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Kovalev's really flyin' - Calgary Sun
By RANDY SPORTAK
NEW YORK -- It's probably the happiest any player has been about a trip to the minors.
Early in his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, current Calgary Flames defenceman Andrew Ference received the news -- yet again -- he was headed back to the AHL.
As Ference readied for the drive, Alexei Kovalev stepped in and made the journey a little more enjoyable.
"That was the year I was going back and forth and I'd made that drive from Wilkes-Barre about five or six times," Ference recalled. "The last time I was sent down, (Kovalev) said, 'You're not driving. I'm going to fly you.'
"It was great. He'd just got his new plane and was like a proud father."
Players come up with a litany of activities to relax. Flames enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa studies the stars and goaltender Jamie McLennan plays both drums and guitar.
Kovalev follows the path started by the Wright brothers.
"You enjoy the freedom when you go up in the sky," said the New York Rangers forward. "You can't imagine what it's like to land at a different airport, 100 miles away, and it only took half an hour.
"Plus, you don't have to go through all the security and check in."
Kovalev took to his hobby during his first stint with the Broadway Blueshirts after a friend of a friend took him for a trip above Manhattan.
"He gave me the controls for a little bit and I got hooked on it," he said. "I told my wife I wanted to learn to fly airplanes but she said I couldn't, so I said, 'Well, then I'll buy a motorcycle.' She said, 'No, buy an airplane.' "
First came the lessons, then came the plane -- a six-seater Cessna.
"I wasn't that great at school but I can't believe how good I'm getting at it to fly airplanes," said Kovalev, who's been known to take the odd off-day excursion to the Carolinas or Florida for a round of golf. "I guess it's because in school you learn to know it and show your teacher you know it but with airplanes you want to learn so you can fly."
Naturally, flying a small plane isn't enough.
Kovalev, who kept his New York home while in Pittsburgh so he flew back and forth regularly, is now looking for something with a little more oomph.
"It's just like a car. You buy a car and think it's fast at the beginning but after a month you want something faster," he said.
"With airplanes, you get in and fly it thinking it's fast but want something faster when you get used to it.
"I'm thinking to move to the next step and buy a bigger plane, you know, so I can take the family on vacations."
Before that, he'll finish his studies to fly helicopters, a goal he's a month or so away from completing.
"It's safer than everybody thinks. I think it's safer than airplanes," he said. "It's amazing the capability of a helicopter. I've learned enough to see and do the manoeuvres and it's amazing what that machine does.
"It's like playing hockey. You can go this way and that way and change
directions so fast."
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Алексей Ковалев: Мы раскрылись, как в боксе -
Алексей Ковалев: Мы раскрылись, как в боксе - "Советский Спорт"