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Author: Mark Leyderman (Soviet Sport)
Translated By: RussianProspects
Date: 11/27/2004
Ilya Bryzgalov (Anaheim Mighty Ducks): Why share the experience, if no one needs it?

After an impressive performance at the World Cup, Ilya Bryzgalov decided against going to Russia during the lockout and remained in the North Americna AHL. Bryzgalov himself believes that he only won by doing so: " The Super League is significantly weaker than the AHL" .

Last season, Ilya Bryzgalov game Soviet Sport newspaper an interview, which was called " The hunter for the bird of fortune" . Then the three year contract between Anaheim and one of Russia’s most talented goaltenders was expiring. Anaheim took advantage of the conditions of that agreement and kept Bryzgalov in the AHL for practically it’s entire duration. This was not simply a lowering in rank, but also mean significant decrease in pay. As Ilya acknowledged himself, he earned so little by American standards, that he was barely able to make ends meet. Bryzgalov planned on breaking the cycle by either demanding a trade, or returning to Russia. However, it has become clear that Ilya preferred to stay in Cincinnati rather than return to the Super League. This decision was made by a different Bryzgalov – not the young kid who played in only two NHL games, but one of the heroes of the 2004 World Cup. Who among our fans will forget that night in St. Paul when in a great match against the Americans Bryzgalov was just amazing. That tournament has come and gone, and now it is time for the work to begin again.

Ilya, you didn’t end up going to the Super League...
I. Bryzgalov: First of all, I signed a one way contract with Anaheim that has a one guarantied, and one optional year. However, it is unlikely that there will be a season in the NHL, so that is why I am playing in Cincinnati. I believe that the AHL is not any worse than the Super League. From a goalie’s perspective it’s even better. That is my personal opinion. Secondly, no one except Lada offered me a contract. As it was said in the " God Father" , I made him an offer he could not refuse. In my case, Lada made me an offer that I could not accept (laughing). They offered me a contract for the full year, and if the NHL season would start up again, I would not have been able to leave. I already had a contract with Anaheim and I could not violate it.

Did you lose a lot money wise?
I. Bryzgalov: Under the new agreement, I am earning the same money in Cincinnati as I would have in the NHL.

Are you concerned that you might lose some popularity? You made such a loud name for yourself at the World Cup and....are lost in the AHL again.
I. Bryzgalov: I am not really concerned with that. I played in the Super League before, and now play in the AHL. I have something to compare. I do not doubt for a second that the AHL is better than Russia’s league. Yes, right now many NHLers have returned to the Super League, and they did make it stronger. However, take away those players and make a series of the Super League clubs vs. those from the AHL, and I am more than confident that the Russian teams will not win a single game.

What do you think of how you played at the World Cup? Was this your best, or are you capable of more?
I. Bryzgalov: I think I have ways to go before I reach my best. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for the tournament 100%. Prior to the first game against the Americans, I only practiced for seven days! I noticed a number of problems in my games, which I shouldn’t have. I didn’t skate since may – and there were reasons for that, and that is why I couldn’t attend Vladislav Tretiak’s training camp. If I had more time to prepare, I would have played much better!

After the World Cup, have you spoken to the national team’s head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov? Does he plan on calling you up to the national team?
I. Bryzgalov: When I was leaving St. Paul, where our team, after losing in the quarterfinals to the Americans (3:5), was finished at the World Cup, Bilyaletdinov thanked me for my work and told me that I really helped the team. However, I haven’t had any contact with him since September.

Is the hockey in the AHL different?
I. Bryzgalov: If you compare it to the NHL or the World Cup, then here there is a lot more bedlam. The players tend to try something extreme more often and make mistakes.

You started this season successfully with Cincinnati, but in the past few games your club is struggling...
I. Bryzgalov: We have a young team. After a series of losses, we lost all belief in ourselves. We don’t have enough experienced leaders, who could hold the puck, and make a nice pass, or get a breakaway and score. AHL has very strong teams. There are those like Philadelphia, which won 14 games in a row. There is also the current champion Milwaukee. When such clubs start to run, beat you and shoot the puck a lot, a goalie’s head starts spinning. At times you don’t even know who to concentrate on.

How do you prepare for a game?
I. Bryzgalov: At first I tape my sticks, then stretch, and then put on my uniform. Then I go out for the practice skate, catch some pucks and then go back to the lockeroom. Many talk about different superstitions, but I don’t think that’s necessary. There are so many games each season! At times you think: I didn’t get up on the right foot, or didn’t get on the ice the right way, but you still end up playing well. The moral is you need to work and not fill your head with nonsense.

Do you think that in Anaheim, with Jean- Sebastjean Giguere (the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2003 – Soviet Sport) playing there, you simply don’t have a chance?
I. Bryzgalov: I don’t believe that Giguere is better than me. I don’t doubt that I would be able to compete with him for the top spot in Anaheim. I carefully studied his game and he doesn’t show anything special that I can’t do.

Why do the Finns have so many goalies in the NHL, while we only have two – Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeny Nabokov?
I. Bryzgalov: There is no quality program specifically for goalies in Russia. Here is an example. I recently was in Togliatti, where Lada’s coaches work with goalies. Please excuse me, but it is simply pornography! I ask one of the coaches: " Where do you get your methods?" – " I watch video tapes" . I am telling you, kids need to be taught how to play butterfly style completely different. I was shown this by Tretiak, Leroux, who is Anaheim’s goalie coach. And then there is this guy who is stubborn and continues to do his thing. Why share your wealth of experience if no one needs it?

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