Upon his arrival in Russia to begin his two-year contract with the KHL team Atlant Mytischi, Alex Kovalev took aim at the NHL, and in particular Ottawa, where he spent the last two years
During an interview with Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport, Kovalev thrashed both Ottawa sports writers – “They don’t watch hockey at all. When they fly with the team and go through the [metal detector] at an airport, their bags are filled with beer” – and former coach Cory Clouston: “In two seasons I still couldn’t understand the ideas of our coach Cory Clouston.”
This is an edited transcript of Kovalev’s interview with Lysenkov:
Q. You have a reputation of showing up one night but disappearing the next. Is this a fair characterization?.
KOVALEV: One journalist wrote it when I was still playing in New York, and then it all started. There are such reporters, who don’t watch hockey, don’t understand it — but they will still say that Kovalev doesn’t give his all. That he plays whenever he wants. They are short on their own opinion.
Q: Did the ACL injury to your left knee in the spring of 2010 get in the way of having a good start to the 2011 season?
KOVALEV: I came back two months early. I didn’t want to miss games. I felt good.
But at first I had a hard time getting in game shape. This is physiology — injuries like that aren’t easily healed. There is a fear of overloading the leg. Especially because it was my second ACL tear.
Q: Sergei Gonchar threw his hands in the air when I asked what style of game Ottawa plays. What do you say to that question?
KOVALEV: In two seasons I still couldn’t understand the ideas of our coach Cory Clouston. It seemed that he scoffed at some players.
Q: What do you mean?
KOVALEV: You have to treat players kindly. If you leave someone on the bench you should explain why it happened. This is coach’s job. But when a player is benched and doesn’t understand what is happening, he becomes lost.
Q You were then traded to the Penguins. Why didn’t it work out there?
KOVALEV: Everything was fine. I had played for Pittsburgh before. The atmosphere doesn’t change there. But my style didn’t fit with the game coach Dan Byslma was implementing. There is nothing else to explain it with.
Q: What do you remember from your years in the NHL?
KOVALEV: A lot has happened — there were falls and rises… Sometimes you sit down and play back your career in your head. In principle, I am happy.
And the fact I am criticized.
There are different journalists.
My opinion of Ottawa journalists is that they don’t watch hockey at all. When they fly with the team and go through the (metal detector) at an airport, their bags are filled with beer. You realize right away what these people do when they write about the NHL.
Let them make up nonsense about me. But I am happy with what I have done.
I have played not for myself but for the team and fans.
Teammates have never said a bad word about me. Fans are happy.
I am approached on the street in Montreal, New York and told one thing: ‘Don’t take the bad to your head. We always support and love you. You’re the best.’
Words like that warm your soul.”
Q: I can see that you are fed up with Canadian media.
KOVALEV: I am annoyed when people write (nonsense). Figuratively speaking, to earn half a hundred dollars they are ready to make up some garbage. But they show that they’re doing their job.
Q: I have heard you don’t read any sports media. Is this true?
KOVALEV: Only sometimes. If you’re interested in an athlete. Or you know the journalist who wrote something and who you trust. And it Ottawa they liked to channel their anger on hockey players. Regardless of how you played, they will certainly dump dirt on you and the team.