Vitali Yeremeyev: "The food in Torino was terrible"
Dynamo Moscow goalie Vitali Yeremeyev
As far as I'm concerned, the list of the all-time best Hartford Wolf Pack goalies begins: 1. Dan Cloutier ('97-'98), 2. Milan Hnilicka ('99-'00), 3. Vitali Yeremeyev ('00-'01). After Yeremeyev's strong season for Hartford in his rookie year as a North American pro, the following year the Rangers tried to send him another rung further down the minor league ladder, to Charlotte of the East Coast League. From a recent write-up about Yeremeyev and the Olympic hockey team that ran on NHL.com:
Yeremeyev wasn't happy with sitting two levels below the NHL. "They sent me back to their second farm club and I didn't like staying there," Yeremeyev said.
And with that, Yeremeyev went overseas to play for Dynamo Moscow, where he has become one of the premier goalies in the Russian Super League, winning the league title in '04-'05 in a season when RSL team rosters were laden with locked-out NHL players. This season, Yeremeyev suffered a mid-season injury and wasn't able to play for Dynamo during the last month leading up to the Olympic break, but he recovered in time to lead Kazakhstan to a strong showing in Torino against Russia-- making 48 saves in a game that Kazakhstan barely lost, 1-0. Watching from the Russian side of the ice were Vladimir Krikunov, the Russian head coach who is also Yeremeyev's head coach with Dynamo Moscow. No doubt that on that day Krikunov was both confounded and reassured by Yeremeyev's remarkable performance.
A Dynamo defender helps Vitali out by trying a little tenderness
Upon returning from Torino, Yeremeyev didn't rest much, but instead headed straight between the pipes to play for Dynamo in a make-up game on February 26th against Russian Super League also-rans Salavat Yulaev.
What follows is an interview with Vitali Yeremeyev that appeared in gazeta.ru on Feb. 27th. In it, Yeremeyev talks about his Olympic experience in Torino (apparently, the food was lousy), and gets asked a lot of questions about the chemistry of the Russian Olympic team, even though Yeremeyev wasn't on the team. The inteviewer seems to have a pretty cheeky attitude, also...
(from the gazeta.ru article) "After appearing at the Olympics for Kazakhstan, Yeremeyev immediately returned to play for Dynamo in Russia. Comparing this regular season game to the intense final game of the Turin Olympics, and some differences might not seem that great, while others are simply shocking. Here, the spectators number around 300, most of whom it seems the game has put to sleep. About the only similarity between the two events could be found between the pipes, which were occupied for the Moscow club by Vitali Yeremeyev, who had also been a participant in the Olympiad."
This must be something of an adjustment for you. Arriving from Torino, where you played against the stars of the NHL, and here you are playing against UFA Salavat Yulaev.
Everything is back to normal. There is no reason to feel sorry about being here, only that we lost.
Wouldn't it have been worth it to get a little rest, in order to adapt and acclimate yourself?
No, I didn't even think about that. I had planned to leave Italy on February 23rd, to arrive for the postponed regular season game.
Vitali playing against Salavat Yulaev, 2/26/06
How was the Olympiad for you? How was Italy? Were you generally happy to be there?
I was without a doubt very content to be able to play in the tournament. All of the best players in the world came to Torino. The level of competition of the hockey was outstanding. I was also, by the way, very pleased with the final game, where the two best teams met in Finland and Sweden.
We watched the games here on television. You played quite a game against Russia! Many have said that you played the best game of your career.
Of course not, there have been better games. I simply had a very good mindset that day. Not to mention that I knew many of the players on the Russian team.
Exactly. Weren't (Maxim) Sushinsky and (Alexander) Kharitonov upset that you were taking critical scores away from them?
(laughs) Of course not, they acted normal, as if they weren't bothered by it.
What were the goals of the Kazakhstan team entering the tournament?
The highest. We earnestly tried to fall into the final eight.
Why didn't it work out that way?
First, the opposition was very tough. Second of all, we are used to playing a somewhat different type of hockey. The rules at the Olympics were noticeably different from those which we play by in Russia.
They were more liberal (as to what was considered a penalty)?
Yes. Hockey in Russia is more rugged. What is possible here, they moved away from in Torino. By the time we became accustomed, the preliminary stage had ended. Even so, it became easier towards the end. Generally, there weren't any games where we were embarassed, with the exception perhaps of the first game against the Swedes. However, we only got better as we progressed.
You have a very calm voice. If I had just played in an Olympics, I would still be jumping for joy. Didn't it feel like a holiday?
Yes, the holiday atmosphere was there. You have the opportunity to talk with many of your fellow players from around the world at these types of competitions. That is how I occupied myself.
Did you only talk with other hockey players? Or were you introduced to the other athletes. I know that exchanging gifts and souvenirs is typical among all the athletes. Did you exchange any gifts?
No, somehow I wasn't brought any.
Didn't you meet with the Russian team?
Lokomotiv's Ivan Tkachenko gets tripped up in front of Yeremeyev
Describe to us what occured within Team Russia. Was there any turmoil that would've prevented us from winning a medal?
Well, I didn't associate with them closely enough in order to learn about such details. That's your team's problem. Let the team's own management sit down and figure out the reasons.
But is that the reason we are without a medal?
I didn't travel with the Russian team. If they scored first against Finland, there would've been a completely different game. Even with the Czechs, the team's luck ran out. And vice versa-- if the Canadians scored first, everything could've been completely different in the quarterfinals.
We've heard that the athletes in Torino were poorly fed. Is this true?
True, the food was not the best. I won't even tell you about the worst meals. It was simply monotonous.
Will you be in Vancouver in another four years?
First, it would be necessary for Kazakhstan to make it through the qualifying process. If the team goes, then why not? If I'm playing well then, I hope they will name me to the team. I will be ready.
Vitali Yeremeyev's player profile on the Dynamo Moscow web site. Yeremeyev is actually the Anglicization of Eremeev, which in Russian looks like "Epemeeb".
Wolf Pack in-game MC, Damon Squat, giving the Fear The Dynamo salute at a Dynamo home game. By the NY Yankees cap that he's wearing, you can tell that one of the guys standing behind him is Pack Attack. Really!