Shortly after celebrating his second Stanley Cup during a boat parade in Tampa, Mikhail Sergachev returned to Russia and held an online press conference with Russian media. We translated an interview, which was published on a Russian site Sport24.ru by hockey journalist Daria Tuboltseva.
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: What’s the difference between those two [Stanley Cup] victories?
Mikhail Sergachev: Last year we played without fans, basically in the same place. The emotions were very strong, because it was our first Cup. But I wouldn’t say it was easier this time – both Cups were hard to win. The second win happened in front of our fans – I remember having goosebumps, so the emotions were about the same as the first time.
Daria Tuboltseva: Are you going to bring the Cup to Russia?
Mikhail Sergachev: Yes, i’m going to bring it to Nizhnekamsk, but there are no exact dates yet. The keepers of Cup are waiting for approval of their visas to Russia, this is pretty long process. I hoped it will be in Russia by the end of July to be able to undertake all events and return to Tampa to start preparing for the next season, but, apparently, I’m staying in Russia for one more month.
Daria Tuboltseva: What’s your plans for the near future?
Mikhail Sergachev: Obviously, I’m dreaming about winning the Norris Trophy. I need to improve my performance, become more active and faster. Specifically I need to improve my offensive performance in the playoffs, because I’m mostly focused on the defence. It’s disappointing that I’m not scoring a lot of points in the playoffs. To be able to win the Norris Trophy, you need to become the best defender on your team first. But on the other hand I understand, that the defence is more important in the postseason.
Now I watch a lot of videos of my games, analyzing my performance. I’ve learned it from [Nikita] Kucherov. Trying not to watch my best games, otherwise I become too self-confident. Also trying not to listen to coaches shouting at me during the games, so I’m not starting to doubt myself.
Daria Tuboltseva: You’ve said a lot of times that you want to play as much as possible. Why is it so important for you?
Mikhail Sergachev: If a defenceman wants to improve, ice time is one of the main factors. It is the main factor for me at least. It shows the trust of your coaches and teammates in you, also it allows you to develop faster and better. When you’re playing 25 minutes per game, it means you’re basically on the ice every other shift and simply don’t have enough time to focus on your mistakes.
Daria Tuboltseva: What’s your plan for offseason training?
Mikhail Sergachev: I don’t know yet. It’s already 9-10 weeks before the start of training camp. Usually I’m already starting training, but this time I didn’t even rest well. Now I just go to the gym or run to not to gain weight. I’m going to start fully training around August 5 and plan to start skating after August 10. I think the offseason will be very tough for me. We’ve won two Cups in the last 10 months, it took a lot of energy.
Daria Tuboltseva: After the Stanley Cup Final, Nikita Kucherov gave probably the most memorable speech in recent years. How did you personally and your teammates react to it?
Mikhail Sergachev: I watched it when I woke up on the next morning after winning the Stanley Cup. I laughed a lot, it was the most legendary press conference ever in hockey. For a hockey player, especially for a Russian, it’s just amazing and unforgettable. He shared his thoughts, with which many players would agree. I agree that [Andrei] Vasilevskiy is the best. When it was announced that Vasy didn’t win the Vezina Trophy, we all were very upset, although we tried not to show it in front of him. I think Vasy was disappointed himself. He had a great season, we made playoffs mostly because of him.
Daria Tuboltseva: You’ve won two Stanley Cups before the age of 23, playing a significant part in both victories. You are not going to lose motivation after it?
Mikhail Sergachev: I’m not going to lose motivation, I have a plenty of room to grow. Some players didn’t win anything during their careers or won at the end of it. Not that I didn’t deserve it, but I didn’t play enough to win two Stanley Cups yet. The credit goes to the whole team and organization. I want to be the best defenceman in the team, then in the whole league, and win the Cup every year. We’ve won back-to-back, which means we are still hungry to win.
Daria Tuboltseva: As it became known after the end of the season, Nikita Kucherov played with a fractured rib, while Alex Killorn had a broken fibula. Did you have some injuries in the playoffs?
Mikhail Sergachev: I didn’t have serious injuries, just some minor ones. But it bothered me enough to start using painkillers.
Daria Tuboltseva: After the win, you tweeted that some of the Montreal Canadiens fans threatened you and your families. Have you seen anything like this before? Why do you think there was such a negativity from the opponent fans?
Mikhail Sergachev: The opponent fans thought since I hit some of their players, they’re allowed to write some mean things to me and my girlfriend. I’ve never seen anything like this. When I saw it for the first time, I wanted to reply, but then I thought that we’re in the final and will prove everything on the ice. But I need to emphasize that not all their fans are like this, maybe it wasn’t their fans at all.
It was disgusting. I’d even understand if it was addressed only to players, but our relatives also received threats. It was very ugly. Then they started talking about “18 million over the cap”, about Kucherov’s “fake“ injury. I don’t know why people write hateful messages on social media. I never understand such people.
We’re all different people. This could affect a mental state of the player. I don’t mind being hated on social media, just don’t direct it at our relatives.
Daria Tuboltseva: Was it connected with the fact that Montreal originally drafted you and then traded away?
Mikhail Sergachev: Yes, of course. They were sending me messages, saying that I can’t play defence. I was going to read it, but only read it after.
Daria Tuboltseva: The 18 million over the cap thing became a meme thanks to Nikita Kucherov. But did it bother you and your teammates when those conversations started during the series against the Florida Panthers?
Mikhail Sergachev: No, it didn’t. We didn’t break any rules. Even Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner, said it. The Islanders were 9 million over the cap, the Canadiens were 5 million over the cap. Out of 18 million, 9 million were due to contracts of Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson – players who already ended their careers.
Daria Tuboltseva: Was the series against the Islanders more difficult than the final series against the Canadiens?
Mikhail Sergachev: Yes, we played seven games against them in the semifinal, and just five in the final. The Islanders also are a stronger team than the Canadiens. But we played in the final and the weak teams don’t make it.
Daria Tuboltseva: You’ve recently launched your own merchandise shop. Previously you’ve made a movie, playing Harry Potter. Now you’re holding a personal online press conference. Why is it important to make a personal brand for you? Do you have any other plans to promote your brand?
Mikhail Sergachev: I have a lot of ideas. I’m planning to organize hockey camps for children, I was originally planning to make it this year, but it didn’t go as planned. I created my own merchandise to increase a recognition of my brand. Everyone’s doing it. It’s a very common thing in the NBA. I have even more plans for future. I’d like to contribute to developing of young hockey players. There’s also a desire of having my own ice rink in Moscow or Nizhnekamsk.
Daria Tuboltseva: It’s obvious that the Lightning will change a lot during this offseason. In your opinion, what are the chances to win the third Stanley Cup in a row and become a dynasty?
Mikhail Sergachev: There’s always a chance. It’s possible with our core. I think the chances are good.
Daria Tuboltseva: Could you say that the Lightning are your team?
Mikhail Sergachev: Sure. Thanks to Montreal for trading me to Tampa a couple of seasons before, really grateful to the organization for this. We’re playing very fast hockey in Tampa, cultivating a fast transition from the defense to the attack and a heavy forecheck, which allows defencemen to keep the puck in the zone and play more often in the offense. We rarely “park the bus“ in our defensive zone, mostly just in the last ten minutes of the third period. We have a great organization and great city. I’ve gotten very used to Tampa, wouldn’t change anything.
Daria Tuboltseva: Are you looking forward for the Winter Olympics in Beijing?
Mikhail Sergachev: I have a big desire to play at the Olympics. Looking forward to a call-up, it will be a great experience, which you won’t get anywhere else. I hope we will represent our flag. We’ve watched team Russia at the World Championship, following what was happening there.