Translation: Andrei Vasilevskiy on Bishop trade, “I wasn’t happy. I’m not that disgusting.”
Interview with Vasilevskiy, translated from an article by the Russian paper Business Online.
This season, Andrei Vasilevskiy became the Tampa Bay Lightning starting goalie. He also set a record among Russian goalkeepers at World Championships, and won the bronze with the national team. In this translated interview, originally published by Business Online, Vasilevskiy discusses playing for the national team, Nikita Kucherov’s personality, goalie equipment, and his relationship with the former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Business-Gazeta.ru and Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor) of Raw Charge for the translation.
“I should have played for the Olympic team, but my luggage didn’t arrive”
Maksim Nikerin: Andrei, this spring was the first time you came back to Russia since joining the NHL. Does it make you sad?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, it’s a little bit unusual. Actually, this is the first time my team has missed the playoffs on the adult level. At least the World Championship let me extend the season a little.
Nikerin: When your team failed to make the playoffs, did you want to forget it all and just go on a vacation?
Vasilevskiy: No, I already knew that we were going to play for the national team. So we didn’t lose heart. I love what I do, so I gladly went to the World Championship.
Nikerin: So it was a pleasure for you to play at the Euro Hockey Tour too?
Vasilevskiy: Why not?
Nikerin: The tournament is far from top-notch.
Vasilevskiy: In fact, I should have played for the Russian Olympic team in Switzerland, but my luggage didn’t arrive. I flew to Moscow from Tampa via Washington, and all of my bags got lost. I had to spend a few days without my stuff and equipment. But I did manage to play at the Czech Hockey Games. It was just a part of preparation for the World Championship to me, especially as it was hard for me to play on big rinks and these games helped me adapt.
Nikerin: In your first year in the NHL, a lot of things surprised you in terms of organization. Was it a culture shock for you when you came back?
Vasilevskiy: Well, no. The national team is well-organized now. The situation has got better since new people joined the management. Of course, the NHL is ahead of everyone, but the national team has made a step forward too.
“Kucherov is not gloomy or angry and he doesn’t hate anyone”
Nikerin: Why didn't the Lightning make the playoffs?
Vasilevskiy: It was our fault. The last two months of the regular season were very intense; the team began to play in a completely different way. But our season was segmented: there were some good periods of time and some disastrous ones too. This instability affected the final result. We missed a lot in the third periods. But the last two months gave us a reason to be optimistic next year.
Nikerin: There is an opinion that Stamkos’s injury was the key part…
Vasilevskiy: To some extent, yes. It’s disappointing when the leader gets injured for the second season in a row. Steven was unlucky again this year. There’s nothing you can do about it; on the other hand, without him, other players have come to the fore, Kucherov for example. He scored a lot and played well. Everyone tried to patch this hole in the lineup.
Nikerin: Kucherov thinks otherwise in his interviews. Could you say something similar about your partners?
Vasilevskiy: When you get emotional, you can say anything. I don’t know very well what he said. But I know him and Kuch wouldn’t talk nonsense. Obviously, no one likes the truth, so most people try to be politically correct in their interviews and avoid offensive comments.
Nikerin: Was there any reaction to his words in Tampa?
Vasilevskiy: We spent a lot of time together at the World Championship, discussing things. I think there was something, but I didn’t really delve into it. I had other things to do—the puck had to be caught.
Nikerin: He gives the impression that he is always dissatisfied.
Vasilevskiy: It’s not that he’s always dissatisfied. He is just exacting, worried about the result and the team. He is strict to himself and to everyone around him wherever he plays.
Nikerin: So is he gloomy in Tampa too?
Vasilevskiy: He is not gloomy or angry and he doesn’t hate anyone (laughs). He is just exacting. I think it’s a good quality for a player. He’s actually a very funny guy.
Nikerin: Were you surprised by his efficiency this season?
Vasilevskiy: Of course not. He has always been very talented. He had this understanding of hockey, hands and mind. The fact that he scored 40 goals didn’t surprise me.
“Resentment? No, we’re not robots”
Nikerin: What did you remember about the World Championship?
Vasilevskiy: This is a hard question.
Nikerin: Maybe it was your record for the most shutouts for Russian goalkeepers?
Vasilevskiy: Did I set some kind of a record? I didn’t know. Who cares about records at such tournaments?
Nikerin: Many fans thought that in the last games of the World Championship you were thinking about Tretyak’s “eternal” record for the most shutouts at the world championships.
Vasilevskiy: No, I didn’t even know about it. We had to defeat Canada and Finland; you don’t think about records at these moments. My partners played very well in defense and looked great in the penalty kill. So it’s primarily their achievement, not mine.
Nikerin: It's surprising to hear because of some of the missed goals in the last games.
Vasilevskiy: Of course, there were moments when pucks rebounded the wrong way. But this was from a great desire to win—all the guys wanted to play better. This is hockey, everything happens.
Nikerin: What happened in the locker room after the second period of the game against Canada?
Vasilevskiy: Everything was normal; there were no signs of such a third period. I know Cooper, he can find the right words when the team is losing. But our coach said the right words too.
Nikerin: What did Znarok say?
Vasilevskiy: I can’t remember word for word. There were both motivating words and things about the game. Nothing unnecessary. I don’t know why it happened. Canadians scored good goals. Of course, we could have avoided the penalties too…
Nikerin: Was there resentment about the actions of some of your partners? Belov gives a pass through the slot right on the opponent’s stick, scores in his own net...
Vasilevskiy: No, you know this is hockey. Everything happens: we’re not robots. The guys helped me a lot, so I really have no right to talk about any resentment.
Nikerin: Has there been a more bitter defeat than this one?
Vasilevskiy: Of course. Missing the playoffs with Tampa was much more disappointing for me than losing to Canada.
“If I had missed three goals from the red line, I would agree that I have a third period complex”
Nikerin: Did you talk to Cooper in Germany?
Vasilevskiy: We even had a talk right before the game.
Nikerin: Did he try to provoke you?
Vasilevskiy: No, he is a good person and a professional. He wouldn’t do that.
Nikerin: Was the game influenced by the fact that Cooper knows Team Russia’s leaders: you, Kucherov, Namestnikov?
Vasilevskiy: I asked him if he had told the Canadians where to shoot. He said he hadn’t (laughs).
Nikerin: It’s hard to believe…
Vasilevskiy: Well, maybe he had. He told me that in their locker room he had said, “You play in the NHL, so get out and score a goal.”
Nikerin: Tampa had some problems in the third periods too. Do you personally have this “third period complex”?
Vasilevskiy: When you start thinking about the third period, you risk getting scored on in the second period, or in the first one. You’ve seen the goals. If I had missed three goals from the red line, I’d agree with you—this is a complex.
Nikerin: Could you have saved some of the goals in the match against Canada?
Vasilevskiy: The second one, probably. The Canadians had been running us around for a while by that moment, so we were a little bit exhausted. When our player had the puck, I gave myself a short break and lost concentration. I thought he would make a pass or throw it away. But an opponent skated to him from the back and immediately shot the puck. I would have made a save if I had been more focused.
Nikerin: Russia can’t beat Canada since 2011. Is that even real?
Vasilevskiy: Of course, you’ve seen the World Cup.
Nikerin: Russia lost 3-5…
Vasilevskiy: Yes. But we’ve always fought till the end.
Nikerin: Is it because of Znarok?
Vasilevskiy: Why should we seek out the guilty among the coaches?
Nikerin: Znarok has never won against Canada, lost 4 out of 4 games.
Vasilevskiy: I think it's wrong to look for the reason in the coaching staff. Players are the ones who play.
“Bishop is one of the people whom I consider my friends”
Nikerin: How did you know about Bishop’s trade?
Vasilevskiy: I had a dinner with my agent and someone sent me a message. Interestingly, it was from Russia.
Nikerin: Were you happy about this?
Vasilevskiy: I had a lot of feelings, but I wouldn’t say I was happy. I’m not that disgusting. I took it calmly; if life gives you a chance, then you have to take it.
Nikerin: You’re weren’t friends with Bishop, were you?
Vasilevskiy: Exactly the opposite. We didn’t talk much in my first year, maybe; my English wasn’t perfect. But we’ve become closer in the last two years. I wouldn’t say we’re best friends, but Bish is one of the people whom I consider my friends.
Nikerin: Did you talk after the trade?
Vasilevskiy: Of course. I asked him about Los Angeles, he asked me about Tampa. He congratulated me and praised my play. In some respects, he even prepped me and gave tips.
Nikerin: I’ve noticed that you’ve started to play more confidently with your stick.
Vasilevskiy: This is exactly Ben Bishop’s school. He handles the stick better than many defensemen in the NHL. He will play for Dallas next season and it will be very interesting to play against him.
Nikerin: What has changed since you became the starting goalie?
Vasilevskiy: If earlier, when we played with Bishop, I would load myself in the gym to stay in shape, now I started to spend more time resting, recovering. It doesn’t mean I work less. In fact, I have more emotions and more strength now. I just added a lot of recovery procedures because there are always a lot of injuries near the end of the season.
“One full set of goalie equipment costs eight thousand dollars”
Nikerin: You’ve changed your equipment to Bauer this year. What is the reason?
Vasilevskiy: All goalkeepers begin to try something new in summer. Some brands get in touch with you, offering their ammunition. Bauer wanted me to play in their equipment since I had been drafted. They have very advanced equipment.
Nikerin: Do they provide you with the equipment as part of an advertising contract or do you have to pay?
Vasilevskiy: Of course we pay for it. Pads alone cost about 2000 dollars. But all equipment expenses are paid by the club.
Nikerin: How much does a full set cost?
Vasilevskiy: Almost all professional brands have similar prices. Let’s count. Gloves are about 800 dollars; skates cost 1000 dollars. Chest protectors, pants, skates… In sum, I think it’s about five thousand dollars. Helmet is another thousand dollars, and painting costs about the same.
Nikerin: How many sets do you need for a season?
Vasilevskiy: I use four pair of pads during the year, probably.
Nikerin: Four pairs? They have to be indestructible for two thousand dollars.
Vasilevskiy: But how many games we play in the season? Add trainings. There always is some wear and tear, and you can’t lose the quality of play because of this. Some goalies like harder pads, and others like softer ones. The former change pads every month; the latter can play half a season without changing.
Nikerin: Does the club buy only one set?
Vasilevskiy: NHL is such a league that there are almost unlimited possibilities with equipment.
Nikerin: Okay, we’re done with pads. How many catchers do you use?
Vasilevskiy: 5-6 pairs. I don’t really care that much about pads, but I like my gloves new. They’re soft. They become hard with wear because of moisture and drying. I also change pants and chest protectors when possible.
Nikerin: What do you do with used equipment?
Vasilevskiy: Usually I just give it back to the stockroom. But sometimes I manage to bring something to Russia. I think I have brought 5 or 6 sets to Ufa, to the boys in the hockey school. I remember that it wasn’t all roses with the equipment when I trained there as a kid.
“No one has seen Bishop’s mask in its full glow”
Nikerin: Where is technology going?
Vasilevskiy: Bauer uses new materials, very light. These are the insides of the pads. They can even print graphics now, so you can put anything on the pads. Any picture.
Nikerin: Have you decided whose photo you’re going to use?
Vasilevskiy: There have been jokes about this. But I think we’ll just make something with lightning.
Nikerin: Are you interested in goalie fashion?
Vasilevskiy: Yes. This year, I had a helmet that changed color depending on the temperature.
Nikerin: Is it cool?
Vasilevskiy: Well, it’s fun. I can’t notice it when I’m playing, obviously. One artist from Montreal suggested using paint that changes color. I liked the idea. It turned out beautiful; I think I’ll use it more next season.
Nikerin: You always play in the same “weather”, though. Has it changed color at least once?
Vasilevskiy: (Laughs) In the locker room. It was just white, but when I go out on the ice, you can see blue pictures. It was very noticeable on the training rink: it was colder there and the pictures would get bright blue.
Nikerin: Bishop also had an unusual mask.
Vasilevskiy: He had fluorescent paint. But it works only in total darkness. Probably no one has seen his mask in its full glow. It just never gets that dark at the arenas. Ben showed me, turned off the light in the room so that it was completely dark, and then yes, it’s beautiful. In this regard, it seems to me that paint that changes color depending on the temperature is more visible for fans.
Nikerin: How much does it cost to paint the mask?
Vasilevskiy: There are a lot of options. This artist from Montreal does great, detailed work for NHL players. You can get a very simple design for 500 dollars, just put some stripes on it. There will be more details for 1000 dollars, and for 1500 dollars you’ll get a superdesign.
Nikerin: Is the design of the mask also paid by the club?
Vasilevskiy: Yes, you can even make two or three designs for one season.
Nikerin: Matt Murray played half of the playoffs with a broken cage. It turns out that it’s not the same everywhere?
Vasilevskiy: I don’t know, maybe he’s just too superstitious. Goalies have their own quirks (laughs).
Nikerin: Where is the progress of goalie equipment going?
Vasilevskiy: If you take Bauer, everything’s going towards lighter and quicker movements. Even the covering of the pads is made of some material that reduces friction and increases the speed of sliding. Leather straps aren’t used anymore; there are velcro fasteners instead. Previously, it would take you half an hour to tie the pads to your legs, and now it takes only 30 seconds.
Nikerin: So you need about 20 thousand dollars to get fully equipped for the season?
Vasilevskiy: Naturally. What can we do? Anyway, how many sticks are used by field players? Some use 2-3 per game. Some players in the national team said that they take three or four for each game. It’s about 400 sticks for 100 games of the season.
Nikerin: Andrei Sidyakin said that they had a limit in Spartak: one stick per season.
Vasilevskiy: Well, you can’t compare—different times, different leagues.
“I think Vorobyov will be sent to the AHL”
Nikerin: Next season the NHL All-Star Game is going to take place in Tampa. Who in your team has the best chance to get there?
Vasilevskiy: I think everyone has a chance.
Nikerin: Surely everyone doesn’t. Give us names…
Vasilevskiy: Kucherov, Namestnikov, Stamkos, Hedman…
Vasilevskiy: It depends on how I play. If I can prove that I am worthy, I’d play there with pleasure. It's real, everything depends on me. I’ve heard a lot about All-Star Games, everyone says that this is one of the brightest events of the season. I’ve heard that the KHL All-Star Game was in Ufa this year. The reviews were flattering as well, but Ufa knows how to organize such events, so I'm not surprised at all.
Nikerin: This year one of the Salavat Yulaev players Mikhail Vorobyov decided to leave Ufa for Philadelphia, where he was promised a place in the lineup.
Vasilevskiy: Did they promise him a place in the Flyers roster? Well, I don’t know. It will be great if he actually makes the first team. They always promise this stuff, but it doesn’t always happen this way. I think he’ll be sent to the AHL. Not because he is a bad player, but to adapt to small rinks and the style of the game.
Nikerin: If he asked you whether to go now or not, what would you advise?
Vasilevskiy: It depends on what goals he pursues. If he wants to play in the best league in the world, to see that level, then of course he has to go and try it. Not everyone has that possibility. Someone prefers to stay, earn some money in Russia, take care of the family and only then calmly go there. Others want to go there immediately and basically start their career in North America.
Nikerin: Did your agents promise you a spot in the first team?
Vasilevskiy: No, I knew that I would get sent to the AHL. But I didn't mind. I had to try. I was lucky to have played only half of the season there, and then I was called into the NHL. The first season was very interesting to me; I didn’t complain, didn’t hurry the coaches to take me to the first team. I wanted to play there, to feel it. AHL is a very interesting league.
Nikerin: But financially, there is a huge difference between the AHL and the NHL, not to mention the KHL.
Vasilevskiy: I was preparing to leave, and started saving money while still playing in the KHL. So I saved enough. The rate was good when I changed the money, only about 35 rubles per dollar. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of money, but I would have to rent an apartment, and there would be some other spendings. My agent gave me some advice and told me that I had to save money. And it was true.
Nikerin: A couple of years ago you said it was too early for you to think about a goalie school. Now you are a starting goalie in the NHL. Have you thought about the school?
Vasilevskiy: No, it's too serious. This is a big project and I don’t have a lot of time for it. But it would be fun, I think. Maybe someone even would have come to skate with me (laughs). But I still have to work a lot on myself, to deserve a spot in the first team, and not to be the starting goalie only because someone has been traded. I have to prove myself. There are 20 other Vasilevskiys out there who want to play in the NHL. If you relax, you’ll get squeezed out of the lineup.
Nikerin: Opening a school for young goalies is business. Many athletes begin to earn money long before the end of their career...
Vasilevskiy: Of course, I understand that I won’t play hockey forever. I asked many NHL guys where they invest money. For example, Ben Bishop, he knows a lot about it. So I know approximately what I will do. But first you have to save some money, and only then invest it somewhere. This is not the last thing, of course, but first you have to play well.