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Thrashers' Kozlov playing for hometown team // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By JOHN MANASSO
VOSRESENSK, Russia — Thrashers left wing Slava Kozlov has returned to his native country for the second time in 10 years to play during an NHL labor dispute.
The last time, he played with CSKA Moscow,the once famed "Red Army" team. This time, he opted for the comfort of his unglamorous hometown, where the team, Khimik, is named for a chemical plant. Kozlov is the local hero. A banner hangs in his honor from the arena's rafters, and his photos are on display in the arena's lobby and local cafes.
His father, Anatoly, still works at the local hockey school, which is among the country's best, and his mother, sister, nieces and nephews also remain here. But there is one reason why playing for his hometown team has him missing Atlanta. His wife, son and 10-month-old daughter remain there.
"I miss my family, my dogs," he said upon seeing a familiar face from Atlanta. "I play with lots of good players from the NHL and enjoy good hockey."
One of the stark realities of playing in Russia — acknowledged by players and team officials — is that life simply is not as easy or comfortable as it is in North America. That is why some players decided to leave their families behind.
"You need to earn money, so you have to do what is best," said Kozlov's Thrashers teammate, Ilya Kovalchuk, who speaks to his friend on almost a daily basis.
Said Kozlov: "It's hard for the baby with the climate. It's very cold here."
Unlike Kovalchuk's coach with Kazan, whom Kozlov describes as being "old Russian school," Kozlov's coach allows players more freedom. Practices are short and usually held once a day. Kazan might have multiple daily practices if the team has several days off between games. During breaks in the season, Kozlov has returned to Atlanta to visit his family.
The team also allows him to keep an apartment in Moscow, but because the drive can take two or three hours, Kozlov only visits there occasionally. He said Khimik management is "very professional," but was critical of how some coaches try to use the old-school approach with NHL millionaires who have been out of the country for more than a decade.
"They can't tell us what to do," he said.
So the hockey has been a highlight, although Kozlov has to play the unfamiliar position of right wing. He plays on Khimik's first unit with two other forwards, Valeri Kamensky and German Titov, who hail from Voskresensk. Together, the trio has spent nearly 30 years in the NHL and has almost 600 NHL goals, although Kozlov is the only one who remains active in North America.
In Russia, official scorers are not so generous with assists, doling them out with the reticence of infamous Eastern bloc Olympic judges. For example, players often do not receive assists if they have taken a shot and a teammate scores on the rebound, so scoring totals tend to be lower than the NHL.
Kozlov has six goals and nine assists in his first 22 games. He sat out a five-game suspension early in the season for a cross-check. His team, not the most skilled, plays hard and is appreciated by the hometown fans.
"We're in the eighth spot, which is a playoff spot," he said. "We can't spend so much money like Kazan [Kovalchuk's team], but we're playing together for each other."
Страничка Вячеслава Козлова
на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
МАТЕРИАЛЫ ПРЕССЫ О ВЯЧЕСЛАВЕ КОЗЛОВЕ
4 декабря. Thrashers' Kozlov playing for hometown
team // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
10 ноября. Вячеслав Козлов: "Российский хоккей все
еще в ХХ веке" // Спорт-Экспресс
7 августа. Dual reasons keep Kozlov in town -
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
28 ноября. Вячеслав Козлов: За свои слова отвечаю
- Советский Спорт
22 сентября. Вячеслав Козлов: "Эпоха "Детройта" ещё
не закончилась" ("Советский Спорт")
МАТЕРИАЛЫ ПРЕССЫ О ВЯЧЕСЛАВЕ КОЗЛОВЕ
4 декабря. Thrashers' Kozlov playing for hometown team // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
10 ноября. Вячеслав Козлов: "Российский хоккей все еще в ХХ веке" // Спорт-Экспресс
7 августа. Dual reasons keep Kozlov in town - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
28 ноября. Вячеслав Козлов: За свои слова отвечаю - Советский Спорт
22 сентября. Вячеслав Козлов: "Эпоха "Детройта" ещё не закончилась" ("Советский Спорт")
Данные подготовлены Дмитрием Поповым.