Alexander Semin still enjoys playing hockey. After earlier attempts at retirement, the 36-year-old winger is back doing what he really loves.
“As corny as it sounds, I like it. And I liked it from early childhood. Doing your favorite work is true happiness,” said Semin in an exclusive interview for the KHL website
The former Washington Capital and current Captain of Vityaz Moscow, along with the rest of the KHL, continues to play hockey, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, like most other professional hockey players, Semin may be happy playing the game he loves, but he misses the fans.
“It is clear that no one likes to play without spectators. We lack their support. After all, we play for the fans. Without them, it can sometimes feel more like practice.”
Semin knows fans can still watch on television and on the internet, but it’s still not the same for him. He misses the atmosphere.
“Of course. We do not forget this. But I want people to shout in the arena as that is an appropriate atmosphere. Playing in silence is a little different, but we get used to it.”
The KHL is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in varying ways, depending on the region. Some regions are now allowing fans to attend games, while in Moscow, home of Vityaz, fans are still forbidden to attend games, something Semin understands.
“How can I complain about injustice? As our authorities decide – so it will be. So now there is a high incidence. How can you judge someone? Everything is done for the health of people. Our task is to play hockey. It is the task of the authorities is to make decisions,” said Semin. “You go out and play as well as you can. You try to get these emotions out of yourself. There is no other way.”
As for Semin and his Vityaz teammates, they are dealing with the virus the best they can.
“Everyone was sick, both with us and for other teams. Each person handled the illness differently. I felt uneasy for several days. Broke. But all people are different. Some people recover faster. Some people take longer.”
Semin feels he is a different person these days. His children are the primary reason.
“I think every person gets wiser over the years. You cannot be the same at age 36 as you were at age 20. I, like all people, do not stand still. Once the children arrived, other activities have been found and priorities have changed. There is more responsibility.”
But Semin is quite content, playing hockey right where he is. And for now, retirement remains off the table.
“We [his agent and him] talked with the management. I said that everything suits me, I like everything. I didn’t want to leave Vityaz to go anywhere else. If we talk about retirement, I still have enough strength and desire to play hockey. If it were not there, I would have retired,” said Semin.
“I think that every player after a certain age begins to pay more attention to his body. It is difficult to go from age 20 to age 40 at the same level. You need to change. Physically, there is some decline, but not in thinking, not in the vision of the game.”
Semin was asked if Sergei Fedorov, who played until the age 42, was a good example for him.
“Each person looks at his condition, chooses what is best for him. Everyone has a different body. Of course, Sergei is a professional, but it does not happen that one recipe is universal for all athletes. Sometimes you need more time to rest.”
Semin and the team are currently in a slump, where Semin himself hasn’t scored in eight games. He says there is no reliable recipe for breaking out of slumps.
“You just have to keep doing what you did before. Sooner or later it will break through. There is no point in being nervous and worried. It will only make it worse,” said Semin.
“In my opinion, psychology generally decides everything. Yes, at the moment the team is not in the best condition. We have lost a lot of games. We can’t score – it feels crushing. So you need to dig in and score dirty goals. And everything will definitely come. At the beginning of the season, the team won. We’ll need to get our luck back.”
Semin was asked whether, as captain, he could judge his teammates harshly and if he tried to motivate them to improve.
“Anything can happen in a hockey team. There were conversations. As a captain, I have to prompt to change something.”
With many other Russian players either ending or planning to end their hockey careers in their hometowns, like Pavel Datsyuk now playing with Yekaterinburg and Alex Ovechkin planning to return to Moscow Dynamo, Semin was asked if he wished to return to Sokol in his native Krasnoyarsk.
“I’ve already played for the Falcon. I wanted to play and did it. I will stay in hockey as long as I have strength. Where will I finish? We’ll see.”
The full interview from the HC Vityaz website can be found here.
Note: HC Vityaz Moscow won their game of November 20, beating Severstal 4-1 and made it back into the “Top 8” and playoff position. Semin was not in the lineup.
By Diane Doyle