37-year-old goalkeeper, world champion with the Russian national team among senior and youth teams, Russian champion with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Stanley Cup finalist with the Dallas Stars Anton Khudobin signed a one-year contract with Krasnoyarsk Sokol, which plays in the VHL. Khudobin played for a long time in North America, gained experience and has now returned to his homeland. In the KHL everyone was waiting for Antón, but he decided to take another path and explained his choice in an exclusive interview with a “Championship” columnist.
“I don’t plan to relax and have fun, like someone thought.”
—Why did you decide to sign a contract with Sokol? – This is the plan to play at home, it’s not that I left the KHL. If a good offer came I would consider it. I have relatives and relatives in Krasnoyarsk. Mom, dad, friends, everyone is here. I don’t plan to relax and have fun, as someone thought, it is important to be completely focused on hockey. I go to hockey instead of some entertainment.
— Were they not considered the “Torpedo” of Ust-Kamenogorsk (Khudobin’s birthplace. — Note from the “Championship”) or other clubs from Kazakhstan? —There were no calls from there, but, I repeat, my parents have been living here for nine years. I really like Krasnoyarsk: there is something to do, it is a big modern city, the summer is good. And this with all the Siberian nuances!
—Weren’t the offers to the KHL financially satisfactory? But in Sokol the conditions are no more tempting. – To be honest, I don’t know what, how, why and why. There are Yuri Leonidovich Nikolaev and other agents of the Winners company, they worked and are working. The contract contains a clause according to which, in case of a serious offer from the KHL to Sokol, they will let me go.
Photo: Tony Gutiérrez/AP Photo/TASS
“I’m not a blue blood guy, I’m willing to consider any option and any offer.”
— Metallurg sports director Sergei Gomolyako said that the demands of his agents on the Urals seemed too high… — I read your statements, I don’t know if they are exaggerated or not. I think there are quite adequate things there, given my experience. I am sure that there can be nothing cosmic in the agents’ wishes. Of course, I still have friends in Magnitogorsk. Of the hockey players I only know Yegor Yakovlev, but I also remember some of the coaches and employees of the club.
—Have you spoken with Lada, with Dynamo Minsk? — They told me that these options exist, but they did not go into details. The press works quickly, I read about the same “Lada” that they already took one goalkeeper, Minsk – another.
— Were you ready to fly to the Far East if you received an offer from Amur or the Admiral? “I’m not a blue blood guy, I’m willing to consider any option and any offer.” Khabarovsk and Vladivostok are good progressive cities, the guys there know them. Travel and logistics are of course different, you need to fly more, in another time zone. We are all professionals, I flew a lot in the United States, so I am used to it.
“Semin said let’s work together if you feel like it and want to play”
—When do you plan to debut with Krasnoyarsk? — I don’t know, this is a question for the coaching staff. Physically I feel great. Database documents are complete, I am officially a Sokol player. Now, I repeat, everything depends on the coaches’ decisions. We will leave on Monday.
— Will you go to away games or, like Alexander Semin in his time, will you play only at home? — I’m going to the first series away from home and then the management and the coaching staff will decide.
– Did Alexander Semin (president of Sokol. – Championship note) play a role in your transition? Can you call them friends? —We have a standard contact with him: there is one for work and another for friendship, outside the arena. As a rule, we do not talk about hockey, since problems have already been raised that need to be resolved. Yes, he suggested it to me himself. He said let’s work together if there is desire and desire to play. The conversation took place a long time ago; we could have signed and prepared earlier. Therefore, yes, Alexander Valerievich influenced this decision and played a role in my transition.
A rare conversation with Alexander Semin:
“Kaprizov is handsome, Vasilevsky is already a legend.” Great interview with Alexander Semin.
—Have you already thought about finishing your degree? — I want to play, enjoy hockey. At 37 years old, every athlete has thoughts, but if there is the possibility of training and playing, then you have to do it. Why not? If I feel like I can’t do it, I tell myself, I hang up my skates or throw them in the trash.
– Mercilessly? — Some can be thrown away and others can be left (laughs). My health is fine, everything is fine. Thank God he gives me strength.
Anton Khudobin in “Falcón”
“I said to myself: “That’s it, I’ll finalize the contract and return to my homeland.”
— What are your first impressions of living in Russia after living abroad for a long time? —I came here every year, so everything is fine. It is true that she always flew to the United States in September. Now in Krasnoyarsk it is colder, cloudy and raining. I changed from a t-shirt to a jacket and instead of shorts I put on pants. I understood everything and wanted to return home, because I myself am Russian, from this country. Can I be scared by “-2” or “-20” on a thermometer?
— Did you plan to live in the United States permanently? — No, I can’t see myself there regularly. I worked there, I did what I loved, but here it is increasingly closer and dearer to me. This is my homeland.
— If you compare the AHL and the VHL, is there any difference? Regarding logistics and conditions. — I can’t say much about this because I haven’t experienced the logistics here yet. The boys here are of a good level, some are ambitious and young, they all try hard and run. It was normal in the AHL, but I won’t say it was comfortable. More precisely, this: depending on various situations, it is not entirely comfortable. The level of the AHL itself is good, there are many young people fighting for the squad and for a place in the sun. The guys are moving towards the NHL.
How Anton Khudobin began to be “strangled” in “Dallas”:
“It’s a mystery to me why I stopped playing in Dallas.” “This has been going on for more than the first season.”
— In the AHL, like in the VHL, do you still travel a lot by bus? — Many bus trips. It depends on the team you are on. If we talk about the Texas Stars, first the plane and then the bus. Chicago’s system is primarily bus-based. By plane, only flights to Winnipeg or Toronto.
—Why didn’t it work in the Chicago system, where you played only one game? —The management said they were looking at young people. They let me play a game, but I didn’t play for a long time. I played like that, it didn’t go well, it’s not my place to judge. I already understood that it was time to return.
— Were you looking for a job in the NHL or were you determined to return home? — I firmly decided that I was no longer looking for a job in the NHL. Already in November I learned that he would return to Russia. I said to myself: “That’s it, I’ll finalize the contract and return to my homeland.”
Anton Khudobin and Alexander Radulov
Photo: Tony Gutiérrez/AP Photo/TASS
“I confidently declare: “Alexander Radulov is the main star of the KHL”
— Is life very different now in the United States and Russia? — Two different countries: there are some prices, there are different prices. The weather, the people, the mentality: everything is different. Social life is also different.
— In “Dallas” you acted with Radulov. Can we say that Alexander is now the main star of the KHL? – Definitely. I confidently declare: “Alexander is the main star of this league.” He is a driving force, a guy who gives energy to everyone around him everywhere: in training, in the game, in the locker room. I was very happy to start with him in the junior team, when we were 15 years old, we were the same age. Radulov not only improves himself, but also the entire team. Load, mood, efficiency – he has it all. By playing with Alexander, you yourself grow and progress.
— Do you have a relationship with him? — Yes, sometimes we correspond, we communicate, we talk, we call each other whenever possible. We maintain friendly relations.
— Do you often remember the Stanley Cup final series against Tampa? — Each game will come to mind periodically, because this is my experience, my career. I don’t think much, but sometimes, for example, something suddenly appears somewhere on YouTube. It is interesting to observe, remember moments, life in the “bubble”, many pleasant and unusual memories. This is the main foreign series of my career.
All about the Anton Khudobin trade from Dallas to Chicago:
The Russian playoff hero was finally traded to the NHL. But will he still return to Russia?
Anton Khudobin in the Stanley Cup final “Dallas” – “Tampa”
Photo: Jason Franson/ZUMA/TASS
“I think Russia has the strongest school of goalkeepers”
—What do you think about tightening the limit on foreign players in the KHL? In the NHL this is not even close. — I see that now foreigners want to receive Russian passports. I have a normal attitude towards this, there is intense competition, this only strengthens the players, there is professional growth. As for the transition from five foreign players to three, in that sense they pave the way for our guys, this is also good. Let the Russians play here, develop and have a better chance of breaking into the first team. There is more hope that in this way they can prove themselves in their homeland and not go to another country.
—You touched on the topic of naturalization. Are you surprised by such massive numbers? – I’m not surprised by this. If the kids want it, why not? People express their desire to receive a Russian passport and become citizens of the country. Please, I personally don’t care. Each person has their own opinion and choice. If he wants to, why should anyone interfere?
— Do you consider the Russian goalkeeping school to be the best in the world? Vasilevsky, Bobrovsky, Shesterkin, Sorokin, Samsonov in the first roles in the NHL. — Yes, I think we have the strongest school of goalkeepers. All the guys showed with their play that they are worthy of high places, and Russian goalkeepers, naturally, are at the top of world hockey.
— Name your head coach in your career in the NHL and in Russia. — Jim Montgomery and Bruce Cassidy in the United States. Valery Nikolaevich Bragin gave me a chance in the Russian youth team, and Andrei Viktorovich Shayanov is the man who brought me to Magnitogorsk, he worked with Bragin in the youth team. They believed in me and helped me become a professional goalkeeper.
— Continue the story with Fedotov, what can you wish for Ivan? “I would like to wish him to disconnect from all the press and concentrate on hockey and preparing for the games. Iván is a wonderful goalkeeper, he will get it. You have to turn your head away from the exaggerations, I believe in him, everything will be fine.