Pavel Datsyuk is scheduled to return to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers, having missed the last seven games with a concussion. Being that he was a nearly point per game player before that injury, it's a welcomed return.
In the meantime, Datsyuk sat down with Pavel Lysenkov of SovSport a few weeks ago for a wide-ranging Q&A. As usual, it's Datsyuk being as insightful and funny as we've come to expect.
Here's a translated version of that Russian interview:
Q. New Jersey Devils’ defenseman Anton Volchenkov told me one ‘Hockey in the NHL is like a war – you never know if you come back from a game in one piece.’
DATSYUK: “It is a rough comparison. But games here are like battles. Injuries happen every day. So Anton is somewhat right.”
Who were you thankful for during Thanksgiving?
“I am thankful to a lot of people for their support – to family, to friends. And of course to fans, who never leave you in a difficult moment. They are with you not only when you’re at the peak of fame, but during injuries as well. A lot of people write a lot of warm words on Twitter. They post interesting pictures. One lady sent me a picture of a baby in a Detroit knitted sweater.”
I also remember once fans were sitting behind a table and had a Datsyuk mask on their faces: men, women, children… Just like "Being John Malkovich."
“Those were not fans, but my Birthday! And it was in the summer.” Datsyuk laughed.
In November a lot of NHL players grew mustaches. Did you want to support the Movember movement?
“I wanted to, but mustache wouldn’t grow. And unfortunately I didn’t see others’ mustaches growing, as I don’t watch NHL games. There is so much hockey during the season that you need to take a break from it, otherwise you would get too full.”
Did you consider placing a bet with your Swedish friend Henrik Zetterberg from Detroit as to who will win in Sochi?
“I don’t want to make any funny bets. I take the Olympics seriously.”
I suspect you are tired of the topic of the Olympics…
“Every day I am asked about it, they want to find out something. A lot of TV programs come over to record your opinion. And in November it was like a flood. But how can I know what happens in February?
But you also have to participate in the filming of HBO’s 24/7.
“I am very doubtful that a person with a camera will follow me around for 24 hours. But of course HBO will take a peek into the Detroit locker room. I watched some episodes when other guys were filmed… It is always interesting how other teams live.”
Ilya Bryzgalov was the main star [last series]. Who will be Detroit’s showman?
“Everyone on our team can realize himself on TV. The team is very open, friendly… I bet Dan Cleary will show himself better than others.”
Cutting laces, nailing shoes to the floor – are these jokes still there in the NHL?
“Times change. The latest fashionable thing is to jump on the glass after scoring a goal.”
I even know who started it – say hello to Alex Ovechkin. When was the last time you played outdoors?
“December 31, last New Year’s Eve. There was the lockout in the NHL, and I was allowed to play for CSKA. I came to Ekaterinburg. I was running around on open ice wearing valenki. That was also the name of our team ‘Valenki.’ After that there was banya, plunging into holes in the ice, New Year’s table. This was my Winter Classic and nostalgia.”
The stadium in Michigan is for 115,000 people…
“Oh yes, American football is played there. A couple of years ago there was the announcement [of the game]. I walked to the middle of the field and was in awe. What a venue! And that’s where we will play hockey.”
Any of your friends from Russia will come?
“I said ‘This is a lifetime memory!’ You know how I can tell a story. There were a lot of takers. But we will see… People celebrate New Year’s a little different in Russia.”
Last summer you signed an endorsement deal with Megafon. What are your plans?
“I became the face of the company this Olympic season. I am sure that our collaboration will bring results. I like how Megafon supports a lot of different sports in Russia, develops a lot of projects for children. For example, I together with Ilya Bryzgalov have been hosting a goaltender school the last few years. I hope that it gets worked out and we will combine this school with the training camp I host in Ekaterinburg. I don’t know how we will organize it all, but our school is sometimes short on goaltenders.”
Your summer school is six years old. During this time has any boy grown up to be an interesting player?
“The summer camp helps them a lot. But you can’t teach everything in a few days. The main lesson is to enjoy what you do.”
What book are you reading now?
“A friend of mine visited and brought three books. Treasures of the Valkyries by Sergei Alekseyev about Ivan the Terrible, The Great Outcast about Alexander the Great. And also Mikhail Zadornov’s Knyaz Rurik. Reading about history is very interesting.”
What historical figure would you like to have dinner with?
“It would be great to talk to Jesus and Sigmund Freud.”
Understood about Jesus Christ. But why Freud?
“A smart, deep person. It would be interesting to talk to him about psychology.”
What books do you like – e-books or paper?
“Classical reading is when you can shuffle pages sitting by the fireplace. But in America you cannot always find the book you need, so sometimes I download it. It is convenient, but you don’t feel it with your fingers.”
What are your favorite apps on iPad? Maybe you have finished all levels of Angry Birds?
“I don’t play games, and almost never use my tablet. I can watch movies on the plane, read a book. But sometimes you don’t have time even for that.”
What news shocked you the most recently?
“Of course the plane crash in Kazan and the collapse of the shopping center in Riga. These types of news get your attention, you feel terrible. As for something good, it was interesting to watch the Olympic flame traveling through Russia. People are happy, and it is a celebration for every city… And also it bothered that Ekaterinburg lost the vote to host the Expo2020 to Dubai. It’s too bad… It would be great for the development of our city. Now we’ll wait for Ekaterinburg to host the World Cup (of soccer).”
About the Olympic flame – if you were invited to be the flag bearer in Sochi?
“It is a very important mission to carry the Russian flag with the entire world watching. I would treat it with utmost respect. But you need to earn this. Team Russia has a lot of great athletes, who have already won the Olympics. The most deserving needs to be picked.”
Did you like the Datsyuk bobblehead that was handed out at the Joe Louis Arena?
“I only saw a picture of it. I look a bit prettier in real life. But it will do…”
What present did you get for your 800th NHL game?
“Nothing. It wasn’t the 1000tthgame. But it is nice to be congratulated by your teammates and the media.”
What type of music can you compare your game to?
“Hmm… It’s classic. A smooth waltz. We got old, and no one is in a hurry to be anywhere.”
Would you like to travel to the Soviet past for one day and go back to school?
“With great pleasure, and not for one day. I have a great nostalgia for the 80s… Sometimes I want to go back to my childhood. It was a great time. When we get together with neighborhood friends, we always remember how we played on a pond, cleaned it from the snow, how we played soccer and hockey. We spent entire days there without lunch… And then you come home in the evening, and your legs are numb, and you realize that they are about to thaw… I still remember that feeling from my childhood to this day.”
If you are told that Datsyuk will score the most points in the NHL, what will you say?
“One to ten.”
What one to ten?
“That’s how I see my chances of scoring the most points in the NHL. It is a great motivation, but the competition for the Art Ross Trophy is really tough.”
And if you are offered to know your life one year ahead?
You won’t need to think what will happen in February in Sochi.
“I don’t want that.”
“If you know everything, then you can’t change anything. What the point of living this year? But now everything is in our hands. There is a good toast: ‘If you want to know the value of a minute, ask someone who missed the train. If you want to know the value of an hour, ask someone in love who is waiting for his girlfriend…’ Just think how much time we spend doing nothing. And then this time is exactly what you don’t have to finish something. So I don’t want to have a feeling after Sochi that I wasted my time for nothing.”
At the end of the interview Datsyuk was asked what his dream is.
“Saint Nikolai Velimirovich once said: ‘Only the strong decides to do good.’ I dream that the world has more strong people, who decide to do good.”