For a teenager who helped to destroy the dreams of Canadian hockey fans, sending thousands of them slinking back across the border in shock earlier this year, Maxim Kitsyn has been remarkably well-received in suburban Toronto. All it took was a wardrobe change. The 19-year-old joined the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors hours after scoring a goal in Russia’s inconceivable comeback win over Canada at the world junior championship. As teammates celebrated their gold medal [...] Kitsyn set out to learn more about playing in North America, sometimes with unintended results.
"It’s almost like Mr. Bean," Majors teammate Justin Shugg said Monday. "He’s very outgoing, but very funny. I don’t think he means to be awkward, but it’s a funny awkward. He’s a good guy."
Kitsyn’s is the "go-to" iPod in the Mississauga dressing room. He accompanied the team to the movies on Sunday, and was a reason why teammates were smiling and joking on Monday, instead of preparing for an inevitable exit from the Memorial Cup.
I don't see why their exit is inevitable. Oh, i see, never mind. He scored, and thus saved them from being eliminated. I thought it had something to do with his behavior at the movies.
[...] Kitsyn has often been the right player on the ice. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound winger scored three times and added four assists in his first five games with the Majors, and he averaged nearly a point per game in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. [...]
And the lessons on surviving playoff hockey in North America have not always been easy. An example? North American ice, smaller to begin with, can become even more claustrophobic in the spring. "Late in the season, he wanted to fight everyone who was touching him," Shugg said. "I don’t think he’s intimidated at all. He gets in the dirty areas and takes the body, which every North American player does." [...]
"It’s not, like, skilled hockey — it’s very physical hockey," Kitsyn said. "A very physical game. And, you know, [Sunday], I got luck. I scored, and we won. It’s good."
His English, nearly monosyllabic when he arrived in January, has also improved. "I think he’s like a lot of kids when they come over," Cameron said. "He’s shy. He’s not perfect in [his English], so he doesn’t want to slip up and say the wrong thing. He certainly knows enough and he understands enough. They love him."
"If you send a little chirp his way," Shugg said with a smile, "he’ll comment back."
The Kings are hoping the experience will improve his chances at making the roster, and of making an impact. Learning the lifestyle, to say nothing of the style of play, is crucial in his development. His teammates and his coaches have done their best to help, as has his billet family. They have taken Kitsyn on tours of nearby Toronto. He has been to the horse races, and he has watched a Raptors game. "I like Canada," he said. "It’s a good place. Mississauga is a good team, with a good coach. I like it."
Mississauga players, please feel free to send in your Kitsynisms. Or would those be Kitsyn maxims? (Sorry.)
Oh, and here's an interview from nearly a year ago I clipped but forgot to post:
There’s an old saying in Russia that if you’re promised something, you will have to wait three years to get it (if at all). Yet when I contacted Maxim Kitsyn [...] I got a quick response. An enthusiastic "yes," followed by immediate action. I sent him questions, and less than 24 hours later I had his answers — all this while he was participating in the Kings’ prospect camp. This was just my first insight into Kitsyn’s maturity, responsibility and dedication to play in North America. It is clear that he takes his career very seriously. In speaking with him prior to the interview, I found him to be a very gracious and courteous person. As you will see, he is also well spoken (his answers were sent back to us in Russian and translated by Goddess Thorkhild). Though he replied in his native tongue, he does like to practice his English whenever he gets a chance.
HockeyGoddesses: [...] What did you do in Los Angeles during the draft? [...]
Maxim Kitsyn: I came to Los Angeles with my parents, and there was one more Russian on the plane — Stas Galiyev [Stanislav Galiev, who was selected by the Washington Capitals in the 3rd round]. He was with his mom too. So we didn’t have time to get bored. And, during the draft [...] we either went shopping or went to the ocean. We didn’t manage to go to Hollywood. There were terrible traffic jams that day.
Note to Maxim. We have short-cuts, which we are happy to share.
HG: Have you always wanted to play in the NHL?
MK: Yes, of course. I don’t know any young hockey player in Russia who wouldn’t like to play in this league.
HG: What players did you admire growing up?
MK: If you name any NHL player of this time I’d say I liked his game. I cannot distinguish anyone specific.
HG: What do you like to do in your free time during the season?
MK: I don’t have much spare time, but when I do, I like to have a good rest. I also like to spend time with my friends, but we don’t meet often. I see one of my friends only once a year, though we live just a five-minute walk from each other. And, of course, I love to be with my girlfriend; we just go for a walk or sit somewhere in a cafe, for example.
HG: What do you do in the off-season?
MK: Usually I rest a little. Last year I was in Turkey, and before the camp of my KHL team I go train in America or Canada.
I'm guessing "rest" = "vacation."
This year our playoffs were over at the end of April and the tests [the NHL Combine] before the draft were just a month away. All of the guys from my team were resting, and I had to go to the rink everyday to keep up my physical conditioning. I wanted to go somewhere to vacation between the NHL Combine and the draft, but my family had a lot to do this summer, and I didn’t manage to leave. Now, the Los Angeles Kings have chosen me, and our [development] camp started earlier than all others — just four days after the draft. So I am spending my holidays this way. :)
HG: Who has had the greatest influence on your career? What was his or her best advice?
MK: My parents. They often sacrificed themselves to help me and my brother (he is three years older). They did everything for us, so that the only thing we had to do was to go on the ice and play hockey. For example, in the hockey school I went to, every age group had the year when training started at 7 a.m. in the morning. At 6:15 a.m. you had to be in the dressing room, so at 6 a.m. you had to leave home. Mom got up at 5 a.m. to start cooking for us. [...]
HG: When do you think you will come to play in North America?
MK: In fact, I have wanted to come to play in the Canadian Hockey League, but I have a contract with a Kontinental Hockey League club [Metallurg Novokuznetsk], and no CHL team previously wanted to take a risk by picking me in the draft. But this year, Mississuaga has chosen me. If everything is worked out and I can come at least by the end of the year to the Ontario Hockey League, I’ll be very happy.
HG: What advice can you give young players? [...]
MK: To listen to the coach and to keep doing your business as a professional. There are moments when you feel you can’t manage to do anything and want to leave it all, but then you remember what goals you have and understand that you must keep going.
HG: Do you have any training secrets? [...]
MK: Those I keep to myself ;). I’ll say one thing: Each hockey player and sportsman in general have their little secrets. :)