Pavel Lysenkov and Dmitry Chesnokov checked in with Hershey Bears’ netminder Simeon Varlamov to see how the Washington Capitals’ prospect is handling life in the AHL (original interview available at SovSport).
Varlamov: “I am not playing right now because of the knee ligaments injury. The injury is not serious, but I have already missed a week and a half because of it.”
SovSport: Your statistics with the Hershey Bears are great: 16 wins in 21 games with 2 shutouts!
“It all could have been a lot better. In the last two games [that I played] I conceded 10 goals. Before that my GAA was 2.10, and now it’s 2.43. Why did that happen? Hershey had a long winning streak. Usually there is a slump after that. We have a very good team; Hershey is in the first place in the AHL. Our two guys Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux are battling each other for the title of the best scorer in the AHL. Giroux is also the top point getter. The Bears won the Calder Cup in 2005-2006. Half of that team is now playing in the NHL – Mike Green, Eric Fehr, Thomas Fleishmann… And Hershey’s former coach Bruce Boudreau is Washington’s head coach.”
It is strange that with your great stats you didn’t play in the AHL all star game.
“I wasn’t called… It’s a shame. I wanted to be there very much. I cannot tell you exactly how the teams were picked. I think that journalists did [the picking].”
Are you upset about not being called up to the NHL? In Washington your salary would got up a lot.
“I was upset. [My] two games in the NHL turned out to be wins. I wanted to keep playing but I was sent back to the farm. I understand that there are circumstances that I can do nothing about.”
Is it possible that if Washington does not recall you then Hershey would let you go to the World Championships in Switzerland?
“No one is going to let me go. I am certain that Hershey will make the playoffs. Some say that we can even win the Calder Cup. The World Championships start in the second half of April. But our regular season ends only on April 12. No, there is no way I can make it to Switzerland…”
Not long ago Washington Capitals’ goaltending coach Dave Prior visited you in Hershey. Did you speak with him about the plans for the future?
“No, but I don’t feel left out here. Quite often Boudreau, George McPhee visit Hershey. There are a lot of scouts. The Bears’ head coach talks a lot with Boudreau after every game. They know every little detail about every player.”
It seems like you’re stuck on the farm for now… Were you called by the KHL?
“No one called me personally. Maybe they spoke with my agent and he didn’t tell me not to get me upset, because in Russia I could have made a lot more than in the AHL.” [Varlamov laughs]
You make about $50-$70 thousand a year?
“Yes, about, minus taxes. I rent an apartment on my own, bought a car. No one gives you anything here on a plate. This is not Russia, where a foreign [player] comes and has everything included in his contract: a free apartment, a car, other concessions.”
Is this enough money to live?
“I even have some left.”
To go on a tour of the chocolate factory?
“I can’t stand [anything] sweet anymore. There is chocolate in Hershey on every corner. There is so much that fans even get it for free at every game. It’s good, delicious. But I like “Alenka” [Russian chocolate] better. It tastes like homeland.”
Why do they call you “Sim-ee-on” in America?
“That’s how they read my name. I hate it, to be honest.”
Then explain what’s right. For example, [Kovalchuk's name is often mispronounced]. But those who know say it right.
“What haven’t they called me here! I have counted at least four versions. But the most unflattering was S-e-m-e-n. Look it up yourself how it is translated from English. It’s good that I now have a nickname: fans call me Varly.”
Almost like a Hollywood movie: ”Varly and the Chocolate Factory.”
“Yes, there’s something to that.”
What do you have as a keepsake from your debut game at Montreal?
“The puck, of course. And I also have a DVD with the game. My father took it home. I think he watches it every day… When I watch Montreal’s home games, I always remember how I played in that arena. Wow! That was quite a time!”