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Raw Charge Secret Santa 2018: Highlighting Igor Nikonov

Igor is the (super)man behind most of Raw Charge’s Russian and Czech content.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

When the postseason, the NHL Draft, and the development camp are all over, what do you do as a hockey blog? Well, we here decided to do a Secret Santa drawing to reflect on the amazing work our writers did during the season and highlight the pieces we particularly liked.

I was pretty excited to learn that for my article I, a Russian translator, got Igor Nikonov—the man, the myth, the trilingual legend, who actually did the bulk of Raw Charge’s work on the foreign front this year. Why excited? Because I can gush over not only what Igor translated, but also how he did it.

I wish I could do so with the Czech pieces Igor did, but I don’t know the original language, so we’ll stick with the Russian gang. But, really, isn’t it mind-blowing that our site has Czech translations? And they’re so good, too! I highly recommend that you check out Igor’s translations of interviews with Ondrej Palat and Libor Hajek, if you haven’t already. They’re awesome.

As for the Russian articles, Nikita Kucherov’s post-All-Star Game interview was probably my favorite. I may have liked the last few paragraphs, which I’ll discuss in more detail later, a little bit too much, but the whole thing is just as great. This single article captures some very important shades of Nikita’s mysterious personality.

First of all, Nikita is modest:

Trunina: You are the first who scored a hat-trick since the new format of the All-Star games was introduced.

Kucherov: I didn’t even think about it. I just scored. The main thing is to score during the season!

Trunina: But we also know that you became the second Russian who scored a hat-trick during an All-Star game. Do you know who did it first?

Kucherov: Sergei Fedorov?

Trunina: No, it was Pavel Bure in 2000.

Kucherov: Well, that’s great. How did I score so many goals? When there are so many professionals on your team, you just gave them the puck and they pass it back to you.

“I didn’t even think about it” and “Well, that’s great” are both solid contenders for the title of the most Nikita Kucherov sentence ever. Note how the latter sounds slightly dismissive although it’s actually not—just like in the original interview. Maybe dismissive isn’t even the right word... Well, whatever vibe this sentence is giving you, I swear it matches what Kuch actually said.

Secondly, put some patriotic Russian music on:

Trunina: Who you were happy to see the most?

Kucherov: Alex Ovechkin, my Russian friend. I was happy to see him. Actually, the more Russian guys are here, the better. Let everyone know that there are great hockey schools in Russia. Let our parents and coaches be proud of us. We’re playing here because of them.

Nikita Kucherov may hate admitting that he, personally, is obscenely good at hockey, but he really loves seeing his countrymen succeed. The solemn tone of this answer really stood out in the Russian article, and Igor managed to carry it over to the translated version.

Finally, and most importantly, Nikita Kucherov appreciates Gary Bettman:

Trunina: What did you feel after Gary Bettman’s words about you in the opening of All-Star game?

Kucherov: What did he say?

Trunina: That he’s impressed with your progress.

Kucherov: I met him. We shook hands and took a photo together. And he said to me, “Keep up the good work”.

Trunina: Was it nice to hear that?

Nikita Kucherov: He didn’t play hockey (Kucherov laughs). He is just the commissioner. It’s nice, of course. But if Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux said it to me, it would be different. Gary Bettman is just Gary Bettman.

I still can’t help laughing every time I see this. Kuch’s brutal honesty is amazing. Gary Bettman is just Gary Bettman, folks. Nikita Kucherov didn’t find the encounter remarkable.

Again, Igor did a stellar job of translating the attitude. It might sound easy in theory, but trust me, in this particular language pair, it’s really not.

Russian and English are both rich, colorful languages, but their means of expression are often very different, and it can make translation extremely difficult at times. Yes, it turns out it applies even to the words that come out of hockey players’ mouths—or maybe the Russians in the Lightning organization are more thoughtful and articulate than others (which they might as well be; Steve Yzerman knows his stuff, after all). The point is, it may not be that hard to make a literal translation of any given sentence, but turning it into an accurate one takes a lot of time, skill, and effort.

AND IGOR CAN DO THIS WITH TWO DIFFERENT LANGUAGE PAIRS, which means we’re lucky to be able to get some great insight into our Czech and Russian players’ personalities. Seriously, I can only applaud his amazing work. Ты крут, Игорь!*

*An old Russian phrase used to acknowledge one’s impressive skills and/or qualities. Maybe not that old. Whatever.