For the second year in a row Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers' goaltender, hosts a goaltending school in the city of Ufa with the help of Megafon company. Even though most of the participants were between the ages of 12 and 16, Tampa Bay Lightning's 2012 draft pick and the surprise of last year's World Junior Championships goaltender Andrei Vasilevski was one of the attendees.
A few hundred spectators attended the first day of training, watching Bryzgalov tall youngsters how to play "butterfly" and showing videos and discussing the techniques used by Marc Andre Fleury, Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur.
After the session was over, Bryzgalov sat down with Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov, who passed along the interview that is yet to be published. Here's the excerpt.
Q. Ilya, would you give advice to the Russian Junior Team goaltender Andrei Vasilevski who you met in Ufa? What should he do in his career — go to North America or wait for a chance in the KHL?
BRYZGALOV: "Giving advice is not something appreciated. Let everyone decide for himself. I personally benefited a lot from the school of the NHL. I came to Anaheim at 21 and simply didn't know a lot of things. Goaltending coach Francois Allaire tough me those things. I can do so much now thanks to him."
Why didn't you come to Russia during the 2004 lockout? You didn't want to interfere with that learning process overseas?
"I was playing for Cincinnati in the AHL and was a naïve young man. I was waiting for the NHL season to start. I wanted to stay overseas not to change my style of play. Had the NHL season started, I would have made the Ducks team after three years in the farm club. I thought that the League and the PA would argue for a month or two. But the time went by and the negotiations carried over Christmas. I asked the club: 'Guys, maybe I should go home?' But they started looking for reasons not to let me go. So I decided not to do anything."
Did you hear about the conditions the NHL and club owners proposed in the new negotiations? To cut player share of the revenues from 57 to 46%, cut the maximum term of contracts to 5 years, get rid of signing bonuses… Your reaction?
"That's some impudence. I would only answer for myself — this variant is not acceptable. But maybe one of the players will be happy [and say] 'Wow! Great terms!'"
Would your contract be reduced?
"I have no idea. I have a nine-year contract with Philadelphia. I have played out one year. Maybe only the term of new contracts will be limited. And what years should be cut? From the time the contract was signed or from the new CBA? So, would my contract become a six-year deal? I don't understand…"
Are you actively participating in the negotiations?
"[Scott] Hartnell and [Braydon] Coburn are representing Philadelphia in the negotiations. I don't go to those meetings. I have two young children, a goalie school, I need to get ready for the next season… There's no time for that in the summer."
What terms would be acceptable for you?
"Let them keep things as they are now. But we need to put a fixed cap on escrow. For example, no more than 10 percent. I am talking about the insurance fund of the League that is funded by a great share of our salaries. Right now the percentage taken can be anything at all. And in the last few years the League didn't return some money to us."
If there is a lockout, would all players go to Russia?
"I will. But I wouldn't talk for everyone. Some players like Switzerland, Germany… I cannot make any decisions about the KHL myself until September 15. The lockout won't be announced until that day. So I have a contract with Philadelphia."
How did you feel about Jaromir Jagr leaving Philadelphia?
"Nothing at all. He left, so be it. He's a kind, open person, of course. We had a great relationship. But what can I do? Call Jaromir and yell 'What have you done? Come back, I will forgive everything!'?"
What can you say about Claude Giroux?
"I was surprised that he wasn't nominated for any of the individual prizes at the end of the season. Jagr compares Giroux to Lemieux. I didn't play with Mario, I'm of different age. But Claude is a very smart, skilled forward. He's a 'full package' as they say about players like him. He can do anything. And at the same time he's very young."
Would players like Giroux, Stamkos, Crosby play in the KHL during the lockout?
"Claude and I had a conversation about this once at dinner. Giroux said that he was afraid of going to Russia."
Because of the Lokomotiv tragedy?
"Not only. Claude says 'I have one friend who played in Russia. But he was kicked out from the club without paying. Hockey players in the KHL are absolutely unprotected.' Canadians listened to different stories about our country from their friends. And it is difficult for me to argue because I have never been in these types of situations."
What advice did you give Giroux?
"To sign for nine years in Russia and ask to get paid for eight of them in advance!" [Bryzgalov laughed.]
Your colleague Sergei Bobrovsky was traded to Columbus. Do you feel about this the same way you do about Jagr leaving?
"No, this is different. A like-minded person, someone I could talk to in my native language about goaltending, life, politics, anything left the club. But I understand that this trade would only benefit Sergei. He wants to become a starter in the NHL very much."
Was Bobrovsky a serious competition for you?
"I am not afraid of any competition. I'm not of that age anymore. And I never think of what my backup is like. Sergei is an able, talented guy. God willing his career turns out to be great."
Did you recover from the season that you called the worst of your career in a memorable interview to Sovetsky Sport?
"I would like to clarify — the most "mixed" season. I did have stretches where I had shutouts, when I was showing the stats like in Phoenix, when everyone praised me. Philadelphia made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup… You can find the positives. But my personal rating is that I am not happy with the season.
"I would like to thank fans who fairly criticized me. I got to know the Philadelphia media. This is an invaluable experience that will certainly help me. But I cannot say that I have 'sport rage' now and the next season I will show who the real Bryzgalov is! I set certain goals for myself and I will work to reach them. Otherwise you can do so much bad if you're filled with emotions."
Were you surprised when the best goaltender of the 2010-2011 season Tim Thomas took a break from hockey for a year, leaving Boston all of a sudden?
"It's a huge surprise. But they say Thomas had family reasons. It is his decision, but hockey has lost one of the greatest goaltenders in the world."
Is it possible to come back to the NHL at 39 after a year off? I understand that Thomas is gone for good.
"It will be very difficult to come back. When you're 18, everything happens very quickly in your body, you recover quicker. At the same time look at Dominik Hasek who announced a comeback. And that's at 47!"
When Thomas wrote [on Facebook] that he did not agree with Barak Obama's policies and wouldn't go to the White House with the Bruins …is this common in the US?
"It's a free country where everyone is entitled to his opinion. What's so bad in what Thomas said? Yes, he doesn't agree with the President's course of action. But it is his position as a citizen. Americans will vote soon: let's say Obama gets 62 percent, and his opponent gets 38 percent. That means that a third of the US population has a different opinion. Tim Thomas is one of them. It's just he is a public person and has the ability to make an announcement to the entire world."
Have you tried beer called 'Crosby's Tears?'
"I don't drink alcohol at all. But I understand what you're talking about. This beer was put on the market after Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh in the first round of the Stanley Cup. Yes, people in our city don't like Crosby very much. But the feelings towards Evgeni Malkin are very different."
Because of the perception Crosby used to asking for penalties?
"Maybe. I haven't figured it out in one season. But in Philadelphia no one paints Malkin as a ballerina like what happened to Crosby in the playoffs. Evgeni is depicted as a Russian bear."
Your participation in HBO's series showing the inner workings of the Flyers was a discussion amongst all fans. In America your words about Belka and Strelka being the first in space are still the talk.
"I was just talking about something that interests me. And now I read Twitter and people write only two types of messages to me — about space and the white bear that I noticed in the stands in Pittsburgh."
Do your children ask you what the Universe is made of?
"They are very interested in it. They watch programs about history and nature. And Vladik [Bryzgalov's son] recently asked what black holes are made of. I told him. Now, my six-year-old son draws them and tells that they have a very strong gravitation. My kids also know all planets of the solar system."