There are few NHL players training with Dynamo Moscow in Russia right now, like Alex Ovechkin, Max Afinogenov and Andrei Markov(notes). There's also a former NHL player preparing for his first season in the KHL: Jiri Hudler(notes), formerly of the Detroit Red Wings.
Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov sat down with Hudler after practice to talk about the Red Wings, the war between the NHL and the KHL, coming to Russia, what Jaromir Jagr(notes) said Jiri signed with Dynamo Moscow and some other things. He has some interesting things to say about the arbitration process in the NHL and the potential for his return to the Wings in the future.
Here is a translation of Lysenkov's Q&A with Hudler:
Q. How should we call you now: Jiri or Yuri [Russian name]?
HUDLER: I don't even know. What would be better for you? Maybe Jirka? It's up to you, whatever you prefer. Maybe it would be better for you because Yuri is closer to the Russian culture.
Did you expect such a great interest around you in Russia?
As a hockey player, yes. I know they want me to be a big part of this team. I want Dynamo Moscow as a team to be successful in the league and be on top of all ratings.
I think the interest was generated, first of all, because Jiri Hudler became sort of a rope that the KHL and the NHL management started pulling. Because of you there is a real war!
It wasn't my fight. In my opinion, I know I didn't do anything wrong. I signed a contract with Dynamo. Nobody was cheating. I didn't lie. Detroit was understanding made it easy. They wanted me to be happy and wanted me to be a better player. But the NHL came up with this fight, not Detroit. They started fighting against Dynamo, and not Detroit.
It wouldn't have happened had you decided not to file for arbitration in the NHL requesting the Red Wings to raise your salary. Why did you do it?
It was just a smart thing to do before we made a decision. It was right after the season that we [filed] for arbitration. And it's been a long time since then. If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have had anything now. I don't know the rules regarding arbitration exactly. I think you have to sign up for it in June or something, a while before you actually go for arbitration.
In the end you were awarded a two year $5.75 million contract. Did you expect to be awarded this much?
It was about Detroit and me. Detroit did not give me any problems about coming over here. But I think in the future, if I go back [to the NHL] they want me to go to Detroit. But I am not thinking two years ahead now. I am a Dynamo Moscow player now. I am not thinking about going back, because I just signed here. I want to be here. This is going to be my home now. Whether it will be for two years or five, I don't know.
While you're not thinking about going back to the NHL now, is there still a chance you are going to go back to Detroit? When Russian veteran players come back they say that they are done with the NHL.
As I have told you, I have no idea whether I will go back. It is not on my mind right now. I signed with Dynamo. I want to get better every day. I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I wouldn't even be fair to Dynamo if I said ‘I am going to leave you.' This is not even the case here. I want to be successful here and go as far as we can go and win the Gagarin Cup.
So, you coming to play here is not the end of your NHL career?
No, I don't think so. I am 25 years old. Why would people say that it's the end of my NHL career? I am not ending my career. I might be here for a long time. I might now. I don't know what's going to happen. You, guys, are not very welcoming! [Hudler laughs] It is my first day here and you're asking me when I am going back! I am getting to know everyone on the team, and everyone is very welcoming. It was my first practice with the team, and I feel really good about what I saw. The training facility is dynamite! It is beautiful! I feel really welcome here.
You traveled to Detroit to pack your things etc. How did you say goodbye to the Red Wings? Did they wish you luck?
Ken Holland, the general manager, texted me and said: ‘Good luck this season. We are happy for you. Make sure you work hard every day and improve as a player. Have a great season and life there.' They treated me very good for a player who left. They understand [me]. And they believe I can be a better player.
Did you ever get a feeling that you were not as appreciated as you should have at Detroit? Do you feel that you couldn't open up as a player playing sometimes on the third line?
It doesn't really matter in Detroit because they have Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen... And those guys, obviously, world class players. And if you're playing on a third line it Detroit, it means you can play on the first line in another club, you can play a bigger role. It's because [in Detroit] you play with a lot of great players. First, second, third or fourth line - it didn't matter, because we had a great team. You learn a lot from players like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Chelios, Draper. I just have to have the same work ethic as I did when playing with those guys. They push you a lot to get better.
So it is true then that a lot of players are willing to play for Detroit for less money they could have got elsewhere? Like Datsyuk, for example, who could have made more at another club?
Yes, it is possible, and it has been heard before. They treat players really good there in Detroit. That organization is one of the best in the hockey world. They are classy people. They are no fake. They show great respect for everybody. They do what they say. They treat everybody really good. That's why players like it there and want to be there for a long time.
We could have had two Stanley Cups in the last two years, but had one. We played a very good Pittsburgh Penguins team who had Malkin, Gonchar, Crosby and those guys. It was a lot of fun. But it's a new season now. And let's get a different trophy - the Gagarin Cup.
Yes, he is a funny guy. He is like an energizer! He's got a lot of energy. He was really liked in the Detroit locker room. He was good in the locker room and on the ice, because he can shoot the puck well and he can hit. I am happy to be on the same team with him again.
I understand that the IIHF has not issued you a transfer card. And technically, they can disqualify you from international tournaments like the Olympics. What does playing for your national team mean to you?
I am not worried about the transfer card. It is going to come. As for a disqualification, it is not going to happen. They have nothing against me. They cannot prove anything against me. I did not do anything wrong. I had a talk with the national team coach and I am on the team roster for the Olympics."
Tell me about yourself a bit. What is your favorite music? Favorite car?
Music? TATU! (laughing) 'Not gonna get us.' I actually like rock like the Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers. As for the movies? My favorite one is "Casino." I also like James Bond movies. That's why Aston Martin is my favorite car.
Who was your hockey idol growing up? Jagr? Most Czech hockey players name him.
Yes, he was. Jardo was my idol growing up. He was an icon. He still is, but back then he was dominating the hockey world.
I am excited to play against him. I actually talked to him after I signed with Dynamo. And he told me that I made the right choice.
I am really looking forward to next season. It is going to be interesting.