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|Medvedev adapts to life in America before Flyers camp
1 ñåíòÿáðÿ 2015 ãîäà. Courier-Post. By Dave Isaac
VOORHEES — Imagine stepping onto the ice with new teammates in a country you’ve never been to before, the only common thread being the sport you’ve played all your lives.
Practically any verbal communication is for naught at this point because you don’t speak their language. The only person around with whom you share a native tongue is a skating coach, who just so happens to be around.
Welcome to America, Evgeni Medvedev.
The 33-year-old Russian defenseman signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Flyers in May, without much background other than talking to ex-Flyer Dmitry Yuskevich about how much different life is in the NHL.
The two played together on the Russian national team and on Severstal Cherepovets in Russia, before the Kontinental Hockey League was formed in 2008.
So why after all these years did Medvedev decide to come to the NHL?
“It was my dream from childhood,” Medvedev said through Slava Kouznetsov, a power-skating coach who acts as his translator for now. “I wanted to come to the best league on Earth to see if I can play the best hockey ever.”
Medvedev had offers in the past, but wanted to honor his contract with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL. His deal expired this summer and he chose the Flyers out of the five NHL offers he received.
“I’m not the guy to just dump the team,” he said. “I’m responsible. I finished the contract and the opportunity came available and I chose Philadelphia over everybody else.”
He also chose to come to the U.S. early before his first NHL season kicks off. The Flyers don’t officially start their training camp until physicals on Sept. 17. They’ll begin on-ice activities at the Voorhees Skate Zone on Sept. 18.
“It’s different than in Russia,” said Medvedev, who is taking daily English lessons. “I like it so far. Everything is just over and above. It’s the first time I’m in the United States and everything is up to expectation and above expectation.”
The question is: will he live up to expectations?
The $3 million the Flyers gave the 6-foot-3, 198-pound blueliner is the second-highest amount they’ve ever given to a first-year player. Eric Lindros got $3.5 million in 1992. Clearly Medvedev is a big part of the Flyers’ plans.
“I think a lot of teams were looking at him for a few years,” GM Ron Hextall said back in May when he signed Medvedev. “We certainly talked about him a lot this summer, or I should say this spring and leading into the World Championships. He’s been a hot topic around here.”
Medvedev had three assists in seven games for Russia in the World Championships, in which Russia lost to Canada in the gold medal game. He was a puck-moving, smooth-skating defenseman in Europe on the big ice and the Flyers hope he can do the same on the smaller ice.
After one of his first skates with new teammates Radko Gudas, Nick Schultz, Chris VandeVelde and Ryan White, Medvedev sat in new coach Dave Hakstol’s office for quite a while going over X’s and O’s while Kouznetsov translated. Hakstol gave some early instruction about when to join the rush and when not to.
“It would be the weak side D,” Medvedev said through Kouznetsov. “One would join the attack; the other is going to be staying at home. If I’m the one that’s going to attack, I’ll attack. If I’m going to be the one to stay home, I’ll stay home.”
The game may change from what he’s used to, but Medvedev has no qualms about adjusting to a smaller rink. He has actually spoken to KHL teams and the KHL players’ association about making their rinks smaller and, in turn, making the game faster.
When he heard the question about whether the smaller rink would be a problem, Medvedev nodded in recognition. He’s heard this concern in multiple languages.
“No problem,” he said without the translator. “Good small.”