Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
|16 ноября 2004
Morozov not regretting his decision // post-gazette.com
It cannot be easy for Aleksey Morozov to grasp the impact of this NHL lockout. Especially not the part about the All-Star Game being canceled a little while back.
Not when he glances around the locker room at his teammates with AK Bars Kazan of Russia's Superliga.
"All the great players here ... it's just unbelievable," he said by phone from Russia. "We look like the New York Rangers."
If it can be ignored that Kazan has a winning record and likely will qualify for the postseason, the comparison is spot-on.
The team is funded by a rich oil company, and its owners appear to have no limit to how much they will spend to win a national title. The most recent estimate of Kazan's player payroll is $50 million, a figure that is $9 million above the NHL team average last season and roughly double the amount the Penguins spent.
And, because Kazan is one of only two teams outside North America capable of paying such salaries -- Russia's Avangard Omsk is the other -- management has been able to attract 11 NHL players, including luminaries Alexei Kovalev, Vincent Lecavalier, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Brad Richards, Darius Kasparaitis, Nikolai Antropov and Ruslan Salei.
Morozov was among the first to join, having signed a one-year contract in July that locks him into playing for Kazan all season even if the NHL lockout ends.
He is delighted that he did, for more reasons than one.
"The first thing is that it's a great situation, to be with so many great players, so much talent. You learn a lot," he said. "Also, if you look at the NHL situation right now, with nobody talking, I think I did the right thing to come and get a job."
Morozov, the Penguins' second-leading scorer in 2003-04 after a late-season surge, appears to have maintained stride. Skating on a line with Boston Bruins prospect Sergei Zinovjev and the Toronto Maple Leafs' Antropov, he leads Kazan in scoring with eight goals and 11 assists in 24 games. More impressive, he ranks third in the league, which has 54 players who spent last season in the NHL.
Morozov stressed, too, that he has not abandoned the uncommon passion for going to the net that he exhibited late last season, even though the larger rinks in Russia are far friendlier to a perimeter game. He said his current coach, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, is pushing him just as hard in that regard as did the Penguins' Eddie Olczyk.
"I'm still going," Morozov said. "Actually, our system here is like the one we have in Pittsburgh, which made it easy for me. Things are going well, for me and for the team."
Kazan is fifth in the 16-team Superliga at 13-9-2, but its standing is expected to improve soon. Kovalev has yet to play after signing a deal last week, and Lecavalier and Richards -- key cogs in the Tampa Bay Lightning's Stanley Cup last spring -- are due by month's end.
"The owners here are very serious," Morozov said. "They want to win a championship."
If they do, it surely will come with a significant operating deficit. Kazan, a city of 1.2 million about 500 miles east of Moscow, has an arena that seats only 6,000. And there is little money to be found in broadcasting rights, merchandising and the like.
Still, the fortunes of the Superliga are surging, and not just because of the NHL lockout. As recently as six years ago, players were making as little as $10,000 per year. Today, six-figure deals are common, with a few even topping the $1 million mark.
"There are a lot of people coming to watch our team now," Morozov said. "I'm sure that helps."
Morozov is making $300,000 per month, which means he will end up with more than the $1.5 million the Penguins paid him last season. It will help his bottom line that the cost of living in Kazan is markedly lower than in Pittsburgh and that Russia has a 13 percent flat tax.
Even so, Morozov is adamant that he wishes to return to the Penguins as soon as possible.
"Definitely, I want to go back there," he said. "I miss it already, you know? I miss Pittsburgh, the people, my team. But I think it's going to be a long time before everything is normal again."
26 января. Morozov: 30 games, 0 goals, much angst
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
26 января. Morozov: 30 games, 0 goals, much angst - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette