HC Vityaz of the KHL conducts “Ask a Question” sessions during each off-season, where fans can ask questions of a designated player on the team. This week, their Captain and former Washington Capital, Alexander Semin, took time to answer questions. The Vityaz website published the answers for Part 1 on June 10. (NoVa Caps discussed Part 1 here.)
Part 2 includes additional questions from fans and also answers questions from the media. Many of these questions and answers were transcribed and published on the Vityaz website and social media on June 11.
Questions from Aleksey Safronov
ASaf: Alexander, do you feel that the fans consider you to be the best Vityaz player in terms of creativity, cunning and stick handling?
AS: I go out on the ice and play, but you know better. [with a smile].
ASaf: And I also want to ask: do you like everything about the team, and would you like to play in Vityaz while there is a desire for hockey?
ASem: If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t play. Vityaz is good organization in the hockey business.
ASaf: When your playing career is over do you plan to open a hockey school and show hockey players your phenomenal stick technique? I really hope that it will not end soon.
ASem: You can dream about a lot. Time will tell. I don’t think about it now.
Questions from Alexander Regentov
AR: Alexander, I admire your game! Glad I can ask a question. Are you engaged in physical training outside the walls of Vityaz whenever there is a vacation, quarantine or breaks between games?
AS: Now I work out individually with a personal trainer. With the Internet, now everyone can see what he needs to do and how to do it. At one point, a friend and I used a coupon and went to the gym, where we did the exercises ourselves. It’s not hard to come up with something. And it’s necessary to run as a hockey player needs stamina. The main desire!
AR: Would you recommend roller blades?
AS: Roller blading is almost the same [as ice skating]. Only you slow down in a different way. For summer training – a great exercise.
AR: Are you training your son, Sasha? Do you play hockey with him? I saw him at the Vityaz school. Thanks for answers.
AS: Of course, we work with with our eldest son, Sasha, especially in the summer.
Questions from Tikhon Sedov
TS: Would you like to try being in the role of a coach for Vityaz?
AS: I doubt it.
Questions from Savva Gerasin
SG: Are you glad to stay at Vityaz?
AS: Yes, we have a good team again.
Questions from Kirill Ermolenko
KE: As a team captain, what do you say to players before the game?
AS: I say something like, “Come on, guys!” It is clear that we always want to win, and positivity must be passed on to the guys.
Questions from Alexander Romanov.
AR: Take the goblet? [Likely, referring to ultimately winning the Gagarin Cup]
AS: That’s what we are going to win!
Questions from the Press Office of Vityaz:
Q: Alexander, you played for the Russian team in the IIHF Under 18 World Juniors, the Under 20 World Juniors, and the World Championships, twice winning the world championships, in 2008 and 2012. You also played at two Olympics – in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
Do you remember how you got an invitation to the national team when you were 16 years old? Which of the coaches called you to their training camp, and how did you find out about this?
AS: Ravil Iskhakov was our coach in the junior team when we took second place at the IIHF Under 18 World Juniors. To be honest, I don’t remember as many details about the teams when I was a younger age.
[Interestingly, at the IIHF Under 18 World Juniors in 2002 in the Slovak cities of Trnava and Pishtyana, the top scorer for Russia was Alexander Ovechkin with 18 points (14 goals+ 4 assists), and Alexander Semin was second with 15 points (8 goals + 7 assists). Semin had played under Iskhakov for the Under 16 team in 1999-20, the Under 17 team in 2000-01, and the Under 18 team in 2001-02]
Q: Alexander came to the 2002 NHL draft, after playing for Tractor [Chelyabinsk] the prior year, and not in the strongest draft class. How was the trip to Toronto, Canada organized? Who helped you and how long did you spend overseas during that period? Did you have any idea before the draft ceremony that Washington would be the team that chose you?
AS: No, I didn’t know which club would choose me. I flew overseas for five days, with my agent and my parents. My parents are Valery Alekseevich and Tatyana Alexandrovna. I thank them for everything. They live across the way from me and I see them every day. They love the grandchildren and we communicate daily. They prepare pies and dumplings for the grandchildren, and I eat them too [he smiles], because I also love them. And yet – buns, borscht. I like sushi too. The meat is good. I always cook steaks myself on the outside.
Q: Question about skating technique. Before the NHL draft, they wrote that few of those chosen in that draft had as good of a skating technique as yours.
AS: I have not heard about it.
Q: During the lockout season of 2004-05, were there any offers from other teams besides Lada?
AS: I did not consider others. Because Pyotr Ilyich [Vorobiov] was there. And I liked it in Lada. I was young and everything suited me.
[Pyotr Vorobiov was Head Coach of Lada at the time and Semin had a great relationship with him. His son, Ilya, had coached Metallurg Magnitogorsk while Semin played there in 2015-16 and 2016-17.]
Questions from the VK group “Our“ Vityaz ”, Roman Zvyagintsev
Q: Alexander, during the 2017-18 season you played for Sokol [Krasnoyarsk] in the VHL. Tell me, is the difference between the level of hockey players there and in the KHL really big? Simply, even now, casual fans and people outside the KHL rarely pay attention to players from the VHL.
AS: Hockey is the same everywhere. In the KHL, reactions are faster. In the VHL, too, everyone runs and gives effort. There is no great difference.
Q: What is the best thing about the VHL (apart from the fact that you played in your hometown) and, conversely, the worst that you had to face there?
AS: Playing at home is a great pleasure, incomparable with anything! I then promised my grandmother that I would play at home, and she was able to come to a hockey game and see me play. It was great happiness for me. The worst thing was long flights with transfers.
Q: About the “salary cap.” How do you feel about it from a player’s point of view of the player, and from the point of view of the League?
AS: It’s not the players’ right to get involved in this matter, and I don’t interfere in the process. The head of the KHL, Alexei Morozov, and his associates know what they are doing. My business is to play. We communicate well when we see each other. We were together when we won the World Championship in 2008.
Q: After Vityaz acquired Alexei Byvaltsev in a trade, [Head Coach] Mikhail Kravets played you both in the top three for the first month, but you still haven’t found chemistry with each other. Why didn’t it work? It seemed to me that both of you like to be with the puck, to manage the game on the line, and therefore have duplicated each other’s functions a little. Is this observation true, or was it a different reason?
AS: Maybe we needed more time to play together? Apparently, it took more time to get used to one other.
Q: Last season you received 69 penalty minutes, which is significantly more than the year before. Moreover, you had two 7 game streaks of getting at least one penalty — one in October after that famous trade and one in February. Was there something going on with your emotions at that time or is it just a coincidence? Moreover, in those 14 games you scored 13 points.
AS: The referees called many penalties for some reason. Sometimes, there were no violations. But this is my opinion. I cannot and will not discuss their work. Moreover, I do not discuss it on ice.
Q: You said, “Of course, I want to play for the national team as well!” Everything goes to the fact that players from the NHL will not be able to come to the next world championship. This means that your chances of getting chosen are significantly increased. It is no secret that in recent years, KHL guys have played in the World Championships. Now the situation has changed, do you think this will be an additional incentive for everyone and you, personally?
AS: I will go out and play. If called to the team – good!
Q: There was also a question about coaching. Now you feel like a “uncle-mentor” for young guys in the locker room, in practices and on ice, when Moiseyev plays with you in the top three, and young Pylenkov in defense? Does this add responsibility? Transfer experience?
AS: I can tell them some things, but no more. The main directions are from the coaches.
Q: When you were a young player, who among the experienced players served as a mentor for you? Did any of them affect your game or behavior?
AS: In “Lada”, Oleg Belkin and Alexander Nesterov mentored me. In Washington, it was Victor Kozlov and Sergey Fedorov.
Q: Vityaz signed a contract with Matthias Tedenby. When you played in Washington player, you have played against him when he was with the New Jersey Devils six times. Do you remember anything about him?
AS: I do not remember him, he was young then. I’ll get to know him better in Podolsk. We are waiting for the opening of the training camp.
That concludes the two part Question and Answer with Semin. Vityaz will move on to another player for the next Q&A.
By Diane Doyle