The Washington Capitals' company line about Alexander Semin's comments regarding Sidney Crosby is that it was "interpreter error." That's what Ted Leonsis told ESPN, and that's what Coach Bruce Boudreau told the media in Ottawa recently, saying Semin "couldn't possibly have said those things" -- through a smile of course.
Reporters like Wayne Scanlan of The Ottawa Citizen appear eager to puppet this response from the team; hypocritically inferring that our man Dmitry Chesnokov was mistaken in his reporting, before placing Semin's Crosby quote in his own hypothetical "proper context" for the Citizen. How odd.
This reaction from the team is as anticipated as it is disappointing, but that's how the game is played. We'll stand by the guy who conducted the interview face-to-face while others can treat this as some sort of third-party translation error.
Speaking of third party translation: The great Tuvanhillbilly has a translation of the rest of Dmitry's chat with Semin, which was published in Sovietsky Sport. (We agreed with Dmitry to publish a good portion of the interview exclusively here before the full story hit in Russia this week; more will run next week in SovSport.)
The Crosby quote is debated again -- with some postmortem "clarification" -- but we're much more interested in Semin's road trip hotel room pillow fights and practical jokes with Alexander Ovechkin. Because they are "young and passionate," you see.
From SovSport, via Tuvanhillbilly:
Viktor Kozlov said that you and Ovechkin are the two main clowns on the team.
"Maybe this is because of how we behave ourselves?" laughs Semin. "Vitya and Sergei Fedorov are already aged. They are old men. But Sanya and I are young and passionate. When the two of us are together, we're always playing pranks on the veterans. But when we are by ourselves, then they start to "oppress" us. I'm having to fight them off while Ovechkin is in Russia."
"...Sanya and I share a room on away games. All four of us dine together."
How many hotel rooms have you already destroyed?
"Oh man, a lot of them" laughs Semin. "It happens-we just start goofing around. We pour juice over each other's head, we fight with pillows. We go at it full-bore."
And who doesn't love a juicy-headed pillow fight? Besides maids.
Semin touched on the KHL in our interview, but there's more information here, including the fact that the Russian League reached out to him:
When you were in Russia, did you get any calls from the KHL?
"Did they ever call me! Through my agent, I received offers from three clubs. All serious offers, too. But both I and my family are categorically against going to the KHL. Why should I bring a scandal upon myself? To run away from my current contract with Washington would just destroy my reputation. I'm not burning any bridges with the NHL. If you play well they would call you back, but they would now look at you with a jaundiced eye."
"I didn't even begin to look at those offers. I like it in America. It is interesting and fun here. Even if you don't speak the native tongue you can get along just fine. I had some difficulty early on, but now I'm used to it."
As an aside, Jeff Klein has some interesting words with Andrew Meier, who wrote that terrific KHL piece for the New York Times' Play magazine. The focus is on whether the economic crisis affecting the globe will hurt the KHL's chances for snagging marquee NHL players or expanding.
Back to the interview, this time about the Evgeni Malkin/Ovechkin thing; Zhenya equals "Evgeni," for the record:
What's the deal with Ovechkin hitting Malkin?
"I don't know. They have something amongst themselves, and I didn't stick my nose into it. I don't want to know anything about it."
It seems odd that Ovechkin makes hard hits on Malkin, and then Zhenya comes and hits you.
"That was just one time. But he came up to me afterwards and apologized, saying "I didn't do it on purpose". But I saw his hit coming, and took a step back on purpose, so I didn't get hit very hard."
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Capitals meet again in Pittsburgh on Jan. 14. Should be an amazing night. Also amazing: They're still talking about the Crosby quote in Pittsburgh, as Coach Michel Therrien addressed it with the Tribune-Review:
Penguins coach Michel Therrien reacted today after the Penguins morning skate. "Is he talking about the youngest guy to get 100 points in the history of the National Hockey League?'" Therrien said. "Is he talking about the youngest guy to win the Hart Trophy? Is he talking about the youngest captain in the history of the National Hockey League to bring his team to the Stanley Cup finals? That's all I have to say."