Two days after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, Daria Tuboltseva of the Russian website Sport24.ru had a phone call with Mikhail Sergachev and talked to him about the Stanley Cup victory and how it became possible.
Editor’s note: If you’re going to use this translation anywhere, please credit Sport24 for the original interview and Igor Nikonov of Raw Charge for the translation. It has been lightly edited for clarity. Thank you.
Daria Tuboltseva: How is it to wake up as a Stanley Cup winner?
Mikhail Sergachev: To be honest it’s much harder to fall asleep. I still can’t believe it happened with me. Our parade is about to start and we’ve just had a photo session, but I still didn’t realize we’ve won. I go to bed with these thought and can’t even close my eyes. And getting up is hard, because I don’t get enough sleep.
Daria Tuboltseva: What was the most memorable part of the celebration?
Mikhail Sergachev: Everything was memorable. I tried to take as many photos and videos as possible, to save those memories. The best thing, perhaps, is to see teammates, who have been playing for 15 years in the NHL, finally winning the Cup. When I look at them I feel very motivated. It took them so long to get there. Braydon Coburn lost twice in the Stanley Cup Final and won it only on the third time. It’s inspiring. Nice to watch them celebrating. Obviously it was hard for me too, but not as hard as for them.
Daria Tuboltseva: Have you ever seen Kucherov so happy, as during the Stanley Cup celebration?
Mikhail Sergachev: Of course I’ve seen it, it was you guys who saw it for the first time. He’s always this much fun with close friends.
This is the greatest photo of Nikita Kucherov to ever exist pic.twitter.com/NgdiXBQN9L— christine (@ChristineLRM) September 29, 2020
Daria Tuboltseva: After the win, you’d been pouring beer in the Cup, not champagne as usual. Why did you break this tradition?
Mikhail Sergachev: Yes, we poured champagne at first, then beer and then something else. Just mixed all of it. I don’t think there’s a tradition to drink only champagne from the Cup. And people in America mostly drink beer. So why not?
Daria Tuboltseva: Your instagram story with a cigar was a great success. Did you dream about taking this photo before?
Mikhail Sergachev: I’ve seen a lot of photos of guys with cigars from locker rooms of winning teams. From the NHL, NBA or NFL. It just looks cool. We’ve had some weird cigars in the locker room, but didn’t smoke them much. It didn’t taste great, just to make some photos and videos. It was great.
Daria Tuboltseva: Is the Stanley Cup heavy?
Mikhail Sergachev: When you’re winning it, you don’t feel its weight. It probably weighs around 35 pounds, but it’s actually very light.
Daria Tuboltseva: The first appearance of Alex Volkov in the playoff during the Stanley Cup clinching game is a unique thing. I can’t even imagine how he felt. How was he?
Mikhail Sergachev: I’m calling what he’s done “ten minutes of magnificence”. He was ready, had a great first shift: retrieved the puck, dumped it, then fought for it and took it back. He played great, gave us an energy boost. We’ve all seen a young player, who didn’t play for two months, trying hard and knowing that might not everything will work out, but it’s still needs to be done. Volkov also drew a penalty before Brayden Point scored the winning goal. He made his contribution to the victory.
Daria Tuboltseva: You scored a goal early in the third period of Game 5, which could have been a Stanley Cup winning goal. Did you already feel that the victory was close?
Mikhail Sergachev: I was very happy, when I scored the goal. I’m always happy when I’m scoring. But when I was sitting at the bench after scoring, I tried not to smile and crush these emotions in myself to let the team know that it’s very early to celebrate and we have 16 minutes of game left.
Mikhail Sergachev: We were very confident in our performance. We knew that we played well during previous rounds and if we could keep playing our game, everything was going to be fine. A bag of confidence from the first rounds helped us to win. Every player accepted their role, even those who played less time did 200% of their job. I think this is why we won. Everyone put his ego aside to win the Cup.
Daria Tuboltseva: You played often against Tyler Seguin in the final. Did you know that he played through knee, hip, and groin injury? Would you hit him in those places consciously?
Mikhail Sergachev: No I didn’t know which player had what injuries. But I can say that 90% of players played through injuries: sprains, bruises etc. Not surprised Seguin was injured too. Everyone was playing on pain killers in the final. But I wouldn’t hit him there, if I knew what specific injury he had. I’m not such a player.
Daria Tuboltseva: What was the hardest moment during playoffs?
Mikhail Sergachev: Probably when we lost to the Stars in Game 5. It was very hard. Also probably the first two losses against Boston and Dallas. They outplayed us in those games, showed their performance. But we got together and did everything right. But for me personally the fifth game of the final series was the hardest.
Daria Tuboltseva: How about five overtimes against the Columbus Blue Jackets? How did you survive it?
Mikhail Sergachev: After two overtimes we already knew it will be fine. We had enough energy but needed to get it from the bowels of our bodies. You might say we found a second breath. It was a very hard game. Many thanks to our physicians and masseurs who helped us to recover. Also to our head coach. Jon Cooper tried to evenly split the playing time between players. The defencemen played almost equally in all five overtimes.
Daria Tuboltseva: Returning to Game 5. During the first period, you tried to hit Alex Radulov, but ended up falling and then Corey Perry scored. Maybe it was a bad decision to go after Radulov?
Mikhail Sergachev: No, why? I did it deliberately, knowing he would hit me, making a reverse hit. I tried to brace myself, but couldn’t do it. The player who scored, was coming out of the bench. We were a little bit unlucky: the puck was behind the net, then rebounded off my stick to the opponent’s one. I don’t think it’s someone’s fault. Also when Perry shot, it was hard to understand how the puck went into the net.
Daria Tuboltseva: How is it being two month in the bubble?
Mikhail Sergachev: Of course it was hard. You don’t see your wives, children, girlfriend or parents. Moreover you had to play without fans. All of this wasn’t easy for us. But I think it brought our team together. We played ping-pong and cards almost every day. We spent most of our time together.
Daria Tuboltseva: A Canadian journalist Damien Cox said “Not as difficult to win a Cup when there’s no road games, no travel. Let’s not compare bubble hockey with the real thing”. What do you think about it?
Mikhail Sergachev: Ask the Stars players, or the Islanders, or any of the other teams. All of them think it’s a real playoff and even more harder than usual. Everyone played with fans before and without them now. No one player said it’s not the real playoff. No need to pay attention to this words, this person is just looking for hype.
Haha,sure,let’s forget about back to backs and no rest in between the series— Mikhail Sergachev (@sergachev31) September 29, 2020
Daria Tuboltseva: When are you going to Russia?
Mikhail Sergachev: When the celebration is over, I’m immediately going home [ed. note, based on his social media it looks like he’s back in Russia..JG].
Daria Tuboltseva: It was reported in North America, that the players won’t get the Cup this year. You’ve said before that you want to bring it to Nizhnekamsk.
Mikhail Sergachev: I don’t know where the information came from that the players won’t be allowed to spend a day with the Cup due to coronavirus. I spoke with Phil Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup. He told me it’s not clear yet, but there’s a chance that I can bring the trophy to my hometown.
Daria Tuboltseva: The Stanley Cup parade will take a place in the river. Is it due to everybody’s health and safety purposes?
Mikhail Sergachev: Probably yes. The river runs through the whole city and the team decided to organize a parade in this way, the fans will be staying on the riverside and celebrate with us.