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Author: Gennady Zyryanov (Sport Attack (Novosibirsk Newspaper))
Translated By: Sergei Chveitser
Date: 02/16/2006
Denis Platonov: In half a year, Nikolaev taught me a lot

2006 Russian Super League
Denis Platonov, a 24 year old forward of Metallurg Magnitogorsk and team Russia was born in Saratov, a city that has seen better times during Robert Cherenkov's era (60s-70s). During those times, "Kristall" swept through lower divisions and was successfully representing the Volga river region at Soviet hockey's top level.

Platonov grew up in a sports family. His father played for the factory team and in his neighbourhood he made hockey ice for the local kids but it was his mother who signed up her 6 year old son and his older brother to a hockey team. At the age of 16, after going through all the levels of Saratov's top hockey school, Denis got invited to play for Lada-2. A year of work in the motor city made him a new person. The financial collapse of 98 left it's marks on Gennady Tsygurov's squad and the team became falling apart. Even with roster problems, there was no place for Platonov on the main team and he was placed on the farm club. After doing some thinking, Denis decided that High league is better than farm team.

WITH BILYALETDINOV, I WAS TREATED LIKE DIRT

"I went back home, to "Kristall". At first I was shy around the men as after all, I was only 17 and played the season without much confidence." Admit Platonov. "In summer, with Valeri Bragin's arrival, my body matured and I began playing with more confidence but I can't say I was scoring a lot. I started to break out only when Nikolaev took on the team. Sergei Alexeevich made us, youngsters work hard even after the practices. In half a year he taught us a lot by cementing the professional hockey basics in our heads and that season I scored 9 goals. When Nikolaev got replaced by Marinichev, I raised the bar by improving my result by 5 goals.

I got noticed and invited to Kazan. In my first year with Ak-Bars, I had 17 points and went through Moiseev's illness as well as the dismissal of Plyushev who was also coaching the national team. At that time I had already been drafted and during the off season when Vujtek took over the team, Nashville sent me a contract. I couldn't refuse it because you get this kind of chance once in a lifetime, but it didn't work out and I immediately returned to Kazan.

From that moment, everything turned upside down. I didn't skate for a week, but the superleague had the November break and during an exhibition game with Lada, I cracked my heel which put me out of action for 3 weeks. By the time I started regaining my form came the December break. In an exhibition game against Nizhny Novgorod, another bone broke! A week in a cast and half a season is gone to waste. By the time I recovered, the season was over.

Last season was a nightmare too! I even wanted to finish my hockey career. Because of the lockout, 17 NHLers came to Kazan, so we were treated like dirt! When Bilyaletdinov came to the team, I'll be honest with you, our life was cracking. Just imagine, he greeted the star players, asked how they are doing, shook their hands and smiled at them. With us, regular mortals on the other hand, he would turn his head away while shaking our hands. During the games, he was pushing us in the back with his legs and saying "you go on the ice, you go on the ice..." This inequality tore the team apart and caused negative feelings towards the coach.

He didn't have a good relationship with some of the stars too, though. Kovalchuk and Kovalev, for example. They are stars and he is the coach. It was as if a black cat crossed their paths. Ilia for example could drink a cup of beer and the coach wouldn't like it. Everything began from little things like that. When Kovalchuk later gave an interview to Americans and didn't speak highly of Bilyaletdinov, he didn't like that as well, but my opinion is definite that Bilyaletdinov has the worst personal qualities.

When me and Drozdestsky got transferred to Neftekhimik, I finally was able to feel as a human being and really started to play. Forget me and Nikolai, they also traded Balin who spent 14 years with Ak-Bars and was their captain for the last 7! In the part of the season me and Nikolai proved our worth as he scored 5 goals and I added 3. Drozdetsky ended up going to Omsk while I had an option to go to Magnitogorsk. I was offered a contract with Kazan, but I rejected it of course."

How is your new team?
D. Platonov: We are winning and the main thing is that we are working hard. Even when the game is not going well for us, we are battling, blocking shots and that means that we have a real team that can achieve the toughest goals. We don't have a lot of standout players. Malkin is an exception, he has a gift from God, but everyone else is mostly just hard workers. When we are playing as a whole, we are unbeatable while individually we are nobody.

Our coach is Canadian and so is our style of play. If you don't do something the way he demands it, you don't make the team but I want to play and I have a child to feed. King's philosophy is to play careful hockey. A player is not allowed to give the puck away on the blue line because if you lose it, you will let a goal in. That's why we dump it in and systematically position ourselves in the attacking zone. If you lose the puck, you must get it back and that takes up more energy. King doesn't forgive mistakes although some players get away with it sometimes. Not me or most of the other guys though.

TO THE NATIONAL TEAM FROM THE HIGH LEAGUE IN TWO MONTHS

On the bright side, you've been involved with the national team.
D. Platonov: Under Plyuschev, I played one game against Sweden when we lost 1:3. My linemates were Grigorenko and Nurtdinov. In Ak-Bars, I didn't play bad with the experienced Tsyplakov and Chupin. Moiseev always said: "If you keep working like this, you will be on the national team!" In the national team everything was just like at the club because Plyuschev without changing anything held the same drills as Moiseev. My debut with the national team was of course very special to me, after all, I was barely over 20! You can say that I went from the high league to the national team in 2 months.

After successful play at the Bashkortostan Cup, I was invited by Krikunov. With him, we paid more attention to physical condition and dragged barbells around more than enough times! After we got relieved from this pressure though, it was easier to play. We played with our club lines, me, Chistov and Kai (Kaigorodov). However, at the Czech Eurotour that was held in early September, we didn't play to our full abilities and didn't score even though we were ready. We weren't comfortable psychologically though because when you think about the responsibility, you always burn out.

Would you like to try your hand overseas again?
D. Platonov: Yeah, it didn't work out the first time... In North America, I knew one Russian person whose name I won't say. I asked him: "Help me, you've been here for 2 years, what did the coach say?" and he responded with "I don't understand him myself" and then turns around and starts speaking English with one of the team mates. Another time I offered to him: "Let's check out how to do this drill." He didn't help... Somewhere I broke down psychologically and returned home. If I was mentally stronger, I would've gotten over it probably and stayed there. I could've waited it out, could've, but as they say, what you didn't do is for the best.

What's your opinion about Russia's Olympic roster? Were all the resources used?
D. Platonov: I think some of the Superleague defensemen aren't worse. Kasparaitis for example has no advantages over those who played for the national team at the Eurotour. Atyushov, Varlamov, Ryazantsev are all dependable defensemen who play for Dynamo and Lokomotiv. It's just that Kasparaitis made a name for himself and it's working for him now. He admitted to it himself even.

Our championship has good forwards too. Why not try out the Russian guys? Because otherwise it turns out that the guys are coming to training camps, getting ready for the World Championships and then someone from the NHL comes along and somebody loses their place on the roster while the star player doesn't play all that well.
Written By: Gennadi Zyiranov (Sport Ataka Newspaper in Novosibirsk, Russia) Translated By: Sergei Chveitser

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