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January 21, 2001

The Next Generation

Who on earth has never heard the expression the “Next Generation” in a popular TV ad? The world has just celebrated the new millennium and is passionately waiting for new changes to come in different spheres of human life. Sport has always been an essential part of human’s life and I hope it will remain the conqueror of many souls. Ice Hockey has considerably improved in many ways during the last decade. Now it has lots of different leagues all over the world with its own well or poorly organized structures. Of course this depends upon the country where it is played. In Russia there are at least three good leagues. Super league, Higher league and Junior league for the kids of different ages. Those kids born in the 80’s grew-up in a difficult time of transition from Soviet to Russian hockey. They haven’t seen onto the ice in action such crafty and skillful players as Makarov-Larionov-Krutov and Mogilny-Fedorov-Bure. Many of them have left the country for the numerous wealthy North American and European leagues. It has meant that there was nobody left in the Russian Hockey Championships to learn from except for faithful to the sport coaches. The best players like Fetisov, Makarov-Larionov and Mogilny-Fedorov-Bure has left to discover and conquer the new North American hockey world with its own traditions and many difficulties which they had to overcome in the process of North Americanization.

Now there are already Russian youngsters of the “Next Generation” who shine in the NHL and some of them are ready to join world’s best league. Let’s try to picture the portrait of Russian kid who represents the “Next Generation”. To do this I’ve cought up with a couple of Russian-based NHL draftees. One of the recent has been the forward of Krylia Soviets Sergey Soin.

As many guys of the same age he has been enlisted at the neighboring hockey school at the age of six. When asked about the players he wants to resemble he diplomatically and wisely answers, “There is none. I want to be myself just Sergey Soin with my own merits and shortcomings. Unfortunately I haven’t yet seen superb players in action here because they all play in the NHL. So it’s difficult to borrow something new and interesting into my nature given arsenal.” Some people may think that it’s a little bit arrogant of such a young player to speak in this way but nothing of the kind.

That’s what scouts think of Sergey, “He has played every position except goaltender over the past two seasons. Played defense for Russia at the Under-18 World Championships but is projected as a winger at the NHL level, if he makes it that far. Might be the fastest skater available although some scouts question his offensive upside. Used in penalty-killing situations, largely because of his ability to read the play.” Very impressive don’t you think so?

With the coming of glasnost and democracy in Russia nearly every player got to know such words as scout, agent and terms of contract. Current Russian NHL millionaires have opened up the eyes to the talented youngsters on the well-to-do life. Now Russian guys know its real value and I’ll tell you more; they learn already here how to talk to the representatives of mass media. That means nothing personal (how, with whom and where he likes to spend his time) quite in the North American style but nobody will reproach them in ignorance. They may easily burden any reporter with lots of interesting hockey stuff. It may be two hours’ talk about everything and nothing at the same time. Of course it depends upon the person. Those guys who are the natives of Siberian cities are more communicable and open-hearted on the background of Moscovites. The last ones prefer laconic and dry answers.

When I’ve met Sergey Soin of Krylia Soviets Moscow I’ve been greatly surprised by some of his answers. For example when I asked about his impressions of the 2000 Entry Draft ceremony in Calgary he hesitantly said, “No impression at all. Everything is usual.” It has seemed to me that he goes Canada each day or is playing in the overcrowded NHL arenas each day. Yes, he has been playing at the international tournaments for different age teams, including national squad, touring the North America but I couldn’t expect of the youngster to be so cool. 

When asked how often NHL representatives communicate with him and what they are usually interested in to hear about him he commented, “I have an agent and it’s his business to communicate with them mine is to demonstrate solid play. Each day I try to progress.”

I thought for a long time why his speech is so laconic and dry and realized that this “Next Generation” to which Sergey Soin belongs is more educated and free-thinking than that of the Soviet generation of players. They know there is no need to run away from the country to make your dream of NHL come true. They are all knowledgeable about the agents with good and bad reputation.

So the player of the ‘Next Generation’ is first of all a skillful and hard-working one. He is wise and never does a thing without having a consultation with his agent on this or that matter.

Denis Neznanov
HockeyZonePlus' Russian Correspondent


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