PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 26: Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period on October 26 2010 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Sabres 6-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Sergei Bobrovsky is back home in Novokuznetsk, getting ready to relax before it’s time to start training again. It’s also time to look back a little to see what he was able to do in his first year in the NHL.
"In general, I can say that my first season in the NHL wasn’t easy. Everything was difficult. Everything was new and unusual to me."
"But I have already adapted in Philadelphia, I feel comfortable there and I’m fine with the fans. They recognize me and come to me in stores ane coffee shops asking for autographs and photos. It happens often when I’m going to movies or I’m in a restaurant. But it’s not annoying. It’s nice if you’re recognized and appreciated."
"The atmosphere at the games, it’s different there. They’re all supporting you. I’m very happy about that."
"As for my own game, at first, it was probably a shock for myself too how it all turned out. I was already tired at the end of the season and my play dropped."
"But in general, I think that was an invaluable experience and now I hope that next season will be even more successful for me. This will help me in the future. Next year I know what the NHL is about. What it is to play 82 games and playoffs after that. Not to forget that the regular season lasts seven months and there are games almost every day."
"I’m going to make the right adjustments and work to prove that I didn’t go through all those difficulties for no reason."
Bobrovsky says he lives alone in Philadelphia.
"You know, my girlfriend couldn’t resolve the visa issue. But my mother lived with me for ten weeks for which I’m very thankful. I had no household problems during that time."
"Everything was new to me when I first arrived. I didn’t pay much attention to the eveyday stuff and the language barrier. My focus was elsewhere. I was completely focused on hockey. But over time, all those little off-ice problems started to appear to me. And that was when my mother arrived."
"My dad and sister also came to visit on New Year’s Eve. Dad was also around in the playoffs."
Bobrovsky didn’t speak any English when he first arrived, but it wasn’t a problem, thanks to the support of his teammates.
"Yeah, I had no problems. When I arrived, they took me as one of their own. Like I had been there for five years. Everyone was supportive and helpful. They realized that I couldn’t speak English. They explained me when to go to the team meetings. It’s easy because everyone is going. When I was going somewhere alone, I could just give the address. The guys helped me and took care of me. It was great to deal with them."
"My English is better now. I understand it and I can say the necessary things."
Even if it wasn’t very easy, Bobrovsky didn’t mind talking to the media either.
"You have to talk to them. It’s part of the job. A group of reporters were always around, even after every practice. But it didn’t really hurt my focus, because I couldn’t speak much English. I also tried not to read much sports news in general."
Bobrovsky says he doesn’t really have a few better friends on the team, but gets along with everybody.
"I don’t have one or two friends, I talk with them all. I could go and have dinner with anybody on the team. On the road, in Pittsubugh for example, Brière could come up and say: ‘Let’s go to dinner’. Then in another city I can go with Shelley. So I’m always talking with someone. I also talked with Zherdev and Bartulis."
Bobrovsky also confirms the common thought that the toughest guys on the ice are often the nicest guys off the ice.
"Yes. Shelley and Carcillo are funny and friendly guys. Very kind and gentle people."
Bobrovsky says there are all kinds of differences in games, practices and training between the KHL and NHL. One of the biggest differences is the responsibility a player has on taking care of himself in the NHL.
"There are no such amounts of training as there are in the KHL. In the NHL you are trusted as a professional; you prepare yourself. Twenty minutes of intense work on the ice is enough. You have your own training program and you follow it if you want. And if you don’t want to follow it, you don’t follow it."
"Of course I compared the hockey that is played in the KHL to hockey that’s played in the NHL. I can say that I really like the style of play in the NHL. There’s great speed, a lot of shots and games every other day and sometimes back-to-back games."
Talking with the coaches seems easier in the NHL.
"We can just be there and talk. It’s not that formal with names and titles. They call Laviolette just Lavi. You can even joke with them. It’s not like in Russia."
If there’s less controlling of the players on the ice in the NHL, the same goes for off the ice as well.
"They don’t control the players on the road. Once you go to the airport, you just take your bag and sit on the plane and fly. You should be on the plane fifteen minutes before the flight is scheduled. When you get wherever you’re going, there’s a bus waiting. You sit on the bus and go to the hotel."
Usually teams have their own rules and punishments for those players who break the team rules, but Bobrovsky says he never saw anyone break any rules.
"I never noticed anyone getting punished somehow. They’re all professionals. Everything is built on trust and respect. There was no stuff like someone going to practice while drunk."
Bobrovsky says he could enjoy his life off the ice as well.
"Living conditions are different there. The roads are better there. In one word, it’s good [to live there]. But I wouldn’t say that Russia is bad. It’s alright here, but it’s good there. I didn’t experience anything uncomfortable. Everything was fine."
The traffic in Philadelphia gets some praise, too.
"The roads are good there. My driving skills are still the same, but I can say it’s even easier to drive there. There are signs everywhere and everything is clear. It’s impossible to get confused. You can’t end up on the wrong lane even if you tried."
Bobrovsky got a new mask made before the playoffs, but didn’t really intend to use it.
"I didn’t change my mask. I just had an idea for a mask and a spare helmet for the idea. I thought why not? But I didn’t change my mask. It was all media. They took pictures of it and said that I was introducing a new mask."
Bobrovsky says he was confident all along that he would get his chance on the Flyers.
"All the time. Everything went well. Plus there is the situation they have with the goalies in Philadelphia. I was given the chance and time. There are also other people around you helping you get better. Becoming more and more professional, to develop and to aim at the Cup."
Bobrovsky takes part of the blame on himself when it comes to the Flyers’ goalie performances in the playoffs.
"Maybe it was my fault to some extent. They trusted me, gave me a chance... and then it went like it did."
But Bobrovsky wouldn’t single out goalies.
"They can’t be singled out. A team played – and lost to another team. What does that mean for the goalies? Yes, goalies make mistakes. But so do the forwards and defensemen. The team loses."
Flyers having no shutouts all season wasn’t a huge problem to Bobrovsky.
"In hockey, you don’t have to get a shutout to win. The main thing is to win. And it doesn’t matter how many goals you let in. The main thing is that your team scores one goal more than the other team. So I’m not paying attention to shutouts."
Once more, Bobrovsky stresses that he has a good relationship with Brian Boucher.
"There was no competition between us. It was the opposite, we have friendly relations. There were no hard feelings."
Bobrovsky wasn’t contacted by the Team Russia coaching staff during the season, but he did get one pleasant phone call.
"Vladislav Tretiak called me once. But it was just as a friend, in the middle of the season. It wasn’t about anything specific."
Bobrovsky doesn’t want to think about the Olympics in Sochi just yet.
"It’s too early to talk about it. It’s still three years away. I try to live in the moment."
Bobrovsky will be back in Philadelphia in August, but now it’s time to rest.
"I’m going back on August 20th. And I’ll be prepared. I’m not going to train now in Novokuznetsk. I’m just going to rest. Then I’ll go relax by the sea and enjoy the sun. Then I’ll go to the gym and hit the ice when I come back."
It’s important to rest now and get the mind out of hockey when it’s still possible. Bobrovsky says he didn’t have much spare time during the season.
"I wouldn’t say I had a lot of it. If you play tomorrow, you just sleep, eat, wake up and it’s another game again. You go to a restaurant in the evening, but it’s nothing special. I used Skype and the internet, but that’s all."
"I had no time to get bored."
Lastly, the big question remains; what about next season? What if the Flyers sign Ilya Bryzgalov?
"That’s life. If he signs, he signs. If Bryzgalov signs, we’ll go with him."
"I’m often asked if I plan on returning to Russia. I can say that I have no such plans now. I will be ready for the Flyers next season."
This report was based off of a Russian-language story released by Sports Portal Novokuznetsk.