Before joining HC Dinamo, Rob has never played for the KHL and anywhere in Europe. However, he boasts experience of the NHL performance. He played 193 matches for Chicago, Ottawa, Phoenix (later known as Arizona), Pittsburgh and Edmonton in the world’s strongest league – scoring 43 (22+21) points. In an interview to Minsk’s Pressball, the sportsman speaks more.
What was your first impression of Dinamo?
By now, everything is really good. I like the local organisation. The club sets definite goals. I’ve learnt the names of legionnaires only. Obviously, we speak English with each other. I need more time to keep Belarusians in mind though.
What can you say about Minsk-Arena?
It’s excellent. It’s very similar to NHL’s arenas. Evidently, a great job has been done and it will be great to play here.
How did your co-operation with Dinamo begin?
The last season was very difficult for me: I was suffering from traumas. I realised that my time in the NHL was probably close to the finish but I didn’t want to play in the minor league again. I heard much good of the KHL and I decided to try my luck here. There were also other offers from the Continental League but playing for Belarus looked more interesting. I heard that Minsk is one of the best cities in the KHL and I considered that this town would be comfortable and safety for my family. In addition, many legionnaires play for the team and I would have some to communicate. Coach Craig Woodcroft comes from North America – which was another advantage. Shortly, it all came together.
You haven’t played in Europe until recently. Is it challengeable to make a decision on going overseas when you are already 30?
Of course. On the 1st of July – when I had to fly to Minsk, I was really nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know whether I would be able to get used to the new culture and break the language barrier. Actually, that was the fear of the unknown. Meanwhile, I’m here for a week by now and feel comfortable. Of course, I expected everything is different in Belarus – including hockey: not bad but new.
Do you stay in a hotel in Minsk?
Yes, I’ll stay here for 5-6 days as I’m searching for a flat to rent now.
How did your first day in Belarus look like?
Good. I arrived here at 4pm, checked in at the hotel, walked around the city, turned in at the Arena-City and had a snack. At the shop, some people stopped me, asking to make a photo. This was on the first day of my staying here – which surprised me greatly.
As you said before, you ‘googled’ information actively…
Exactly. It was interesting for me to learn of how many people live in Minsk. I wanted to know of the local industry and climate: winter temperatures and an average snow coverage. Interestingly, on the day of my arrival, the temperature was hot: 33 degrees above zero. Meanwhile, it’s raining these days and I hope the sun will return soon.
Has any information about Minsk surprised you?
Nothing shocked me. I was ready to everything. Actually, I thought the city is smaller: 750,000-1m residents. Meanwhile, 2 million live here – this was a surprise. I thought that Minsk traffic would be probably intensive but it is actually quiet. In general, living at the other end of the world, I didn’t know anything about Minsk…
Have you ever heard of it?
I’ve heard: the city was mentioned in the Friends TV show; one of Phoebe’s boyfriends went here. It’s truly funny! I love Friends: it is already the classical show.
When searching for the information about Minsk in the Internet, what words did you use?
Initially, I used ‘the city of Minsk’ and then ‘top ten things for a tourist to do in Minsk’. As far as I remember, hockey was on that list – in addition to the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Circus and a major church. I’m going to visit all these places. I am interested in the local culture; I want to plunge into it – learning more. I’ve heard that technologies are developing in Belarus. As I’ve been told, WhatsApp, Viber and other mobile apps have been developed here…
You are 30 now. Is this the time of flourishing for a hockey player?
I don’t know as I’m not sure. I’ll tell you more after I stop playing. I don’t want to grow old but time works against us. However, I still feel young and I’m full of energy. It’s a good age.
Did you do well at school?
I was not the cleverest but I received good marks. I was not good in maths but I liked biology, social sciences and physical culture, of course.
What other professions attract you, except for hockey?
It’s difficult to say. Probably, I’d become an engineer.
Did your injuries disturb you much last season?
Yes. I guess I looked well at the beginning of the season. However, later, I hurt an ankle seriously. I missed two and a half months as a result and, after the recovery, I failed to meet the previous pace of life. It’s difficult to return to the ice in the middle of the season. I was sent to the farm-club but it was not pleasant.
Is your surname German?
Exactly, my parents are Germans but they moved to Canada long ago. I’ve never been in Germany and I don’t know much about the country. I would like to visit it. I know it’s not really long to fly there from Minsk.
Do you want to learn Russian?
Yes, I’ve uploaded an app into my phone and I’m trying to learn it now. Actually, the language is quite difficult. Guys help me to remember some keywords and phrases: ‘Voda bez gaza’ (still water), ‘gde tualet?’ (where is the public convenience?) or ‘spasibo’ (thank you)…
Tell us about your family…
My family is the key of my life. I’m married and have a 17 month old son. He is restless, being unable to stay in one place for over a couple of minutes. I don’t know how my wife copes with him! It is now difficult to stay far from my family but it is necessary to settle down. They’ll join me in about a month.
Do you have a hobby?
I play golf in summer. This sport is very popular in North America. It’s a funny game when you know all rules. Actually, I love staying at home jointly with my family.
Translated by Anastasia Golubitskaya