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января 2002 года.
It's a Russian evolution // Toronto Star
ATLANTA ? When we last saw Ilya Kovalchuk on the world stage, it was last year's world junior championship and he was being a very bad boy.
Where do we start? Well, first he drove the entire Canadian team bonkers and had some in the hockey establishment questioning his character when he pumped his fist in the air en route to an empty-net goal. Then he was the central figure in a brawl against Switzerland ? a role not new to him ? all the while being a key player on a Russian team that self-destructed its way to a seventh-place finish.
There was a day when Russia wouldn't have chosen an 18-year-old for its Olympic team. The fact that Kovalchuk has been so spotty when it comes to self-discipline would not have gone over particularly well with the dictatorial Viktor Tikhonov.
But times have changed and, when new Russian coach Slava Fetisov pulled Kovalchuk aside for an impromptu chat in the bowels of the Continental Airlines Arena in November, he made it clear that if Kovalchuk continued to score goals, he would be a part of the Russian team. And Kovalchuk has held up his end, taking the league by storm and enters the all-star break with 26 goals, just six behind league-leader Jarome Iginla in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Kovalchuk has been explosive on the ice, but Atlanta Thrasher fans have seen little of the hothead and hotdog reputation that accompanied him to the NHL.
The same player who averaged two penalty minutes a game last season in Russia came out of last night's loss to the Leafs with just 14 minutes.
Part of the lack of flamboyance has to do with the language barrier. While he can clearly understand the questions being asked of him, he prefers to have teammate Jiri Slegr translate for him. It's difficult to be controversial when so much gets lost in the translation. But when he's pressed, Kovalchuk manages to reveal some of that cocky attitude.
When asked if he would ever pump his fist if faced with an empty-net goal against Canada in the Olympics, he says, "Sure, why not?" When told that a year later the Canadian juniors, some of whom didn't even play in the game last year, were still bent on revenge in this year's WJC, he replied, "It's nice to hear that, but obviously they didn't do it, they didn't win again and they didn't learn from it."
It's difficult to tell where Kovalchuk will fit in with the Russian team, but if it were based strictly on this year's merits, he'd be the first-line right winger. His 26 goals give him three more than Alexei Yashin, the next-highest scoring Russian, who potted three last night for the Islanders.
Among right wingers, Kovalchuk has six more than Alexei Kovalev, nine more than Maxim Afinogenov, nine more than Pavel Bure and 23 more than Valeri Bure. It's highly unlikely he'll usurp either Bure or Kovalev, but he certainly would fit in on the third line and the second power-play unit.
"I'm not even thinking about that. I just want to go there and do my best," Kovalchuk said. "I'm feeling good about myself, obviously. I'm just looking forward to going there."
And even though the international stage hasn't exactly brought out the best in him, Kovalchuk will almost certainly be on his best behaviour. His parents, Valeri and Lubov, have been in North America for the last month and will accompany him to Salt Lake.
"I think a lot of that stuff from before had to do with the mentality
of where he was," said Thrashers GM Don Waddell. "He's a really mature
kid for his age and all he wants is to be the best."
Страничка Ильи Ковальчука на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
9 сентября. Kovalchuk may miss start of camp -
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
25 августа. Форвард Илья Ковальчук: Я еду в «Химик»
- Советский Спорт
29 марта .Илья Ковальчук: "Это был ужасный сезон"
9 сентября. Kovalchuk may miss start of camp - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
25 августа. Форвард Илья Ковальчук: Я еду в «Химик» - Советский Спорт
29 марта .Илья Ковальчук: "Это был ужасный сезон" - Спорт-Экспресс