Igor Rabiner of Sports Express in Russia is currently interviewing the coaches who worked with Alex Ovechkin before he left Russia to play in North America. Most recently Rabiner conducted an interview with Alex Ovechkin’s first professional hockey coach, Vladimir Semenov. Semenov was the Head Coach of Dynamo Moscow when Ovechkin scored his first professional goal.
Prior to becoming coach, Vladimir Semenov played for Dynamo Moscow for nine years and was a five-time silver and three-time bronze medalist in the USSR Championships. He became the head coach of Dynamo Moscow before the 2000-01 season and served in that capacity for a year and a half before being fired.
At the beginning of his tenure as Head Coach of Dynamo, Semenov saw a 15-year-old Alexander Ovechkin in training camp. Ovechkin made his debut with Dynamo in the Russian Super League at age 16 during the 2001-02 season, and scored his first professional goal that season.
Semenov did not get to coach Ovechkin for very long, as he was fired in February 2002 and replaced with Zinetula Bilyaletdinov.
Semenov, now 66 and currently training 17-year-olds at Dynamo Moscow’s hockey school, shared many observations about Ovechkin. He was familiar with him when he played at Dynamo’s hockey school for a year and would work with Alexander Maltsev in the evenings. Maltsev and Vitaly Davydov recommended to Semenov that he join the main [Dynamo] team.
Semenov remembers Ovechkin as a good, humble boy. He was physically gifted with powerful skating and already had a great shot.
Q: How do you remember Ovechkin for those months?
VS: The most important thing is that he is a good person…. The guys carried everything [equipment, including skates and sticks] themselves. So Sasha was such a guy that he did not have to be forced. He carried his things, returned, took his sticks, and so on. He didn’t even need to be asked.
Q: Ovechkin’s first game under your leadership in the Super League was on November 14, 2001, in Setun against Wings of the Soviets. And his first goal was scored on January 10, 2002, also on the road against Salavat Yulaev with Alexei Volkov in goal. Do you remember these games and that goal?
VS: To be honest, I’ve forgotten a lot after so many years. You remember this better than I do. I don’t remember either the match in Setun or the game in Ufa, but I remember that I was very confident in Sasha. Most often you put in a young player and think only about one thing – that they will not make a mistake. And Ovechkin had the potential already visible, and one could expect that he would create something on the attack, and not be afraid to mess up.
Q: Did he get emotional when celebrating goals, like running into glass.
VS: Not yet, his goal celebration was calmer.
Q: In the first match for Dynamo, Ovechkin played on the fourth line with Denis Kartsev and … your son [Dmitry Sememov ,who the Detroit Red Wings drafted in Round 4 of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft].
VS: [After some players were transferred elsewhere,] a place was freed up for Ovechkin to play more. It was evident that he seemed his position was more firm. Sasha did not take the place of anyone else on the team.
Q: You were dismissed on February 4, 2002. It’s a shame that you could not participate in further developing of Ovechkin’s talent?
VS: Yes. And one episode from that sad day for me, oddly enough, still warms the soul. I was fired. Afterwards, there was a meeting at the base in Novogorsk where I said goodbye to the players. I go downstairs – and there is Sasha [Ovechkin] who he had tears in his eyes. “Vladimir Georgievich, I’m sorry that we could not help you.” I was so pleased! No one else stood – only him. One. I was very worried about myself, but I am very grateful to him.
The original interview from Sports Express can be found HERE.
By Diane Doyle