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It’s likely safe to say that Igor Ozhiganov’s short time as a professional hockey player in North America didn’t go as planned.
Following a number of steady seasons in the KHL, the 26-year-old was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs to a one-year deal in May 2018. Thought to have the potential to be a solid shutdown defender on the bottom pairing, the Russian blueliner fell out of favour with Mike Babcock and the rest of the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff.
After averaging nearly 15 minutes of ice time during his first 20 games with the squad, his play began to slip and so did his opportunities.
Toronto’s acquisition of Jake Muzzin at the end of January turned out to be an enormous kick in Ozhiganov’s teeth. He was a healthy scratch for most of February, and averaged less than 13 minutes of ice time over his final 11 regular season games. He didn’t dress for a single postseason contest.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that Ozhiganov decided to return to his homeland for the 2019-20 campaign, inking a two-year deal with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL back in May.
The fact that his time within one of the world’s largest hockey markets is in the past doesn’t mean that he didn’t want to talk about it, though.
Unfortunately for him, his statement to a Russian reporter that was then translated to English by another likely doesn’t truly express how he felt about his experience.
At least, we don’t think that it does.
“It's so different overseas,” he told Dima Erykalov, who then had the quotation translated by Igor Eronko of Sport-Express. “When you get to a locker room it seems all the players are ass-lickers that just wait for a coach to come to lick his ass. They always run to him, laugh of his jokes, make up to him. In Russia, nobody'd talk to such a player.”
Is it a bad translation of ass-kissing? It definitely could be. But also, it is 2019, so...
While this is likely just a frustrated individual taking a final jab at his former employer and peers before moving on (see Nikita Zaitsev), at least players coming into the situation might know exactly what must be done to earn a little bit of extra ice down the road while playing for the blue and white.
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