International Ice Hockey Federation

Dreams of the NHL

Dreams of the NHL

Gotovets on Worlds, playing pro in North America

Published 13.05.2016 15:59 GMT+3 | Author Alexander Yakobson
Dreams of the NHL
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MAY 9: Belarus' Kiril Gotovets #2 during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Championship. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Belarus defenceman Kirill Gotovets studied at Cornell University in the United States. Chatting with us, the 24-year-old compared American and European hockey.

Kirill, why did you head to the United States to play hockey?

I’ve always dreamed of playing in the NHL. It’s the best league in the world. One time, some Canadian coaches arrived in Belarus to work at a youth training camp. They offered me a chance to test myself in the North American leagues. I studied hard, and that’s why I thought about the level of university I should choose. Then I looked at the level of its hockey team.

What was the reason you started to learn English?

My parents always told me that English is the international language and it will be useful to know it in any case. They sent me to a tutor when I was four years old I. Now I can definitely say “Thank you!” to my parents.

Did your parents also get you involved in hockey?

Partly, yes. My dad played hockey. I had asthma, and the doctors cited three different sports, which would help to develop my lungs: swimming, hockey, and another one I can’t remember. Of course, I chose hockey.

Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, the prep school where you started off in the U.S., is known for its hockey alumni, like Sidney Crosby. Is that why you headed there?

It’s well known that Shattuck-Saint Mary is the best hockey academy in the world. There you can study and play hockey. That was the most important for me, so I went there.

Was Crosby your idol?

I can’t say so. I always followed Steve Yzerman, despite the fact that I’m a defender, and he was a forward. He wore number 19 like my father. It was great when Tampa Bay drafted me, as Yzerman is their GM.

What can you tell us about the AHL?

To play in that league is harder than to play in Europe, because there is a severe struggle for getting into the NHL. There are many players with advanced skills.

Is it difficult to go back from North American rinks to European ones?

At this year’s Worlds, I’ve been more aware of that difference. It was hard at first in practice. I didn’t get into the game much against the Finns. I waited by the goal crease and thought about whether or not to run after our opponents. It's not so easy to estimate that distance.

What makes the AHL special?

Our relationship with the fans there is different than in Europe. In my club, meetings with fans are held once a month, and sometimes even more often. But overall fan support feels practically the same everywhere.

Your teammate Vince Pinostroza is playing for the U.S. team. Do you communicate with him?

Yes, of course. We’re at the same hotel, and we live together in the United States. We’re good friends. We joked a little bit on the ice. But in those situations, it does not matter if you are friends or not. If I need to throw a bodycheck, I will do that.

The Rockford IceHogs is the farm team of the Chicago Blackhawks. Is that NHL team your priority?

My dream is to play in the NHL. That’s my top priority. After the 2016 Worlds, I will make some decisions about my career. Right now I don’t know if it will be Dynamo Minsk in the KHL or if I will be back in the AHL again. Perhaps from the KHL it would be easier to get to the NHL.

It’s hard to conceive of a more difficult schedule for the national team of Belarus at this tournament, starting off against Finland, the USA and Canada. Is that fair to say?

Yes, it is, because these teams are aiming for the medals. On the other hand, we now have to win our remaining matches, in which our opponents will not be as strong. It means we have a higher responsibility.

What do you think about the way the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship has been organized in St. Petersburg? How about the city itself?

This is my first time in St. Petersburg. I’ve walked around a little bit with my parents. There are so many things to see in the city. The tournament organization is on the highest level. I told my American friends that everything would be at the highest level, that it would be like a second Sochi. I would like to thank our fans for their wonderful support!


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