Former CSKA defender, who recently signed a three-year contract with the NHL “Montreal Canadiens” Alexander Romanov, has been in Toronto for several days. He spoke about his first impressions of being overseas, as well as about his upcoming wedding and future in Montreal in an interview with our correspondent.
What are your first impressions of Toronto?
I haven’t reached Montreal yet, I am serving a weekly quarantine in Toronto. And if I immediately went to Montreal, I would have to be forced to self-isolate from everyone for two weeks. In Toronto, they put me in a hotel. Excellent conditions, a magnificent view of the whole city from the window of the room, you can see the huge Lake Ontario, gorgeous weather – the sun is shining all the days.
Have you already been somewhere?
No. I can’t go out into the street. A man sits in front of my room around the clock and makes sure that I comply with the quarantine and do not go anywhere. You can’t even walk around the floor.
Does it bind you?
Yes, if being at home I could train myself, then being within four walls in Toronto at a hotel is incredibly difficult. Here I have no bicycle, no dumbbells, no sports equipment. And it is necessary to do something, or even to put on weight. The representatives of “Montreal” sent me exercises that can be done in the room. Another girl advises to do more push-ups. You can’t sit idle. So you can lose the whole form. I count the days and hours when the quarantine period ends.
What do you know about the current Montreal squad?
A year ago, I crossed paths when I came to Montreal with striker Paul Byron. I don’t know any other guys. I regularly read about the team in the press, I follow the preparations for the start of the playoffs. Montreal is a legendary club with a very rich hockey history. I know that Montreal is a very strong team, with good attacking, strong defense and an excellent goalkeeper. I want to prove that I am worthy to play for the team. I will do my best for this.
I know that many hockey players used to collect cards and stickers with NHL players as children. Did you have a similar hobby?
Yes, I was just collecting an album with photos of KHL players. There were a lot of stickers. I collected almost the entire collection. Mom did not have time to give money to buy stickers (laughs).
Was there an album with photos of NHL players?
No. But I was constantly playing playstation.
No. For different teams. Before I was drafted by Montreal, I didn’t have a favorite team. It didn’t matter who to play.
You quickly managed to break into the main CSKA line-up, as part of the army team you won the Gagarin Cup. Happy with your game?
No, more dissatisfied than satisfied. As Pavel Datsyuk says, if you are satisfied with your game, you need to finish. I could have played better, scored more points according to the “goal + pass” system, but I scored only one goal in two seasons. I need to improve in many components of the game.
One goal, but against the Ak Bars team, which was headed by your grandfather Zinetula Bilyaletdinov.
This is not very important, everyone has already forgotten about it. The final statistics are important, but for now I cannot boast of them. Will work. In modern hockey, it is important for a defender not only to fulfill his direct functions, but also to try to score points for goals and assists.
You are from a real hockey family – your father played for a long time in the Russian Super League and the Russian national team, and your grandfather was one of the key players of the USSR national team in the 80s, won the Olympics, led the Russian national team at many major tournaments. Do they often help you with advice?
We talk every day. They really want me to have a career, to make my way to the main team of Montreal, and, of course, to play for the Russian national team.
Which of the current Russian NHLers do you communicate with?
After the end of the period of self-isolation, we skated with the guys on one of the capital’s rinks. Alexander Radulov trained with us. I asked him a lot about the NHL. He played for Montreal some time ago. He gave me a lot of good advice.
Have you gone overseas alone now?
Yes. After the end of the playoffs, I will return to Russia, with the girl we will go to her homeland, Kaliningrad, in the beginning of autumn we will sign and after a while we will fly to Montreal together.
Such a long absence of playing practice does not scare you, because you will be able to debut for your new club only in December, and you played your last match in March.
While I will just train with the team. Game practice is necessary, but there is nothing to be done – such are the terms of the contract. I have never had such a long pause, I hope I can quickly get in shape. I will train hard.
If you suddenly fail to make it to Montreal, what are your next steps – will you return to Russia?
I will try to prove myself and get into the first team. This is my first priority.