How did you start playing hockey? I started playing hockey when I was four years old. We read an article in the paper that said there was a hockey school that wanted players born in 1980 so my father asked me if I wanted to join. I actually said no at first and then he asked me again in September so I said, “Sure, I’ll go try it.”
How would you describe Oskemen to others? It’s like 600,000 people, so not small, just a good-sized city. We had two indoor rinks and a bunch of outdoor rinks is all we had growing up. We have four or five factories in the city like zinc, uranium and titanium so that’s where a lot of people work.
How big of a hockey town is Oskemen? Now it’s not as much since Russia has taken over pretty much everything. My hometown team is still playing though, in the secondary Russian league, but back then, it was a really big hockey town.
What was your town known for when you were growing up? Before the USSR broke down in ’92, we had one of the best hockey schools in the USSR that a lot of good players came out of.
What were the biggest differences when you left to go play in North America? Everything was different, the culture, language, the style of living, everything was brand new for me.
Fondest memory growing up? When I made it on my first pro-team when I was 16 and my father was at the game and I scored my first goal. That was pretty memorable for my family and me.
What are the fans like there? Back then it was different. It was a sold out crowd of 5,500 each game and they cheered for us really loud but there wasn’t anything signature or any hockey card trading or anything like that.
Who was your idol growing up? My idol hockey idol growing up was Mario Lemieux. I loved watching him play.
Second to hockey, what is the second most popular sport? I would say boxing would be the second biggest sport. We have a few guys in the Olympics and in the World Championships doing really well.
What do you miss most? Friends and family from all of the good years I spent there and also, I miss all the fans back at home.