Hockey players have a well-earned reputation for being boring.
Whether it be a team-first, unselfish culture that’s ingrained into the sport, or the fact that the media jumps on everything they say, hockey players often answer questions more carefully than athletes in other sports.
But something funny happens to European players when they go home. They open up.
Case in point, Loui Eriksson drew headlines in Vancouver after ripping head coach Travis Green in a Swedish-language interview during the World Championships in May.
It may have gotten him in hot water, but damn if it wasn’t the most interesting thing he’s had to say since joining the Canucks three years ago.
The latest Canucks player to open up is Nikolay Goldobin, who gave a number of interesting answers in a Russian-language interview with Sport Express.
Smartly, Goldobin didn’t go the Eriksson route of criticizing his coach, but he did give a lot of insight into what playing in the NHL has been like for him.
With the help of Google Translate, here are the highlights:
On his contract and the KHL option
Goldobin gave a safe response when asked about his next contract, saying that his agent is looking at it.
“I got a qualification offer, but it didn’t work. I look forward to a better offer,” he said, adding that he could be looking at a one-year deal before he gets arbitration rights next season.
And what about the lure of the KHL?
“So far I have not even thought about it,” he said.
Goldobin did say he believes there’ll be a lockout in 2020, at which point he’d be open to playing back in Russia while the NHL is out of service.
One of many still-unsigned restricted free agents in the league, Goldobin’s entry-level contract expired earlier this summer.
Goldobin is superstitious when it comes to taping his stick.
“If I score a point, score a goal – I do not change, even if the tape is completely torn. And if there are no points – then I change.”
Makes sense to me.
On last season and where he fits on the team
Goldobin saw significant time on Elias Pettersson’s wing to start last season but struggled after he was removed from the plum assignment.
He scored 23 points in 41 games in the first three months of the season but saw time in the press box after that. He finished the season with just four points in his final 22 games from January to April.
“I could have performed better. I missed a lot of empty nets, did not score, and at the end of the season, I missed 18 games. They told me that I was doing something bad and therefore they sent me to watch games from the press box.”
“They see potential in me and wait for goals scored. If I scored 30 goals per season, the club would turn a blind eye to everything else, to defensive actions or some other disadvantages.”
Goldobin said that Green wants him to be more aggressive on the ice.
“I often communicate with him,” Goldobin said of his relationship with the Canucks’ head coach. “We hang out in the office every week and discuss various hockey topics.”
With the Canucks expected to be much improved next season, there’s not an obvious spot for Goldobin in the lineup, which is a fact that’s not lost on the 23-year-old.
“In the offseason, they invited newcomers, signed a lot of forwards, so I don’t even know if I will have a place in the lineup or not,” he said, adding that the Canucks could be a playoff team next season.
Goldobin may have to play on the third or fourth line, if he gets into the lineup at all.
Clearly, that’s not ideal for Goldobin’s style of play.
“This is not my game, so it will be hard. In Vancouver, I already played on the fourth line with guys, let’s say, that are not very technical. They have other strengths. It was hard for me, because I was always used to waiting for a pass.”
“Line-mates throw the puck into someone else’s zone, you have to skate after it, fight, take it away. I usually enter the offensive zone myself or make a play. With Pettersson, we did just that. Yes, it’s risky, but it turns out the most interesting and spectacular hockey, bearing fruit.”
Afraid to make a mistake
Goldobin admitted that his confidence took a dip last season after losing the trust of the coach.
When asked if he’s allowed to take risks, Goldobin said “A little bit. Less than Pettersson.”
“I wanted more, then it would be easier for me to open up completely. I am clamped and afraid to make a mistake, knowing what they can plant for an unsuccessful action, and lose the rhythm on ice.
You can understand Golbodin’s perspective. He’s a talented and creative player. In order to flourish, you need to be able to play free and be allowed to make the occasional mistake.
But you can also understand Green’s point of view. If Goldobin is making mistakes without “bearing fruit,” it doesn’t make much sense to continue throwing him over the boards.
Goldobin said his goal next season is to have the best season of his career.
“I need to relax, as there are times when I stand in front of the goal, but still get nervous, I think what to do. Problems come from the head – and when you grow up, you become more cold-blooded.”
That time he burned Drew Doughty
Remember that time Goldobin embarrassed Drew Doughty before scoring against the LA Kings in December 2017?
Goldobin sure does.
“I review this moment when I’m sad,” Goldobin joked.
In Vancouver, Canucks players drink for free
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Canucks players have no shortage of people offering to buy them a drink in Vancouver.
“In Vancouver, everyone will recognize you, some are just too shy to approach me. Although even in restaurants, it happens, they ask to be photographed together. Sometimes even at their own expense, they offer to buy me alcohol.”
Goldobin says he refuses the drinks.
“I say, guys, I don’t drink before the game. Only water.”
“In general, Vancouver players have a discount card that can be used in the best restaurants in the city.”
But if he doesn’t want to get bothered around town, that’s not a problem either.
“I’m still not one of the Sedin brothers,” Goldobin joked. “I put on a cap and black glasses so that they don’t recognize me.”
Likes playing in Vancouver despite the media attention
Goldobin says he prefers playing in Canada to the United States because people care about hockey more north of the border.
With that comes more scrutiny from the media.
“They come up and they ask the same thing every time. I’m telling them, what else can I say? I answer the same way.”
“Their journalists like to add fuel to the fire. This happened to me, but I kept silent or simply said ‘no comment.'”
Well, I never.
Does he read what’s written about him?
“When a good mood – yes. But sometimes they write that I’m not ready for the NHL yet. Well, these people are not serious experts like you (the Russian interviewer). They don’t understand much in hockey. But still unpleasant.”
He has no problem with fans, however.
“Fans, it seems to me, are very kind with us. They go to every game. Always full stands. Of course, when we lose 5-0, people leave – it’s a shame. But support from them is always felt.”
His best friend on the team
I hope this quote about Pettersson, who Goldobin said was his best friend on the team, was as good in Russian as it was through Google Translate.
“He is a special player. Wunderkind. Man is given to play hockey. When he first came to the locker room, he looked like a schoolboy. Thin. There is no swaying ‘hockey ass,’ no powerful legs either. But Elias always knows what will happen on the ice the next moment. Excellent reads the game a few moves ahead. It is very pleasant to go with him on the same line.”
Goldobin is hoping that fellow countryman Nikita Tryamkin will return to Vancouver, which is an option after the defenceman’s contract expires after next season.
“It’s a shame that it happened,” Goldobin said of Tryamkin leaving the Canucks for the KHL in 2017. “I will not name the reason why he had to leave – I hope he will be back. It’s hard without the Russians in the team when you want to chat with someone. Yes, every day I talk with my family, friends, but this is not how I live, the opportunity to sit with someone and laugh.
Retribution for Mike Matheson?
Certainly Goldobin won’t be fighting Matheson next season, but the Russian hinted at retribution for injuring his buddy.
“I think this season someone will definitely say hello to him again when we meet with Florida.”
Tattoos and style
If you follow Goldobin on Instagram, you already know about his eccentric style – for a hockey player, anyway.
“I have a wolf on my right shoulder and an owl on my left. They are my protectors,” Goldobin said about his tattoos. “Every tattoo makes sense to me.”
While Canadian players tend not to care much about their personal style, Goldobin isn’t afraid to admit he does.
“I think if you are a hockey player and play at a high level, it should look appropriate. People are watching. Someone can always take a picture. Therefore, I always try to follow the fashion. I have a wardrobe at home with at least 40 pairs of sneakers.”
The most stylish guy on the team was Anders Nilsson, according to Golbodin, but that now that title is held by fellow Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
“He has money, has style – why not?”