«I’M NOT YET WHERE I MUST BE»
— Are you still the happiest person on earth? Is the euphoria still makes you drunk and excited?
— When I think about it, yes. But mostly I just live my usual life. I have just come to Moscow; trying to sleep normally. It’s not that I’m sitting and being proud of myself, no.
— Did you have an idea that life was already successful at the age of 22? You are the Stanley Cup winner.
— When I raised the cup, it felt like this. This was the goal for which I have worked my whole career. But now the main thing is the development. I am not yet where I must be.
— You celebrated with a bang despite the covid restrictions. How did you manage to get out of the festive city so quickly?
— We had a boat parade and we also partied a bit next evening. Then I decided to leave as the vacation is short – we must prepare for the next season. Now I want to spend time with my family - it's been a long time since I saw my parents and my girlfriend.
— Everyone is concerned if it will be possible to bring the main NHL trophy to Russia?
— I don’t know if this is possible, really. But this problem is being solved at the moment. The hosts of such events want everything to be safe, to avoid any infection. I plan to take the Cup to Nizhnekamsk to give the fans an opportunity to take pictures and get autographs, to give the city a reason to celebrate. As far as I know, there were no Stanley Cup winners in Tatarstan before. I come from Nizhnekamsk, I love this city. I’m really proud to be born in Nizhnekamsk.
— Is Nizhnekamsk a hockey city? What makes it the one?
— It is a small town, there is not so much entertainment, and hockey is the biggest one. Everyone knows "Neftekhimik", everyone visits the games.
— You’ve been living in America since 17. Is there something you haven’t get used to yet?
— Actually, no. I got settled. I’ve learnt English, I communicate now without any problems. I got used to everything.
And I left for the USA without speaking English. I had to learn it in Canada, when I played in junior league there. It was quite hard but I had a teacher. And plus, my team helped me, they didn’t laugh at me. It is not accepted at all, of course, but I thought that they would laugh at me. In Nizhnekamsk one can be mocked for everything. The most cheerful people come from Nizhnekamsk.
«I DON’T HAVE ANY PRIORITIES ON TERMS OR AMOUNT OF A CONTRACT»
— You’ve become a restricted free agent. So which priorities do you have considering that Tampa has to face the salary cap?
— My priority is to stay in Tampa. I want to play there till the end of my career, till I’m 40. I don’t have any priorities on terms or amount of a contract. I’m ready to stay in Tampa till the end of my life. Hope, we’ll sign a new contract and everything will be fine.
— Your Instagram account is not only a collection of nice photos but also a mine of informative and highly artistic videos. How did you come up with the idea to make the content so various?
— Originally, I’ve started that myself during the lockdown. We decided to shoot it and we succeeded. Then I started working with the content manager, and at one point an idea came to mind - what would happen if Harry Potter would be combined with hockey? I thought - what if Harry Potter would fly on a hockey stick? That's when we started to develop the idea.
— What made Mikhail Sergachev succeed as a Stanley Cup champion?
— It was a moment from childhood: I am about 5-6 years old, I am in a kindergarten, talking to a girl, and a man approaches me, the father of this girl. He says, “Misha you are a big boy, higher than all your mates. Do you want to try yourself in hockey?” At that time I did swimming; it was okay for me and I was not interested in anything at all. I answered "Okay" to this man. Then I told my dad and he agreed so we decided to try. I distinctly remember this moment. That man became my first coach.
«YOU MUSN’T COPLAIN THAT IT WAS HARD»
— What was the tipping point for Tampa?
— It was a trip to Sweden to play Buffalo Sabres for NHL Global Series this year. We won hard game twice but it’s not the main point. We spend about 9 days in Sweden and during this time we united as a team. At that time, the guys already knew that something good was going on.
But the top moment was when we beat "Columbus" in five overtimes. Then we felt that nothing could stop us. It gave us a lot of self-confidence.
— Why do you think your head coach Jon Cooper is so phenomenal for the team?
— I would describe him as an unusual coach - he is always with his team. In other words, he is close to us. He always stands for his guys, always asks if you need a day off, never bulls anybody. But if he doesn't like something, he won’t beat about the bush, and then you can discuss. I had a situation like that.
— Victor Hedman has been selected the most valuable player in the NHL playoffs. How does it feel to play side by side with such a person?
— He’s like a big brother to me. Он мне как большой брат. When I joined the team, I didn't know what to expect because Victor is the leader of Tampa Bay, the star of the league. I didn't know how he would welcome me. I wouldn't say I was his rival, but anyway. He treated me very well, he helped me, explained everything, I sat next to him in the locker room.
And playing with such a partner is really awesome. If he stays ahead, he will always be back in time.
— Before the playoffs there were rumours that this Championship will be much harder than usual. Is it your case? How to survive 100 days of bubble life and not go mad?
— We had hockey, we had a goal. I don't think anybody was going mad. We had games every two days, we entertained ourselves with tennis, ping-pong and basketball. We even had a whole soccer stadium! Everything was fine, but it was hard for the guys who had children and wives. It was hard for me too, because my girlfriend was waiting for me.
Though there was an opportunity not to go. And, when you already agreed to go, you mustn't complain that it was hard. We are ready to go through it again if necessary.