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Puck Daddy chats with Ilya Bryzgalov about Philadelphia Flyers, his contract demands, getting drunk and parks in Winnipeg

If Ilya Bryzgalov's(notes) former team the Phoenix Coyotes played in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, would fans in Arizona take part in the same kind of riot as those in Vancouver did?

"Fans there wouldn't even know that Phoenix lost to someone in the Stanley Cup Finals," said Bryzgalov, never one to filter his thoughts.

The Coyotes traded Bryzgalov's free-agent negotiating rights to the Philadelphia Flyers, and the goalie is getting closer to signing a contract with Philly. Some reports suggest that he has agreed in principle to the terms already.

Upon his return from Philadelphia last week he told SovSport he "really liked the city and the people who worked for the club." He was reluctant to talk about the contract developments at the time. For the subsequent interview a few days later, Ilya Bryzgalov asked to meet him in the center of Moscow. He was wearing an orange Flyers hat. A clue?

"No, no! It's too early! Although to wear the Flyers' hat I have a full right. Until July 1, I belong to that team. It's just the contract hasn't been signed yet."

As for the contract, he said "I can sign it from anywhere," even in Turkey. SovSport's Pavel Lysenkov then asked Bryzgalov some questions for Puck Daddy:

Q. Damien Cox from the Toronto Star speculated you asked for a 9 year $60 million contract in Phoenix but the Coyotes didn't agree to it. Is it so?

BRYZGALOV: "It's not true. I had no negotiations regarding finances with Phoenix. I didn't receive [even] one offer. The team has no owner, it is run by the League. Days came and went and then I was traded to the Flyers."

You found out about it from the media?

"Maybe I told reporters that I didn't know? What do you think, would this trade take place without my consent?"

Would it be better for you to play for an Eastern Conference team?

"I never played there. But I heard that hockey players in the East get a bonus. There is less travel. That means you get to spend more time with your family. It's important, especially when you're 31. I am not that young." (laughing)

There may be a tandem of Russian goalies in Philadelphia. Could you imagine yourself as a mentor for Sergei Bobrovsky(notes)?

"I myself need to learn! What kind of a mentor am I? What are you talking about?"

[Do you believe] 'Either a number one or don't call me'?

"Where did you get this? Journalists come up with slogans, create an unhealthy buzz. And then you say that this is what I said. I once said 'I am number one.' And you blew it up to be something else. And you think that if I am not the number one then I won't play for the national team. But I never said that."

• • •

And here's the excerpt from the rest of Lysenkov's interview for SovSport.

Q. You had a similar situation in Anaheim. JS Giguere was the number one with a big contract. Bryzgalov was sitting under him. Did he teach you anything?

BRYZGALOV: "Of course now. This is wolves' world. Especially for goaltenders. There are a lot of them but there is only one spot in net."

Were you the best goaltender in April 2011? Skeptics doubted Bryzgalov because he gave up 17 goals to the Red Wings in the series.

"Detroit came out and smashed us. Maybe I gave up one or two bad goals, that's it. Once the puck hit me in the leg. I can't even remember the second bad moment. The Red Wings did everything to make my life difficult. I didn't see most of the goals. I was simply torn apart."

One agent said: "Bryzgalov is a perfect client. If only one can get his mouth shut!"

"Who said that?"

It doesn't matter. But it is connected to the Winnipeg story when you said that you wouldn't play there 'a city where it's very cold and there are no parks and fun!'  This story really ticked off Canadians.

"At least I will be remembered in North America in some way!  But your words surprised me. Who talks so nice of me? A perfect client! Usually people talk very badly of me. Not knowing me they say 'yes, Bryzgalov is difficult, just a terrible character!'"

Really?

"I find it out from [the media]. You read and think, 'I don't even know this journalist and he already has a résumé of me. As if we have been going through life side by side.'"

Does it irritate you?

"I don't care. But as far as [my] frankness — it used to let me down before, yes."

Puck Daddy chats with Ilya Bryzgalov about Philadelphia Flyers, his contract demands, getting drunk and parks in Winnipeg

Once you substituted Lada's goaltender Vincent Riendeau when he gave up two goals. You just put on your gear and came out to the ice.

"Yes, it happened in the playoffs when Lada played for Perm. The coach then couldn't decide to pull the Canadian. So I just jumped out."

Did you want to do it in Vancouver [during the Olympics]?

"Very much so. But couldn't imagine what it would look like?  The Olympics are broadcast worldwide. Out quarter final game with Canada is watched by millions of people. I am skating towards the goal and there is another one in goal who refuses to leave? That would be a joke."

Is it true that after the first period with the score 1-4 players themselves started saying 'Bryzgalov should be in goal'?

"So why wasn't I?"

Coach Bykov insisted 'Let's play for Evgeni [Nabokov]!'

"It's not true. Because Bykov didn't even come to the locker room after the first period. Usually he used to show up in the locker room at the end of the intermission. But back then we were already standing in the corridor. There was a minute left before the start of the second period when Bykov and Zakharkin came out of the coaches' room."

They were probably in shock as well.

"But who shouldn't be in shock? Actually the generals. Players, spectators can be shocked. But not the main commander who is running the parade. … Maybe I said more than I should have? But I am tired of hypocrisy and empty interviews where people say 'We fought but were unlucky.' And in reality it wasn't like that. The fact that I may not be invited to the national team is OK. I will feel bad. I want to play. But the truth is more dear."

It is sad about Nabokov. At the World Championships [in Bratislava] he damaged his career. You could say he was set up. An unprepared goaltender was put on the ice.

"Why set up? What, he didn't know where he was going?  Didn't he want to go to the World Championships? Of course he wanted to! Only Nabokov is at fault for what's going on with him. No one else. The same I can say about any person."

Puck Daddy chats with Ilya Bryzgalov about Philadelphia Flyers, his contract demands, getting drunk and parks in Winnipeg

You don't ever drink…

"Why, I did. Until I was 17."

Strange, because 17 is usually when people start to.

"I had everything the other way around. I even remember the day — November 7. I got so drunk. And then decided to quit. I realized that I had to choose — either hockey or alcohol."

What did you drink from the Cup and the World Championships trophy?

"In the Anaheim locker room I poured in cranberry juice. In Bern I didn't even get a chance to drink. Guys filled up the cup with vodka,." (Laughs)

What does a goaltender feel when he's in goal and is struck by pucks hard as a rock?

"But I wear my equipment. I feel very little. Of course I wouldn't stand in goal naked. I don't look crazy, do I?"

But there is a saying 'Play wherever you want, son. Just don't get in goal.'

"I would suggest the opposite. So you're on the field. And then bang — a blindside hit. And a concussion. The first one, the second one — and you're broken for the rest of your life. Or you're standing next to the boards trying to dig out the puck — and get hit from behind full speed by someone. And you break your neck. And goalies only have their groins pulled. There are other injuries, but a lot more rare. So what's safer?  Maybe better get in goal, son?"

Why did you decide to join Twitter?

"My friend from Phoenix Paul Bissonnette(notes) kept convincing me all the time. 'Bryz, join Twitter!'  I was wondering 'Why do I need it?'  Bissonnette replied 'All my fans and followers write almost every day 'when will Bryzgalov be on Twitter? We want to communicate with him, read his thoughts.' I kept resisting for a long time. And then I thought 'OK, I will join.'"

It's like you have a new life!

"Yes, perhaps. It's just it's a lot easier to communicate via Twitter. Because you, journalists, like to rephrase, write your own way. And on Twitter I can express my thoughts more precise and definitive, if I was misunderstood during an interview."

(Here is The Proust Questionnaire)

What do you value the most in men?

"Wisdom."

What do you value the most in women?

"Also wisdom. And patience."

The main trait of your character.

"Candor. I am a truth teller."

Where would you like to live?

"Where it's quiet and peaceful. An island in the Maldives, 100 by 100 meters?  Something bigger. But two important conditions — warm water and quiet. It won't be boring."

Your favorite author.

"Dostoevsky."

What vices do you feel most tolerant towards?

"Weakness. A human overall is weak in nature."

Who is your favorite figure in literature?

"Voland."

What will you tell God when standing in front of him?

"Forgive us all."

Thanks again to SovSport and Pavel Lysenkov for their work.

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