Barkov on Worlds, Jaromir Jagr and KHL
Barkov Jr. is the son of famous Spartak striker Alexander Barkov. He was born in the Finnish city of Tampere, and was drafted second overall by the NHL’s Florida Panthers in 2013. He’s showed his quality as one of the leaders of the Finnish national team at the Worlds in St. Petersburg. That naturally was the first topic to discuss when we caught up with him recently.
Aleksander Barkov, what are your impressions from the first days of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship 2016 in Russia?
All good. We’ve had a great start to the tournament. It's great that the group stage for us is held in St. Petersburg, which is close to Finland. That’s why we have so many of our fans here. They support us very well. The city is very beautiful. I like it here.
What goals do you set for yourself in the tournament?
I think only about winning. At least we have to get into the medals. I would love Finland and Russia to meet in the final. We will go step by step, and then we will see.
Since our last chat at the end of 2012 at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, your Russian has gotten much better.
Back then, perhaps, I was a little bit nervous, because that interview in Russian was one of my first. I always have enough language practice. I play with Dmitry Kulikov in Florida, and we spend a lot of time together. In addition, at home we speak Russian.
During each of your three seasons in the NHL you have made big progress, going from 24 to 36 to 59 points. What is the secret?
It’s not for me to judge about this. There’s nothing special, to be honest. I just try to practice as much as possible and keep myself in good shape. I work with a trainer. I always work out in the off-season.
What do you remember the most from your first three seasons in the NHL?
Of course, the brightest emotions were from the first season. Everything was new and unusual for me. Looking at recent events, I have to highlight the playoffs. I really liked the atmosphere at these games. It was fun. I hope to play in the playoffs every year.
How did you get along with the rest of the team?
Now I’m friends with everybody. I’ve gotten better at communicating more with North Americans. At first, the Finnish guys helped me a lot. Also, my mother came over, and that greatly helped me to adapt to the United States.
You’ve become a great player. Does your father continue to help you out?
Yes, of course. I’m very grateful to my dad for this. He is constantly watching my games and after each match he tells me something. That helps me a lot. I thank him for that!
How difficult is it to adapt from North American to European rinks and vice versa?
I can’t say that it is very difficult. Rather, it just takes time. Not everyone can start playing at a high level immediately. You need to adapt. Besides, it’s not only about the size of the rinks. There are differences in the rules of the game. In the United States, during face-offs you can do almost anything. Whereas in Europe, on the face-off, you are not allowed to use your legs. This is something else to get used to.
Is this changes difficult personally for you?
I find it difficult to get used to the change of time zones. At first it is difficult to fall asleep and then it is not so easy to wake up. At the moment, I’ve spent more than a week in Europe, so there is no problem.
What is it like to play on the same team as such a great master as Jaromir Jagr?
When Jaromir came to Florida, I couldn’t believe that I was going to play on the same team as him. After all, when I was small, I closely followed his performances. I’ve learned a lot. I’m glad that I can play with him for another year.
What language do you use to communicate with him?
Mostly English, naturally, but sometimes we speak Russian.
Do you think that when you’re 44 you will still play and not be tired of hockey?
I will not be tired of hockey. But when you're 44, it is extremely difficult to meet the highest level of the NHL. However, Jaromir said that he will play up to 60 years.
You’ve been nominated for the NHL’s Lady Byng Trophy, which is awarded to the player who is an example of gentlemanly behavior. There is a good chance that on June 22 in Las Vegas, you will receive this award. How do you feel about it?
Very happy! And I’m just glad that I was nominated for this title.
Can you imagine ever playing in the KHL?
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has my rights in the KHL. Never say never, but I am happy in Florida. All my thoughts are about the NHL. I always wanted to play in this league and I’m very happy!
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