Dinamo Minsk's goalie tells us about the season and life in Minsk
We continue our project that tells you about the life of sportsmen from abroad in Belarus. Our second guest is HC Dinamo Minsk goaltender Daniel Taylor.
Danny Taylor was born on April 28, 1986. He was a seventh round selection of the Los Angeles Kings, 221st overall, at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Since then Daniel has played in NLH, DEL, SHL and now is having a fantastic season in KHL with Dinamo Minsk. He tells us the difference between KHL and NHL, life in the Belorussian capital, the importance of being a good father amongst other things in our interview.
– First of all, where are you from?
– I was born in York, England and I moved to Ottawa, Canada when I was 2 years old and I basically grew up there playing hockey. Then I moved away when to play Major Junior League.
– For what reason did you leave the United Kingdom?
– My mother is from the United Kingdom and my father is from Canada. But he was serving under the British army during the Cold War. That’s how he met my mother. Then after his station was over he returned back to Canada. So that’s how we moved.
– Did you have any hockey idols when you were a child? Are there any now?
– Yes, I really liked Félix Potvin and Patrick Roy. Now I really like Jonathan Quick. I played with him in Manchester for a bit. I like the way he plays.
– You spent 5 years in OHL, ECHL and AHL before your debut in the NHL on March 29, 2008…
– Yes, played one period with L.A. It was only 20 minutes. My first start was against Phoenix, it was my 5th year pro. And then I played another game probably a month later.
– What does it mean for a hockey player to play his first game in the NHL?
– Getting called up in itself is an accomplishment. A lot of people don’t ever have a chance to do it so I feel pretty grateful not only that I was called up but I was able to play. I feel thankful that I was able to do it but I also feel a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to play longer. I thought that I could play and still can play at that level but I found a great home here in Minsk and I’m really happy where I am.
– In 2012 you played two games for the Calgary Flames. The second game was a 4–2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Are there any reasons you believe that your contract wasn’t extended?
– I don’t know if it had anything to do with my play as it was just the direction the franchise was going. They had some young goalies they wanted to develop. At the NHL level they brought in a couple of really good goalies. Karri Ramo and Reto Berra to name two. I don’t think there was anything to do with me. I was 27 at that time and they brought younger guys. They wanted to go with a couple of experienced European goaltenders. It was the way the franchise was going.
– As far as I know before this season you wanted to sign with the Jets.
– Yes. They wanted to be sure my hip was OK after coming off hip surgery. I think I did well there but I only had 30 minutes of playing time and I had 3 shots. I don’t think there was an opportunity, otherwise I probably would have more playing time to show what I could do. On the last day of training camp they traded for Peter Budaj. I was really disappointed that things didn’t work out with Winnipeg but I couldn’t be happier that I’m here in Minsk. At that time it sucked but looking back on it I think it happened for a reason.
– Could you remember the circumstances when you decided to sign with Dinamo?
– My agent called me and said that there was an offer from Dinamo Minsk. I heard only good things about Minsk so I didn’t hesitate. Well, there was a whole bunch of factors. I’ve seen a lot of games in this league and guys said that it is a very good place for families as well as for players to play.
– Whom did you consult before signing the contract?
– A number of guys. The hockey community is such a small group. Everybody talks, everybody knows what’s going on around in hockey. You just have to ask one of your buddies and within a short while you know exactly who is who and everything like that. So we didn’t hesitate too long when we found out that Dinamo Minsk offered a contract.
– You had also played in Germany and Sweden before that. Did your previous European experience help you to come to Belarus?
– Yeah. I knew the style of hockey, I knew what it was going to be like on and off the ice. Germany and Sweden are great countries as well as Belarus. We really enjoy our time here. So it’s pretty good.
– You’ve mentioned the European style. What is different and what is similar between the KHL and the NHL?
– I would say the NHL is a little bit more north – south. I mean the puck goes back and forward a lot more times than in a KHL game. In the KHL they like to hold on to the puck, go east-west with it, make a lot more passes. They won’t shoot until they find a good position for it. The NHL is a little more structured. There’s system in play and they play strictly to that system. So there’s not a lot of creativity almost in the NHL until you get to the offensive zone. It’s just a different style. I would say there are a lot of guys who can play well in the NHL but not necessarily in the KHL and vice versa. It all depends on the player and what suits his strengths.
– Was it hard for you to adjust to the European style of hockey?
– You get used to that pretty fast. I don’t think the ice surface plays a big factor, just the style of play is a little bit different. When we play a team like Zagreb or a team like Bratislava it’s a lot different than when we play Russian teams. Even Riga plays a different style than most other teams. You just have to adjust, you just have to read the play and recognize the patterns and what they do to score. And then you make your adjustment.
– I suppose that teams from Bratislava and Zagreb have more of a North American style?
– Yeah, that’s what I would say too.
– This season there are 3 goalies in the club whose performance is great. Dmitry Milchakov, Lars Haugen and you show fantastic play. Is it vital for a goaltender to have competition in the team?
– I think that competitiveness at all positions is good, not only at the goalie’s position. I think that there should be competition at each position on the ice. Even the 2 powerplays should be in competition. For every guy there should be a guy who wants to be better than him and vice versa. That’s quite normal for successful teams. If you take a team like CSKA I heard the guys saying that they have like 6 forward lines and 8 or 9 defensemen trying to get in the line everyday. And I think that creates a lot of competitiveness throughout the team. Speaking about our situation we are all competitive, we are all battling not only to get starts but also to play as best as we can. I think it’s healthy and it’s great for the team. It’s something you have to work through.
– How it is possible to be buddies, friends in this constant competitiveness? Are these things separated?
– Absolutely. It’s so important to be buddies away from the rink. I think we all know the situation we’re in and we have to get along. Not only just to be a good human, it’s just easier.
– I see. Now let’s shift to your everyday life. Where do you live?
– I rent an apartment near most of the players. I’ve got 2 kids at home. One is gonna be 3 months old on February, 11 and the other is just over 2 years old. So it’s busy at home, my wife is busy. But I’d say I like being a dad more with two kids than I was with one. I thought it was really hard being a dad at first but now I’ve kinda embraced it. I really enjoy my time away from the rink because you just leave hockey at the rink and when I go home I’m just a dad. I’m not a hockey player, I’m just a dad and a husband trying to clean up everything and cook and eat and… Just be normal.
– Do you prefer to go out to have a dinner or do you prefer to cook at home probably helping your wife?
– A big event for us would be to go for a walk or to the grocery store together. Well, to go out with the kids is a big event for us. And it will be till the summer when we have our grandparents or parents to do babysitting.
– Speaking about food what cuisine do you prefer?
– I like steak. But we don’t have much at home, we eat a lot of chicken.
– As far as I know chicken is the most typical food of sportsmen.
– Yeah, it’s so boring (laughing), it’s just chicken everyday. So some steak or some fish are welcomed.
– When you signed the contract with Dinamo in October you came without your family. How did you cope with that?
– My wife and I did pretty good. She gave birth on November, 11 while I was here. It was hard but we knew when we signed the contract that that would happen. We knew that I probably wouldn’t be there. And that was one of the reasons why I wanted to stay in North America this year. And when things didn’t work out with Winnipeg we were at home for a couple of weeks and we knew that I probably wouldn’t be there for the birth. It’s kinda bittersweet. It’s a great opportunity in Minsk, the KHL is the best league in Europe. At the same time I knew I would miss the birth. But it’s worked out. She came here when Boston was 6 or 7 weeks old and it’s been great, it’s been awesome. I don’t feel I have missed too much. He is so young, he doesn’t really know who I am yet but now it’s like we start getting a connection. My wife has been pretty good with the whole thing. Not a lot of wives would be able to do that. You husband goes away to work while you gonna stay at home and give birth. She is pretty special.
– How do you find Minsk, people who leave here? What are your impressions?
– People love Dinamo Minsk. These fans love their team and I love that. It’s a great city to be a part of. The support that we get from the fans is awesome. Speaking about places we’ve been to a few restaurants. They have some great restaurants here. We’ve been to bistro, Grand Cafe, sushi restaurant. They have a whole bunch of nice restaurants that I went to when my wife wasn’t here. But unfortunately I haven’t taken the time to go and look around the city and enjoy it. But the place where we live is really nice. Minsk is a great city. I would place Minsk in Top 5 in the KHL.
– Glad to here that. Is there anything here that surprises you most? Some positive or negative things?
– You know, it’s been all positive to be honest. I can’t honestly think of one negative… No, nothing.
– With whom do you spend your free time?
– We live near Charles Linglet and Matt Ellison. The wives and kids get together which is good because they need to get out of the house. They get along really well and that’s important too that everyone gets around. It makes it easier for us as players to go out there and play when the wives are getting along and everyone is happy at home. If you’re happy at home you will be happy on the ice. So that’s important.
– Many players say that goaltenders live in their own peculiar world. Do you agree?
– 100% (laughing). We live on our own little island. This year I’m trying to be not so introverted. I’m trying to be as relaxed as possible. This year is probably the first one when I’m more approachable, more talkative before the game. Earlier I wouldn’t talk to anyone but it doesn’t make a difference on the ice. The more you loosen up the better. It’s hard to play the whole season like that. The season is long.
– Do you have any superstitious beliefs? For instance, Patrick Roy doesn’t tread on blue and red lines.
– I tap the board twice before I get on the ice. But I’m trying not to get too superstitious. Superstition is almost like another word for obsessive compulsive disorder. And I used to be like that. Goalies usually think that there is something like a big powerful invisible force out there. If you did something wrong earlier that day it doesn’t mean that you’ll have a bad game. You have to grow up. So this is the first year when I can relax a lot with my OCD. It comes with experience.
– What music do you prefer?
– Country. I know a lot of Belarusians dislike country. They like dance music and I don’t mind that. But I enjoy mostly country, especially in the summer time. I like Eric Church, Keith Urban… Well, not too many in particular, I just like songs. There a lot of good country songs.
– And what about Hank Williams?
– No! (laughing) It’s too country for me. It’s old country. They talk about their dog or fishing or something like that. There’s a newer country. That’s my genre. But I don’t mind rap and dance. There’s time for Eminem. I don’t mind that at all. It’s about time and place.
– What music do you listen to before the game?
– I suppose Charlie Linglet is in charge of that. I don’t think we listen to one song in particular but it’s all just dance, like DJ stuff. It’s pretty standard stuff.
– Finally, could you please say a couple of words to Dinamo Minsk fans?
– I’d like to thank them for their support and for coming out. I give a 100% every time I’m out there. Regardless of the result I’m trying my best. We all do actually. Thank you for coming, it’s an NHL atmosphere out there and it’s probably one of the best places to play, if not the best one in the KHL. It’s gonna be exciting time here the next month or two. So I’m looking forward to that.