Legionnaires will never get tired of talking about Russia. Still, for many foreigners, we remain a mysterious and incomprehensible country, which is interesting to hear about. This time the author of the tales was the Canadian striker Zack Boychak, who a few years ago spent three seasons in the KHL, playing for Sibir, Slovan and Severstal. On the Cam & Strick podcast, Boychuk talked about suspicious methods of treatment and recovery, Russian girls, salary delays in clubs, going to the bathhouse with dull beer, and also compared the KHL with European leagues.
What planet am I on? They killed a sheep and hung it from a tree. The king’s revelations about Russia
“The KHL is a different world, but if you get your money’s worth it’s worth it”
Let’s talk about Russia? Describe your experience. – I was in Novosibirsk, it is -40 ° C every day, you hardly go out. Not once in the two or three years that I was in the KHL, I was not paid on time. It wasn’t the best experience, but in the end I got all my money and then I went to beautiful Switzerland.
– What is the biggest difference between the KHL and Switzerland and Germany? – In KHL, you have to be ready to work hard, participate in long training camps, play 15 pre-season games in 20 days. Switzerland has a little less money, but the overall lifestyle is amazing. Almost every night you spend at home, travel, almost nothing. But in Russia it is also great, I liked this plow, and the girls too. The girls there are great.
– Tell me about the flights there. Here you are getting on a plane, there’s a 17-hour flight ahead, what’s up? Broken seats or a drunk pilot, were you worried about something? – It was scary to fly in the Yaks, there is also a back landing. The plane is like from the 80s, you don’t know if it’s safe or not. You get on and they tell you to fly for six hours, but it’s only half, then refuel and another flight to the east of Russia. And this is already 14 hours difference from my hometown. The KHL is a different world, but if you get your money’s worth it’s worth it.
– Novosibirsk is Tarasenko’s fiefdom. You said that, although late, you still get paid, and that’s the most important thing. And how did they pay? Bags of cash or to a bank account, were you safely taken to a bank to put money into an account? How does everything work there? – Someone immediately received cash, but did not trust anything. It’s funny that you mentioned Tarasenko, because his father was our assistant coach. And he is a magician, he worked very well with young people, and I liked him a lot. Regarding the salary, I had to wait four or five months. I arrived in October and they constantly told me that the money would arrive soon, that it would be sent by the KGB or the gas workers. And four or five months later, I got a big check. I was there for a couple more months, expecting a big pay balance. As a result, I had to wait until September, I specially went to Novosibirsk, went to the right bank for money, and then I made the transfer. It’s been a crazy year.
What if you didn’t get paid? You need to have a good agent there. Fortunately, my agent spoke Russian well, his wife is Russian, he himself lived in Croatia, often came to Russia. So it’s all a process. Some teams didn’t pay players, people waited several years for their money, but in the end they got it. The KHL improved, began to expel clubs from the league, tried to create a players’ union. So it’s getting better there than it was 5-10 years ago.
Let’s go back to Papa Tarasenko. His son plays in North America, he understands the Americans in the KHL. Could you go up to him, tell him that you haven’t been paid for several months and you don’t know what to do, but you want to eat? “Personally, I didn’t complain about anything. Among the young people there were boys who intercepted others for gasoline or for lunch. Young people were spending so much money that they could literally live from paycheck to paycheck. But the coaches and general managers are in the same position, they were also waiting for their money, they wanted to know when the money would come from the sponsors. There are difficult moments there. If oil falls or sponsors don’t send money, then that’s it.
Photo: Yuri Kuzmin, photo.khl.ru
“Russian girls are awesome, but that’s because they want to leave the country”
– And the girls are easy to hit there, easier than in North America, where they can be arrogant? — Yes, especially in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Nine out of ten there will be simply stunning beauties. And this is not without reason, but because they want to leave this country. Most good girls get married at 19 or 20, so if you meet a girl at a club, she probably wants you to take her to Canada or the United States with you.
Why didn’t you find anyone? It’s not easy with the language barrier. I translated on the phone with Google, tried to communicate with these girls. But I know quite a few guys who have met Russian girls and taken them away.
– It happened that after a couple of dates a girl thinks that you are ready to marry her and take her with you, and you disappear and she starts to go crazy, call? Have you been in crazy situations? “Not me personally, but my agent had to deal with a client. The secret service really had to get involved, witness protection. I did not go so far, but there were such cases.
How are the girls in Switzerland? – I played in Bern, in my opinion, only in Zurich the girls are doing well. In Germany, France, Great Britain you will not find girls like in Eastern Europe: Russia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Estonia.
“Dogs are treated better than women!” Canadians on life in Russia
“During the recession, we would go to the bathhouse and drink beer with strange fish”
Russia is so interesting! I’ve heard all kinds of crazy stories. I talked to Trevor Gillis and other tough guys that played there, they had a great time there, the owners treated them well. But I heard that everyone there should join hands every day and bring a cake on their birthday. And all kinds of crap, like slaughtering goats in the arena. All this is true? – Yes, everything is true, and about handshakes, and about the birthday cake. And I heard the story with the goat, but on my computers it didn’t get that crazy. But if we had a recession, we would go to the bathhouse and clog the beer with this strange fish. And yes, you have to go there if you are ready to train and cheer yourself up with anything for good health. You come in the morning, they give you vitamins. In the game season every other day, the flights are crazy, you don’t understand what time zone you are in, what time it is. Droppers in hotels, Russian gas, such crazy stories. An interesting league, very different from the North American one.
Photo: Alexander Korkka, photo.khl.ru
— And what is Russian gas? To be honest, I don’t even know what it is. I tried it once when I was playing for Severstal. Terrible city, half a million inhabitants and only one restaurant. But if you have a rich enough team, they will pay for Russian gas. The guys there love it.
You go into the back room of the arena, there sits an elderly doctor with a suspicious appearance. The light is off, only one light is on. Everyone lines up, you lie down on the table and they connect you to the gas chamber. Lots of people listen to music to tune in and get high. You are instructed to put on a breathing mask, let the gas flow through your head, and hold your breath. You hold your breath, you think that somehow for a long time, and in the end you manage not to breathe for three or four minutes. Craziness. You get high and then you walk out feeling like a million bucks. Many did, many liked it.
I have another story. Somehow I got sick, in such a situation, many people put drops. Five or six of us got sick then, we all went to the doctor on the base. I go to him, I feel terrible. The doctor asks me to bend over, he gives me an injection in the ass and tells me: “Go home faster, now you will faint and tomorrow you will be better”. I got in a cab and drove home and immediately passed out, and the next day I felt like a pickle. Who knows what it was.
“Russian gas is amazing. In the KHL, I immediately said: inject me whatever you want.
– Do you think the Russian guys bring Russian gas to the NHL? “Yeah, I wonder if someone is smuggling it in.” It would be great if that was the case. But I haven’t heard of that. It seems to be very expensive, plus you need a big tank and everything. It will be difficult to carry this in hand luggage.
– And this is doping, does it make you start playing better? How does it work? “I think you recover faster. It’s definitely illegal stuff, you’d be in trouble here for that. It just makes you feel great, I don’t even know how to explain it any other way.
Have you ever had thoughts like “get me out of here”? You played in Switzerland, Germany and the KHL. In the KHL hockey is much better or they pay more, what is the benefit of going there? – They pay more. But to earn a lot of money, you have to play in the best clubs, there are five or six of them. And so the leagues align. Sweden, in my opinion, in general, the league is better than in Russia. But there are some big clubs there that you can’t compete with because they pay a lot of money and there’s basically no salary cap. The German league is improving, Switzerland has very good hockey. And then there is the Champions League, where clubs from different leagues play. Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden – all these leagues are now comparable.