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Catching Up with Nikolay Kulemin

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

Nikolay Kulemin’s summer hockey schedule took him around the globe.

The Islanders forward started the offseason in Prague playing in the IIHF World Championships, headed home to Magnitogorsk, Russia before training for a month in California, and ultimately wound up back on Long Island.

And you thought your kids traveled a lot for hockey.

Kulemin plays a relentless, high-paced game, but even after playing in all 82 regular-season games and a seven-game playoff series, he still had some gas left in the tank. In an effort to continue his personal season, Kulemin joined Russia at the IIHF Worlds, scoring eight points (one goal, seven assists) in nine games and skating to a silver medal. Russia fell to Canada in the gold medal game, but Kulemin said it was a worthwhile experience overall.

“It’s always a great experience and it’s great to have the opportunity to play a little more,” Kulemin said. “We were out of the playoffs quickly, we should have gone far last year. It was good for me to keep playing for another couple of weeks and keep myself in great shape.”

From Prague, Kulemin took his silver medal and headed east to his hometown, which is approximately 1,000 miles southeast of Moscow, near the Kazakhstan border. He didn’t stop training, but took his foot off the gas pedal enough to enjoy Russia’s summer offerings, which aren’t so different from North America’s. Like many Long Islanders, Kulemin has a friend with a boat and spent time on the water with his family.

He doesn’t golf – no one golfs in Russia, he said – but he does ride ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) in the forest, which he said is one of his favorite hobbies.

After two months at home, hockey became a priority again and another big move was necessary. Kulemin headed west – way west – to Anaheim, where he hooked up with Mikhail Grabovski for a month of hard training. It’s an annual tradition, the sixth-straight year they’ve trained there.

“Our agent set us up there the first time, but we just liked it and kept going there,” Kulemin said. “Every year we have a great time and it’s good training. There are great coaches there and a lot of guys stayed there over the summer. Good weather there, we have good skates there with a lot of NHLers.”

The other NHLers included Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul – a former teammate of Grabovski and Kulemin. Most of the work is on-ice, but Kulemin gets his California on, doing weekly sprints in the sand on the beach – a la Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed in “Rocky III.”

Kulemin left a trail of waves, dirt and sand over his globetrotting summer but eventually summer has to come to an end, even in a place like California. Kulemin – who was one of the last guys off the ice at Wednesday’s skate – is welcoming winter.

“Summer goes by quick,” Kulemin said. “Now we have a couple more weeks to see the guys and train together, but it’s time to go. It’s time for a new season.”

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