Last week OFB joined Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Puck Daddy fame in posing questions to the then NHL scoring leader, Alexander Semin, on an off night for the young Russian, who’s enjoying a remarkable breakout season. SovetskySport’s Dmitry Chesnokov joined Semin in Chinatown for some sushi and hockey talk, and Dmitry graciously posed our questions to Semin and translated the left wing’s answers for us. By now most in hockey know that the dinner delivered some memorable reflections from the previously soft-spoken Siberian.
OFB: Do you believe that your wristshot and stickhandling skills are the products of your hockey training and hard work or more God-given gifts?
Semin: “I don’t think this is something one can teach or learn. It is impossible to just learn. I think everyone will agree with me here. Of course there are things that I have learned. But when you’re out there on the ice there is no time to think and remember what you have learned. There is no way to remember all the skills someone may try to teach you when you’re on the ice and the game is at such a high pace that you only have a fraction of a second to think. Players I think are born with skills.”
OFB: How old were you when you first realized you were an elite hockey talent, and what moves or feats in a game did you accomplish that led you to this awareness?
Semin: “To be honest I have never even thought about it. I am still not thinking about it. If I were one of only ten players in total in the world, then maybe I would be able to compare myself. But when there are so many great players out there.”
OFB: Are you at all envious of Ovechkin’s fame and achievement, and does Ovi’s success motivate you to become better — for instance, was it a motivating factor in your training back home this summer?
Semin: “Ovechkin deserves all the fame and attention. He proved himself. I am not at all envious. He has had the spotlight on him since his childhood: in papers, on TV, here and there. I don’t really care about fame. If Ovechkin achieved what he has [fame] by just someone else “pulling him by ears” and promoting his all the time, that’s different. But Ovechkin did it all himself! Look at his statistics! He deserves all of the attention and fame he has like no one else. Does it motivate me? Let’s ask him. Now the situation is in reverse. Does it motivate him?”
OFB: What was the earliest positive feedback you received about being in Washington from Fedorov after he arrived in the trade with Columbus? Did he know before the season ended that he wanted to return to the Capitals?
Semin: “Sergei wanted to come back. He said so at the end of last season. Of course he didn’t know if Washington were going to resign him. But he wanted to be back. He said he felt young again after coming over from Columbus. He likes everything here.”
OFB: What facet of your game do you believe you have improved the most over last season?
Semin: “I am injury free and the coach trusts me more. Look at my playing time. That’s the most important improvement over the previous season.”