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Author: Dmitri Gusev (NHL.ru)
Translated By: Yevgeniy Belashchenko
Date: August 26th, 2000
Ilya Bryzgalov: Even Tretiak Believed In Him

On the National Team his destiny brought him together with Tretiak, the first Russian goalie drafted into the NHL, on the team – with Yevgeniy Ryabchikov, the only Russian goalie drafted in the first round. But the 20 year old goalie of the Russian National Team, Ilya Bryzgalov, will reach the NHL his own way.

Before I start the tale of the best Russian Young goalie, I will offer some numbers. For the entire history of Russian Hockey, NHL teams drafted 400 Russian players, from whom goalies were less then five percent, or 19. There aren’t that many of them not to mention them all (especially observe overall draft number).

1983: Vladislav Tretiak (CSKA – Montreal), #138

1989: Sergei Mylnikov (Traktor – Quebec) #127, Arturs Irbe (Dynamo, Riga – Minnesota) #196.

1991: Yevgeniy Belosheykin (SKA – Edmonton), #232, Andrei Trefilov (Dynamo Moscow – Calgary) #261

1992: Nikolai Khabibulin (CSKA – Winnipeg) #204

1993: Mikhail Shtalenkov (Dynamo Moscow – Anaheim), Sergei Tkachenko (Sokol Kiev – Vancouver), #280

1994: Yevgeniy Ryabchikov (Molot – Boston), #21, Vitali Yeremeyev (Torpedo, Ust Kamenogorsk – Rangers), Yevgeniy Nabokov (Dynamo Moscow – San Jose),

1995: Igor Karpenko (Sokol Kiev – Anaheim) #185

1996: Denis Khlopotnov (CSKA – Florida) #209

1997: Andrei Fomichev (Dynamo Moscow – Edmonton) #231

1998: Alexei Volkov (Soviet Wings – Los Angeles) #76,

1999: Yevgeniy Konstantinov (Ak Bars – Tampa Bay) #67, Vadim Tarasov (Metallurg, Novokuznetsk – Montreal)

2000: Ilya Bryzgalov (Lada – Anaheim), #44, Alexander Polukeev (SKA—Tampa Bay) #233

The journey ended different for our goalies: Tretiak finished his career too early, though Montreal called him five years after Vladislav hung up his skates. Belosheikin hung himself, Mylnikov, Irbe, Trefilov, Khabibulin and Nabokov secured spots in the NHL, and Kosntantinov and Yeremeyev this summer signed their first professional contracts in North America. Byzgalov could have become the third, but decided not to rush things. Bryzgalov is an amazing goalie. He is cocky in hockey and does not bow before anybody. Imagine that this person was able to convince Vladislav Tretiak himself that he is the number one goalie on the Russian National Team, and in Lada was able to beat out the Canadian Vensan Rendau, on him all of LADA’s prayers rested for 2 years. In any case, everything in it’s due time.

Year 2000 ended up the break through one for the young hockey player. However, for that it was necessary for him to be in the right place at the right time. This place for Bryzgalov ended up Spartak Moscow. Though it is not a very interesting place and is only in the Upper League of Russian hockey, which far away from the Super League, not even talking about the NHL. However in Spartak nearby was a needed person. Good person, and the coach of the Russian National Team. Overall, Alexander Yakushev noticed our hero and when Ilya hurried back to Togliatti he christened him and said: “I hope we will meet on the National Team?!”

Ilya ended up a very capable student, and even too capable. While playing for Russia’s Junior National Team he earned a silver medal and knocked on the door of the nation’s main team. While Yakushev has been saying all season that starting goalie for the Russian National team at the World Championships was Yegor Podomatsky (St. Petersburg fans hoped that it would be the local Maxim Sokolov), at the final training camp Bryzgalov was able to convince the team’s goalie coach, Vladislav Tretyak that he and only he is capable of defending Russia’s net. In addition, the methods of “convincing” differed. From the “Podomatsky is not ready today, I am playing better” to the quite convincing demonstrations at practices of his abilities and work ethic. In any case, the fans in St. Petersburg were a bit surprised when they saw the tall Bryzgalov coming out onto the ice after Bure. To be blunt the Russian NHLers did not trust the young goalie (as they did not really trust Podomatsky either). They always emphasized at the post tournament interviews that the goalie let them down, though Bryzgalov did not let in that many goals, but Bure and Yashin simply did not score for some reason.

After the conclusion of the tournament, Tretiak, while commenting about the 11th place finish said that “ Any goalie has the right to let in 3 goals in a game. Bryzgalov did not even let in that many. However we still lost. What does this indicate? Only the weakness of our forwards”. He also added that that if he had a chance to replay the tournament over again, he (Tretiak) would still recommend to Yakushev and Bilyaletdinov to put Bryzgalov in the net, a player practically unknown to anyone amongst the St. Petersburg crowd.

In any case, in his short career, Bryzgalov was already able to win a spot not from some Podomatsky, but from a Canadian. The first NHLer – Canadian in Russia, Vensan Riendo remembers: “In Lada during the 2000 season, along with me played a crazy kid. When he returned to the team from Spartak, I right away understood that it is not good news for me and Ryabchikov (laughing). There were now three equally valuable goalies on the team, though Brygalov was only 20”. In any case, the witnesses allege that Bryzgalov won the position from Riendo in a very original way. When Lada was losing and Riendo was letting in 3-4 goals, Bryzgalov did not wait for a call from the coach and put on his helmet, glove and grabbed the stick and leaned over the boards, hinting, that is it, your time is up Vensan. Later Lada’s coaches confessed that Bryzgalov’s behavior seriously disgruntled them. Though, everything was logical, simply Bryzgalov was ahead of his time, though in a very rude manner.

This year Bryzgalov was drafted. He caught Anaheim’s eye and 44th number is high in the draft. From our goalies only Yevgeniy Ryabchikov, Brygalov current partner at Lada, was drafted higher. But I feel with my heard that Yevgeniy won’t have much of a chance to defend’s Lada’s net this year. Bryzgalov was acknowledged to be the top rookie of the Super League last season and decided to stay another year in Russia. He stayed to play and Anaheim can wait, though Ilya is not losing his baseball hat that has the Duck’s emblem. As shown by the past, our goalies do not open up in the NHL early in their career. Also, at 20 not everyone can make the National Team.


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