Goalie Vincent Riendeau played 8 years in the NHL
before moving on to Manitoba for a season in the IHL and then leaving to play in Europe.
He now plays in Russia, where he became the first Canadian to join a Russian team. In
mid-November 1999, he was interviewed by François Coulombe of HockeyZonePlus
on his experience in Russia.
HockeyZonePlus How long have you been playing
Vincent Riendeau - I started playing in Russia in mid-January 1999.
HockeyZonePlus What league is the team in and where is the
Vincent Riendeau - I play for a team called HC Lada (the owner of the
team is the Lada car company) in a city called Togliatti which is 1,000 km east of Moscow.
We play in Russias 1st league.
Vincent Riendeau in Russia.
League GP GAA
1986-87 Sherbrooke AHL 41 2,89
1987-88 Sherbrooke AHL 44 2,67
1987-88 Montréal NHL 1 na
1988-89 St.Louis NHL 32 3,52
1989-90 St.Louis NHL 43
1990-91 St.Louis NHL 44 3,01
1991-92 STL/Detroit NHL 5 3,20
1991-92 Adirondack AHL 3 2,68
1992-93 Detroit NHL 22 3,22
1993-94 Adirondack AHL 10 3,09
1993-94 Det./Boston NHL 26 3,31
1994-95 Boston NHL 11
1996-97 Manitoba IHL 41 3,49
Germany 14 na
1997-98 Lugano Switz. 1
1998-99 Ayr England
1998-99 Togliatti Russia na na
1999-00 Togliatti Russia
Birthdate: April 20, 1966
Birthplace: St.Hyacinthe, Québec
Can you give us an overview of the league and how it operates?
Vincent Riendeau - There are 20 teams in the league and we play twice against
each one for a season of 38 games. 16 teams participate in the playoffs, with 3 best-of-5
series and a best-of-7 final.
HockeyZonePlus Can you tell us
a little bit about Togliatti?
Vincent Riendeau - The city of Togliatti is split into two parts :
the old city and new city, separated by about 20 km. My hotel is in the newest part of the
city where the arena is (an arena with 4,000 seats). The downtown of the old city is quite
nice but we rarely go there. Theres not much to see in the newest part
its mostly lots of apartments. The old town was built along the Volga River. We are
at the same parallel as Sept-Iles, Québec, which gives you an idea of the climate. Most
people here work directly or indirectly for Lada. Togliatti also has a soccer team in the
Yellow star = Togliatti
HockeyZonePlus Tell us about your hockey career after you
left the NHL?
Vincent Riendeau - I played in Manitoba, in the IHL, for one season which
was very difficult. I lost all confidence in my abilities and thought that my career was
over. My father started his fight against cancer that year (a fight which he lost in
September 1997) so that was a terrible year in every possible way. During the summer of
1997, I got an offer to return to Germany (Rivier Lowen) and returning to Europe was an
idea I liked. I was doing very well when the team started to have financial problems which
caused my departure for Lugano in Switzerland in the middle of the season. In 1998-99, I
ended up in a league in England until my departure for Russia in January 1999.
HockeyZonePlus How did you end up in Russia?
Vincent Riendeau - My team in the England league (Ayr Scottish Eagles)
was participating in the EuroCup tournament (tournament in which the champion of each
European country competes against each other) and we were in the same group as a Russian
team (AK Bars Kazan). We played two games against them and, to the surprise of all hockey
experts in Europe, we won them both (4-2, 3-1). During the tournament, I was impressed
with the way they played and practiced. I had a clause in my contract saying that in
January 1999, it was time to negociate a new contract. The team wasnt ready to
commit and since I knew, through my agent, that a Russian team was looking for a goalie,
we asked the general manager if we could terminate my contract to allow me to go play in
Russia. I felt that their caliber of play would be a great challenge for me. The GM told
us that if I wanted to go, I could (later, he changed his mind and requested compensation,
otherwise he would suspend me for the remainder of the season). We finally came to an
agreement and I moved to Russia.
HockeyZonePlus Why did you want to play in Russia?
Vincent Riendeau - Many factors made me decide to go play in Russia.
The most important factor was the caliber of play and the challenge it represented for
me. When I arrived in Russia at age 32, I decided to change my position to a butterfly
style, which I thought would improve my performance. When I moved to Russia, I decided
that until the end of my hockey career (no matter how many years I had left), I would try
to get better than I had ever been before. Up until now, after 4 months of competition in
Russia, I sincerely believe that I am better than in my NHL days. One of the reasons is
that Russians practice as if it was an actual game. So, I can test my new style every day,
even twice a day.
Another factor that made me want to play here is the 1972 Canada-Russia Series. As far
as Im concerned, this is the most important sports event ever organized. I met
people, here who played in that series, and hockey-wise theres a big mutual respect
between Russia and Canada. I was the first Canadian (and first former NHLer) to come to
play in Russia, and Russians are very proud of my presence.
Obviously, there was also a financial aspect that convinced me to come here because to
leave ones family, and to be alone in Russia for the season there has to be some
HockeyZonePlus How long do you think youll stay in
Vincent Riendeau - I dont know how long I want to keep playing
hockey. Its very difficult to be so far from my family (I have 3 kids, including 2
going to school). I would like to have them with me here but that would be too difficult
for them. We practice twice a day so I wouldnt see them much anyway. Theres
also the school issue. My oldest girl is 11 and she has already changed schools 10 times
in her life. It has to stop, so for this year we decided that my family would stay back
home in Québec. My wife and I will re-evaluate our plans after the season.
HockeyZonePlus What has your relationship with your
teammates been like?
Vincent Riendeau - As I said, I am the first Canadian to come here. At
first, the players were skeptical, but when they realized that I was here to perform they
quickly accepted me as a part of the group. Five or six players speak English. The coaches
speak Russian and the goalie coach speaks a little bit of German (like me). To give me the
practice schedule, the goalie coach speaks German to me. If they have to tell me or ask me
something specific, they do so through one of the players who speaks English or through
the team secretary who speaks English well.
Vincent Riendeau - Second goalie from the left
HockeyZonePlus How do you deal with the
Vincent Riendeau - Hockey-wise, its not so bad. The fact that I am
a goalie makes things easier since strategy isnt so important (as long as I stop
pucks, they are happy). For every day life, again, it isnt so bad. We are 5 players
living at the hotel and 2 of them speak English well. We eat at the arenas cafeteria
and when we decide to go to restaurants, the players help me. I understand enough basic
Russians to deal with basic day-to-day stuff. I often hitchhike to get to the arena and I
can tell people where I want to go. My wife is sending me a CD to help me learn Russian,
but I know that I wont have time to master the language. I find the language to be
rather difficult because the words have no similarities with any language I know. Also,
their alphabet is different so it takes a while to master the different characters.
HockeyZonePlus How would you compare the caliber of play
between your current league and other leagues where you previously played?
Vincent Riendeau - I cant compare because its too different.
All I know is that every year, theres the EuroCup tournament where the champs of
different countries compete, and last year two Russian teams (Moscow Dynamo and
Magnitagorsk) ended up in the final. I like the way they handle the puck as opposed to our
famous « dump-in ». The rinks are bigger here and the « dump-in »
is a strategy that pretty much doesnt exist in Russian hockey.
HockeyZonePlus What kind of compensation do you get from the
Vincent Riendeau - In Russia, theres a clause in contracts that
prohibits players from divulging salaries, and I dont have any intention to be the
first to break that rule. I live in a hotel provided by the team. They also provide a car,
but I decided to refuse it. I find that Russians dont have much respect for the laws
of the road so I prefer to either walk or hitchhike when the weather isnt too good.
Hitchhiking is a common mode of transportation in Russia (rarely more than 5 minutes
wait). For 15 roubles (CAN$ 1), you can go anywhere you want. The team also lets me use
their computer and Internet connection at the arena. However, this year, I managed to get
the Internet in my hotel room. We also get 3 meals a day at the arena.
HockeyZonePlus Can you tell us any anecdotes about your time
Vincent Riendeau - Last year during the playoffs we played against the
Moscow Dynamo. The first two games were in Moscow (same arena where the 1972 Super Series
took place), the first one was Saturday at 1pm and the second was Sunday at the same time.
After the first game, at about 4pm, I decided to go visit the Kremlin and Red Square.
After asking all my teammates if they wanted to come with me, I realized that if I wanted
to visit this place, Id have to do it by myself (which, for me, is not a problem).
As crazy as I am, instead of taking a taxi as most people who dont understand
Russian would have done, I decided to give myself a bit more trouble by taking the subway,
a mean of transportation that I like.
|Our hotel was right next to a subway station.
After figuring out at which station the Kremlin was, I was ready to go for my little
Once in the subway, I had no problem finding where to
go even if everything was in Russian. The subway map is quite simple and I was on a line
leading directly to the Kremlin with 8 or 9 stops in between. My problems started when I
arrived at the Kremlin subway station and I realize that I didnt know the words to
find the exits (exits, street, boulevard, etc). After a quick brainstorm, I found a
solution that seemed logical: I just have to follow the majority of people they
eventually have to get out of the station. So, I started following a group of people and
ended up at the same place I previously was (or so I thought). I then followed another
group and got the same result. After looking at the subway map, I realized that I was at
the central subway station where 5 different lines meet. Every time I followed a group,
they would be going to another line! I followed people like that for about an hour before
finally following someone who was getting out of the station!
After all that, I went to Red Square but it was now closed. Without all
this waste of time, I would have been able to catch the last tour. It still was a good day
and I decided to take a cab to get back to the hotel.
Vincent in Moscow.
Do you have time to learn some Russian?
Vincent Riendeau - I learn Russian via the players in the lockerroom. I
wanted to take a class but our schedule makes it pretty much impossible. Our schedule
changes from day to day and it is given to us only one day in advance. I know enough of
the language to hitchhike and to know when I have to be at the arena. For everything else
(pre-game meetings, for example), I dont understand much. It becomes difficult when
I am tired and am supposed to pay attention but I have enough experience to know when I
have to pretend to be listening...
By the way, I just went through a pretty amazing
experience. After a knee injury, I had to spend 3 days in the hospital for an operation
and nobody could speak English or French. Everything went fine but if the same thing would
have happened last year, it would have been enough for me to pack my things and come back
home. Imagine what its like to spend 3 days alone in a Russian hospital...
you being treated differently because you are a foreigner?
Vincent Riendeau - I probably dont look like a Russian because I
feel a lot of people are looking at me. While at home in Togliatti many people recognize
me, but when were on the road, where nobody knows me, I draw lots of looks. Never in
a negative way, though. People are really nice to me and Russians are generally very
cordial and helpful (Never waiting more than 3-4 minutes when I hitchhike, for example).
Obviously, at first, the players were a bit skeptical about me but they accepted me
quickly. The day of my knee operation, my team was playing an exhibition game against Team
Canada and when I was back the next day to watch the practice at the arena, they played
the Canadian national anthem for me. I really appreciated the thought...
Vincent with some of his teammates..
Picture of Vincent in a Russian magazine.
Do some players in your league have hope to play in North America someday?
Vincent Riendeau - In our league, theres a rule forcing each team
to have 2 juniors in uniform. Some play and some dont. Theres a lot of scouts
following our league, and it makes things interesting because the young guys always give
their best. As for the older guys, their life is here with their family, so for most of
them I dont think that they want to leave. Some would like to play elsewhere in
Europe, but the life of minor leagues in North America doesnt really interest them.