Andrei Ivanov, who plays as a forward with Avangard Omsk, learnt his ice hockey in St. Petersburg. In an interview with the Gazprom Neft Cup press centre, he told us about his sporting childhood and what young players can learn from taking part in an international tournament, and he wished the contestants to get real pleasure from the game.
— What tournaments were there in your childhood? Did you often play against teams from other cities?
— In my time there were tournaments by geographical zones. We played in the North-West zone, which included St. Petersburg, Cherepovets, Murmansk, Kondopoga and Petrozavodsk. The winner stepped forward to the Russian Championship. But we were older than the kids in the Gazprom Neft Cup. When we were 10 or 11 years old, like them, we only played in tournaments put on by parents at their own expense. When we visited other cities we stayed in the families of local players. Then they paid us a return visit.
— Did talented kids have to drop out of hockey because of that? Probably not all parents could afford to send their children on a trip like that?
— You’re right, sometimes parents on a modest income couldn’t afford to send their child to a tournament, and that was a shame. But if a boy really wants to play top-level hockey, he will find a way. My parents couldn’t send me to all the tournaments, but they did everything they could and I’m very grateful to them for it. I have a younger brother and we used to play together in the same team. I know that my parents did without things themselves so they could send us on trips to tournaments. They made their choice and invested in their children’s education. They taught me what I’m now trying to teach my son — I try to do what I believe in.
— What hockey trip do you remember most ?
— Everything was interesting back then. Nothing was routine. We travelled without our parents, with just the coach and a doctor. We always learnt something new. I remember a trip to Petrozavodsk. We got to the railway station there at about seven in the morning and the game wasn’t until five in the evening. They made us tea and sandwiches at the sports centre, and then we played snowballs all day. The coach had a hard time stopping us. We had no energy left for the match, so we played badly. After that, the coach said he wouldn’t give us so much free time before games anymore.
— Emotions run high at that age. Did you cry after losing?
— You bet! I remember a couple of times I was really upset about losing, and even cried. Self-control comes with age, but deep down you still take everything to heart — you just learn not to show it. If you don’t feel emotion and don’t suffer, it’s not worth going out on the ice.
— There will be 24 teams in the Gazprom Neft Cup this year. What can
— Loads! Maybe not so much about the game, but about life. When you play with your peers from the same city, it becomes an everyday thing and doesn’t get your blood up. But when you play in a big tournament, with lads from different cities and countries, you feel all the excitement and emotion.
— They say that at this age the important thing isn’t wining, but taking part. On the other hand , when you look at what the boys are going through, you realize that the main thing for them is to win...
— Of course it is! When you go out on the ice, you always want to win, to come first in every competition! I don’t understand athletes who say otherwise.
— Should a coach demand victory and only victory from kids at this age?
— It depends on the coach and what he wants. Maybe, his aim is to win at any cost ... I think that at this age you need to encourage the boys to do the absolute best they can to be as good as any opponent. If they win, that’s great. If they did everything they could, but the opponent was just too strong, it’s not something to worry about. The coach draws conclusions and explains to the children that tomorrow they have to be even better, and that it’s still all down to them. Always stay positive, so they don’t get upset and emotionally worn out. I think that is the main thing at this age.
— As a KHL player, what would you say to boys of
— No particular advice. I would tell them to really enjoy what they do — for it to be play in the true sense of the word, to feel strong emotion. The boys are at such a wonderful age — they just need to enjoy life.
— Do these tournaments create the desire to become a professional player?
— Of course they do! When you take part in a big, international tournament like this, you see what goes on in the world, how hockey is developing. You get the urge to improve and improve. You set yourself higher goals. TV and computers can’t give you emotions like that.