He has already become the top scorer of the pre-season tournament in Ufa.
Omskie Yastreby forward Pavel Leuka finished the previous season with two points and only ten games played in the JHL regular season. And this summer, the hockey player became the top scorer of the pre-season tournament in Ufa, having scored 11 points in five games, and netted the brace in three of them. Pavel talked about the beginning of his career in his native city Surgut, the reasons why he had been dreaming of playing in the Avangard system since childhood and his plans for the upcoming season.
– You started playing hockey in Surgut. How did it happen?
– My mom and I were on our way from kindergarten when we noticed the sign "Motocross enrollment." I was still a little child then, but I really got a craving for riding a motorcycle. It was closed there, so we couldn't get in. Then dad wanted to sign me up for soccer, because he himself was a professional soccer player. I played it from early childhood, but when we came there, it turned out that the earliest age kids could begin playing soccer with them was seven years old, and I was only five. After that, my dad took me to a hockey school. At first, they didn’t want to let me join them because of my age, but the coach brought me to the hall and told me to play some soccer. He saw that I was doing well and let me be on the team. I think playing soccer also affected my success in hockey – they both are team games, after all.
– Why did you choose hockey school?
– People in Surgut love this sport very much. This is probably why my dad signed me up for hockey. He was not really fond of hockey before I started playing it, but now my dad loves it.
– Did you do other sports when you were a child?
– I attended a boxing school for about a month, but then I quit because I couldn’t balance it with hockey. Now I’m not so interested in boxing, I can have a punching bag workout by myself, sometimes I watch fights, but only the top ones: for example, those of Conor McGregor or Khabib Nurmagomedov. To be honest, I don’t even know what I would be doing if I hadn’t become a hockey player. I only see myself as a hockey player.
– Did you have any problems at school because of hockey?
– Hockey did not cause any problems for me. I was a sports class pupil, all teachers knew we were hockey players. We were excused from lessons when it was required for practicing, there were no issues with that. I was an A student until the seventh grade, then the sports class was created. After that, I had a slight academic decline. The whole team was in the same class, we wanted to fool around and misbehave, I was devoting less and less time to studying and did not do my homework. I would do better at school if I wanted to, because I could learn anything with ease, except for science. But I did well at examinations, finished nine grades and now I pursue a degree in coaching at college.
– When and how did join the Avangard system?
– I lived in Surgut until the age of 15. After the season, the coach told me that I was to attend the tryouts in Omsk. I came there, a day later we went to a tournament in Sochi. After that tournament, the coach told me that he would like me to join the team. It made me feel happy, because I had been dreaming of playing for Avangard since childhood. Staying without my family was hard, of course, but we called one another every day. My teammates showed me around the city, and I got adjusted after a while.
– Why did you want to play in Omsk?
– I watched hockey games on TV when I was a child, I liked the jerseys of Avangard players. I got to like this team and was dreaming of playing for it. And when I was told about moving to Omsk, I realized that I wanted to become a professional athlete. I don’t know why it had such an impact, I just realized that I would play for such a professional club, and I thought that I needed to keep making progress. In my first season, we became champions of Russia among youth teams comprised of players born in 2003. It was tough, but I was so happy when we won the finals.
– How was your debut season in the JHL?
– The first game against Reaktor was very emotional, I had a hard time playing my game, it was tough. I played like that for almost the entire season, I was scared of making a mistake. It only became easier in the last few games.
– If we talk about the first and so far the only goal scored in official JHL games - what were your emotions?
– I could not score any goals because I was too worried during the season. I finally managed to start playing my game during last two games against Chaika and lighted the lamp eventually. I was happy that I scored, even though it was the last game of the season. But the emotions were great. Then it became easier, I stopped worrying.
– What do you do in your free time?
– It depends: sometimes I just want to lie down for a while and relax, sometimes I prefer outdoor activities. I like playing soccer and basketball with guys. I also go to computer clubs and play Counter-Strike at my leisure. If we take reading, for example, I don't like it at all. I start reading books, but they don't grab me, so I usually don't finish.
– How did you spend your vacation?
– I went to Sochi for a week – rested up a bit, spent some time on a beach. Then I went to Surgut to work out and prepare for the season. We received the program from the coach and I followed it. After that, I went to Omsk for the pre-season training camp, we began an intense training regimen, skated twice a day. Now we have started playing games, so we are getting ready for the season.
– You became the top scorer of the pre-season tournament in Ufa. How did the tournament go for you personally and for the team in general?
– I was playing my game during the tournament, I played with a team result-oriented mindset, luck was on my side at some moments: I made many shots and managed to score some goals. But I think that pre-season tournaments mean nothing. We played well as a team, but we lost to Tolpar because of weak defense and finished second.
– Did the tournament help you feel more confident before the upcoming season?
–The tournament gave me positive emotions, because I became the top scorer, started scoring goals, played better than last season. But it's pre-season - it decides nothing. I can’t evaluate myself, that is what coaches do. I hit the ice and do my job.
– What are your personal and team goals for the next season?
– The main goal for the team is to win the Kharlamov Cup. I want to become a leader and make my debut for senior teams as soon as possible, I will work on making it to the Russian national team.