstances for now, there’s nothing we can do.

- You have definitely had your fair share of challenges.
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Here’s another thing about JHL Challenge Cup. I will remember it for the rest of my life for its ambience and positive energy. I tried to joke around and talk to everyone. I was the energy guy in the dressing-room, even though it was full of guys who are leaders on their teams. I got filmed for Alexei Shevchenko’s show, I was also in Hashtag JHL, talked to Alexei Morzov and told him a funny story about skates. It came sort of random. He was at practice with a reporter and I decided not to be shy and skated to him to say hi. It’s frustrating that we didn’t win but I got a lot of positive emotions, anyway.

- What is your main goal for the season?
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I don’t have illusions about myself. The main thing is to adjust and get a regular spot on the team and then we’ll go from there. It’s going to be a different workload and level of game. It’s another challenge for me and I hope I can deal with it. Nikita Linnik and Zhenya Babushkin will also be there with me at the camp. Together we went through junior hockey school, youth league and Junior Hockey League. I wish them luck and to show what they are capable of.

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