Burmistrov, Barrie find comfort zone
Bringing in a Russian player lends new meaning to the word "fraught"—just ask the Moncton Wildcats.
Today’s junior hockey gotta-read comes from the National Post, detailing how first-round NHL prospect Alexander Burmistrov, agent Mark Gandler, Barrie Colts coach-GM Marty Williamson and billets Rob and Mary Ferguson made it work this season:
"Burmistrov maintained the positive attitude despite the frustrations that came with the language barrier.
" ‘At first when I come here, its very hard for me because I know maybe five words in English,’ Burmistrov says. ‘The team helped me and the coaching staff, my billet family helped me. I have my teacher and I learn, learn, learn.’
"The team often diagrammed plays on a whiteboard in order to communicate. The club also setup a weekly meeting between Williamson, Burmistrov and Gandler, who would serve as a translator. Williamson says he was surprised by how well Burmistrov was able to adapt.
" ‘I thought my life was going to be extremely difficult coaching him and he’s made my life so easy,’ Williamson says. ‘He’s coachable and his hockey IQ is through the roof.’ "
There’s a lot in there, and it wouldn’t do to crib too much from Mark Masters’ reportage. (Full disclosure: Masters is a good friend, we were broadcast partners for Streaming Sports Network Canada at the CIS Final 8 men’s basketball tournament the past two seasons.)
There was some serendipity involved, since Burmistrov’s recruitment was free of political headgames. Kazan of the KHL was amenable to him leaving Russia. However, it won’t be a one-off, since more Russian players are coming to the Canadian Hockey League.
Saint John’s Stanislav Gatiev has had a lot of attention this season, but please keep in mind Gatiev spent a season in the USHL acclimatizing to North America. Burmistrov was coming in cold, and it worked out wonderfully.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.