|Max Gratchev goes top shelf for the goal while playing for Binghamton|
Some of you may not know the name Max Gratchev yet, but I have a feeling by the end of the year that you will all be familiar with him. He is a Sens prospect who will be playing in Binghamton this season and has a very interesting story of how he got there. Max is a very personable, engaging guy, who will hopefully be a major contributor for the B-Sens this season. I recently caught up with him to talk hockey, his remarkable story, life in the KHL, music and much much more. Enjoy getting to know Max Gratchev.
Sens Town: So welcome to Sens Town Max. Let's get right into it, how was training camp?
Max Gratchev: Camp has been great. Meeting a lot of new people is always a great part of joining a new organization. The coaching staff and all the team personal have been very welcoming and I'm very happy with where I am right now. The on-ice practices have been high paced and it's nice to get a look at other players on-ice tendencies who may be your line-mates through out the course of the season.
ST: Who stood out in your opinion?
MG: There are so many good players here but having the opportunity to watch Daniel Alfredsson skate everyday is amazing. You can learn so much from just watching his poise with the puck. I think Jared Cowen has stood out also.
ST: Do you see any huge impact potential in any of the other prospects?
MG: I think defenseman Jared Cowen has alot of potential. He's big, strong, and plays well in the defensive end.
ST: What were your goals for training camp?
MG: My goal for training camp is to develop as a player and I came to Ottawa's camp to push for a roster spot. Whether it's now or sometime throughout the season.
ST: You had played 17 games for Bingo before, what were your thoughts on your first go around ?
MG: They treated me with a lot of respect during my time in Binghamton. As a player you never forget that and that made my decision to join this organization that much easier.
ST: Are you looking to make a push for the NHL during the season at some point or looking to put in a good AHL season and put yourself in a better position for next year?
MG: My #1 goal since I went to the QMJHL was to play in the NHL so everyday I'm on the ice that's what I'm working for. I'm definitely looking to make a push for the NHL as soon as possible.
ST: What are your goals/expectations for the upcoming season?
MG: I have never been a big fan of making expectations. My one and only goal is to get to the NHL. Throughout my career I have always just taken the season one day at a time. I try to work as hard as I can that day and good things will happen.
ST: So you were born in Novosibirsk Russia. Many Canadians don't know much about Russia other than Moscow and Saint Petersburg. I know you left when you were young, but what do you remember about it? Can you tell us about your birth town?
MG: Novosibirsk is part of Siberia in Eastern Russia. It's about a 4 hour flight from Moscow. It translates into "New Siberia" so believe it or not it's actually a pretty big city. I left when I was 5 so I don't remember much but I went back to my hometown this past year while playing in the KHL and it was a big culture shock. Just comparing what I came from there in Siberia to the opportunities I had in America were incredible.
ST: Ok so you had a pretty interesting childhood. Want to tell us the amazing story in your own words.
MG: Yes it was a pretty interesting story of how I got over to the USA. I was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Russia wasn't too up to date with their hospitals and doctors, so at birth my mother passed away. It would have never happened in the USA. My dad at the time was playing hockey in the Russian Super league. He was on the road when he heard the news. He left me with my moms grandparents and had left to the USA to find better opportunities and and a better life for himself and I. He played in the Hartford Whalers and Pittsburgh Penguins organizations before retiring and starting his own hockey school in Boston, MA. When I was 5 he came back for me but my grandparents on my mothers side wouldn't allow for him take me because they said he was too young at the time to care for me etc. He searched for me and finally found me at my daycare and we took off for America. We went through a lot of problems getting out of the country because of the government not allowing me to leave. So we had to escape to Moscow and finally the USA embassy helped me fly to New York and begin a new life.
ST: I imagine at the time when you were a child, you didn't really realize what was going on. Now as an adult and having had time to reflect on it what are your thoughts on the situation?
MG: It was tough to remember anything from it. I remember two moments. The first was when I saw my dad at the daycare and we left from there. The second was walking off the plane in New York. Those were two life changing moments for me. As an adult and looking back on the situation I couldn't be more thankful for the way my dad had brought me here. That part of my life has definitely defined my character and made me the person I am. I am happy I went through all of it and I thank my mother everyday for bringing me into this world.
ST: Did your Dad ever tell you about the 70's and 80's USSR/Canada rivalry?
MG: Yes he's showed me a few tapes and everything. It's obviously one of the most famous rivalries in hockey. He's also told me about the Czech Republic and Russia rivalries were pretty bad too. But all those rivalries have made the game to be what it is today.
ST: So who were your favorite players growing up as a kid?
MG: Pavel Bure was definitely my favorite growing up. I also loved the Red Wings when they had the Russian line.
ST: You grew up in Boston, were you a Bruins fan or just an NHL fan in general? Happy to see them/the city win the cup?
MG: Growing up in Boston was great because I got to be a part of that big hockey community. I was never a specific fan of any team. I always loved the game and just watched and learned from certain players. I was so happy to see them win. It was amazing for Boston as a city and I know all my friends in Boston had an awesome time during there run. It was especially good for the kids that play the sport to see the Stanley Cup won by a team representing their city.
ST: So I know as a local guy you were hoping to go the college route and attend Boston University, Harvard or Boston College in the Boston area. What made you change your mind and take your talents to the Q?
MG: Yeah my dream was to play at BC. When I was about 14 I went to Quebec and Patrick Roy showed me a few playoff games and I was taken high in the draft and as a family we decided that it was best for my development as a player and the quickest route to the NHL. I had a agreed on a school package that now has allowed me to study at BC in the off season. I learned a lot there in Quebec and enjoyed my time.
ST: So how was the first season in Quebec?
MG: It was a good season overall. I learned a lot about the game and how to be a professional. I had a great time there and learned a lot about the game and made some great friends.
ST: Is Patrick Roy misunderstood?
MG: No not at all. He was a good coach on and off the ice. I have a lot of respect for him and I wish the Quebec Remparts the best in the future.
ST: So you moved on to Rimouski the year after Crosby left. Did you feel like you had some big shoes to fill?
MG: No I never really though of it that way. I just wanted to come in and develop and help the team win games. I had a great coach there in Doris Labonte and he taught me so much about the game and I was able to really succeed under him. My time in Rimouski was great.
ST: So you're in Columbus ready for the draft in 2007. Heading into it what were your expectations and where were you hoping to go around?
MG: Well going into the draft I was ranked number 34 I believe, so I was expecting to be picked by the second round. I had dropped to the fourth round and was chosen by the New York Islanders.
ST: Describe the feeling when you hear your name called out and know you have been drafted? It has to be pretty emotional to achieve a lifelong dream after all the long hours, especially with the extra struggle you had growing up.
MG: It was amazing. I had my Dad there with me and it was just such a relief to finally hear your name and it was a very special day that I will never forget.
ST: So you went to the Islanders, what were your thoughts on the org and the stadium? Both are under some big scrutiny at the moment and the team may leave. I know the Isles have very loyal fans, but maybe not enough to make it work. What do you think will happen?
MG: Everything was first class there. I was treated very well by everyone. I was happy to be a part of the islanders for those 2 years. I don't know too much about their situation, but they have a great owner and great fans, and for the fans I hope they can pull something together without having to move the team. Only time will tell of course but I think they will figure something out.
ST: So you moved on to the B-Sens for 17 games, registering your lone pro fight. How do you think it went? What caused it? Nice take down by the way.
MG: Haha yes I remember the fight. It wasn't too much of a reason for it. I had a goal and assist in the game and I wanted put together the Gordie Howe hat trick. No just kidding. I was just trying to help the team win and that was kind of a thing that just happened quickly and it was just something that happened in the moment.
ST: So you played last season in the KHL. From a first hand perspective, how is the KHL as a league and what are the common misconceptions that simply aren't true?
MG: I had a great experience there. I didn't receive the ice time I was promised but aside from that everything was first class. The level of hockey was beyond my expectations.
ST: How is the quality of play in that league? I've heard it's fairly decent. What league would you compare it to skill wise?
MG: Skill wise it's definitely very close to the NHL, but the physical play and defensive play is no where close. But the level of hockey was very high and I improved dramatically as a player from my one year there.
ST: From time to time we hear about players not being paid on time and things like that, have any stories?
MG: I've heard a few stories from guys like that. But my experience there was perfect. Paid right on time and bonuses paid in full. I was treated very well.
ST: What were your thoughts when you heard about the tragic KHL plane crash a few weeks ago? Did you know any of the guys?
MG: I knew about 5 guys. It was the saddest day Ive had in a very long time. There's still so many players and families around the world and in the NHL that have heavy hearts from the tragedy. It makes you step back and realize that life isn't all about hockey and how important family is. I can't imagine how the children and wives must be dealing with this. I pray for those lost and the families everyday and I hope the KHL can fix what has happened and enable the players to travel safely.
ST: Since the crash we've heard that many players and coaches always feared for their safety when traveling due to the old planes. Were you ever worried too?
MG: I was very nervous. After our first flight I had Googled the airplane we flew on and saw it was banned in Europe. So i was nervous flying there but thankfully we always had perfect flights.
ST: You decided to move on from the KHL this year and sign with the B-Sens again, how come?
MG: I was there 2 years ago and I was treated with a lot of respect. As a player you never forget that and that made my decision very easy. I was also invited to Ottawa's camp which just made it simple for me because of the opportunities.
ST: So I know you pattern your game after Maxim Afinogenov, what did you like about his game? You know he played for one of our main rivals in Buffalo and killed us for years right? Watch your answer - joking!....kind of.
MG: I loved the way he played with speed and skill and attacked the net. Since playing in the KHL with many NHL players I think I've rounded out my game and learned a lot about the defensive end and playing at that very high tempo of the game.
ST: Who are your favorite guys to watch in the NHL at the moment?
MG: Pavel Datsyuk hands down. I think he is the best 2 way player in the NHL.
ST: Speaking of Russian hockey players, your dad Igor runs a hockey school is Mass now called Igor Hockey, tell us about it?
MG: It's one of the best skating schools in Massachusetts. I grew up skating with him and he connects with the kids very well. He knows how to let them have fun while working hard. It's a great school and a lot of fun.
ST: So let's get to know you the person with a little rapid fire style. What car do you drive now? What's your dream car?
MG: I haven't bought a car since Russia and a Bentley Continental GT.
ST: Do you have a game day routine or superstition?
MG: Breakfast. Morning Skate, Nap, Lunch, Game.
ST: Who are some of your best friends in hockey?
MG: Everyone. Who ever is on my team at the moment.
ST: If you could change one thing in hockey what would it be?
MG: No overtime, just a shootout.
ST: Are you a big sports fan in general?
MG: Yes I love supporting Boston teams and I love TSN. (not enough hockey on ESPN)
ST: Your favorite TV shows, movies and actor?
MG: Entourage and Jersey Shore. Movie is A Bronx Tale and actor is Will Smith.
ST: I know you're a big hip hop fan right.You like our fellow Canadian Drake. What do you like about him? What other artists do you listen to?
MG: Drake is my favorite. He can sing and rap and his lyrics come across in a way everyone can relate to them. I don't think there's any one else out there that can put out the music he has been putting out. I'm also a fan of Wiz Khalifa. Other than that I enjoy anything that sounds good and has a good beat.
ST: Your all time #1 song you put on to pump you up before you play is?
MG: Lil Troy - Wanna be a baller
ST: Has anyone ever told you that you look a lot like Dane Cook? You must get that especially being from Boston.
MG: No! That's actually the first time I've ever heard that.
ST: Do Russians REALLY make the best Vodka?
MG: haha Yes!
ST: Since you're from Boston do you ever drink Sam Adams?
MG: No I've never been a fan of it.
ST: Tell people how many Dunkin Donuts there are in that city. They always think I'm exaggerating when I say there's one on almost every corner.
MG: They are on every single corner and rightfully so. Best coffee in America.
ST: Are you a Blackberry or an Iphone guy?
MG: Iphone all the way.
ST: Name the must have items for you when you travel?
MG: Macbook, Iphone and Beats by Dr Dre headphones.
ST: If you could have dinner with any celeb or athlete who would it be and why?
MG: Drake and Will Smith because of Will Smith's character and the way he works at what he does and takes care of his family. Drake because of the artist he is.
ST: Your favorite guilty pleasure?
MG: A Big Mac.
ST: The term Masshole: Legit or undeserved?
ST: And finally tell us the one place you really want to visit one day and why?
MG: Bora Bora. Saw it on the move "Couples Retreat" and it looked amazing.
I want to give a big shoutout to Max for giving me some of his time and letting us all get to know him a little better. He is on twitter too, so be sure to give him a follow @MaxGratchev93 and make sure to follow his season with the B-Sens this year. And stay tuned to Sens Town for something special coming your way with me and Max to be announced soon.
Be sure to check out the Sens Town interview archive for past interviews and follow me on twitter @SensTown
Thoughts on the interview?