It's beautiful. I like mountains, the weather is kinda familiar to my hometown (Surgut, Russia); it's nice and sunny but with a nice, cold wind. ...I remember I watched Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and was very impressed back then, and now I'm here. —Igor Bobkov, Utah Grizzlies goalie
Igor Bobkov is off to a strong start in his first season with the Utah Grizzlies' hockey team. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound goalie from Russia, who's on an NHL contract with the Anaheim Ducks, stopped 34 shots and shut out Idaho until the final four minutes of Utah's 4-2 victory over the Steelheads in Friday night's regular-season opener at Maverik Center. Deseret News sports writer Randy Hollis spoke with Bobkov at the team's annual Faceoff Lunch and media day last week.
1. What are your impressions of Utah so far? "It's beautiful. I like mountains, the weather is kinda familiar to my hometown (Surgut, Russia); it's nice and sunny but with a nice, cold wind. So, yeah, I remember I watched Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and was very impressed back then, and now I'm here."
2. How did you learn to speak such good English? "Obviously, my first year in London (in Ontario, Canada, playing minor league hockey), I knew English little bit but as soon as start being, like, only Russian on the team, you have to learn, you have to listen, you have to speak, especially if three or four different coaches trying to speak to you and you can't understand them. Just started learning and stuff, and then I found a teacher, English teacher, and she really helped me learn a lot of stuff, pronunciation and just like the regular stuff to be familiar with it.
3. What do you expect from the Grizzlies' team this season? "I think we are really a good group of guys who like to work hard. And our expectation is only high in fighting for a championship. ... Our goals are really, really high this year, and again, we're working really hard and competing in the practice and the games as well."
4. Do you expect to be the No. 1 goalie for the Grizzlies this season? "Sure, I'll just try my best to be No. 1, but there's (Ben) Mesnier and (Aaron) Dell and they are obviously really good goalies, and they both want the No. 1 job, so there's three of us now who are gonna try to take over."
5. What are your impressions of your Utah teammates so far? "I love all the guys on the team. They kind of laugh at my accent, especially my roommates, Teigan Zahn and Brance Orban, they always laugh any time I say anything. We have a great time just watching movies and hanging out so, yeah, it's a great group of guys."