While we are on topic, here is the Vancouver Sun
article featuring and interview with Steve Plouffe who
now plays with Spartak Moscow. It's interesting that
it's completely opposite to what Steve was saying in
his interviews in Russia but nevertheless, it's an
interesting read. He a record holder on the seasons
played in the Russian Super League by a foreign player
and a VERY POPULAR personality among Russian fans.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Steve Plouffe at Sokolniki Ice Palace, Moscow: 'Here,
hockey is a nine-to-five job. You're in the gym twice
a day. It's like being in the army. They think the
more you train the better you'll be. They're a little
stupid that way.'
MOSCOW - The goalie for Spartak Moscow is sitting in
the cafeteria of the Sokolniki Ice Palace, his home
rink, and we're talking about the highs and lows of
life in Russia. He's speaking English, with a
Steve Plouffe, of Laval, Que., is shaking his head as
he begins telling the story of The Plane Ride.
"It was the worst day of my life," he starts.
Plouffe and his Spartak teammates had boarded a plane
to Siberia where they were scheduled to play
Khabarovsk Amur that night. Plouffe played in
Khabarovsk for three seasons before signing on with
Spartak this past summer. He knew the flight between
Khabarovsk and Moscow well.
"We're flying Siberian Airlines," Plouffe continues
while rolling his eyes. "We take off and everything
seems fine and we're climbing and climbing and then
suddenly the plane goes into a nosedive. I swear to
God, straight nosedive just like this."
The palm of his hand is pointing straight down.
"I figure that's it. Everybody on the plane is crying
and saying their prayers. It's awful. Me, I see my
life pass before my eyes. I swear to God. We must have
been going down for 15, 20 seconds and it felt like
the plane was going 1,000 miles an hour. Suddenly, we
come out of the nosedive slowly. I can't believe it.
I'm thinking, 'Please God let us make it.' And we
start climbing and climbing and everyone is making the
sign of the cross and we figure we might just make it.
"And then the plane goes into another nosedive. I
swear to God."
Needless to say there were more tears and prayers and
Plouffe saw another version of his life, this time in
Technicolor. As you might have guessed by now, given
that Plouffe is telling the story, the plane didn't
crash. It pulled out of the nosedive a second time and
continued on to Khabarovsk.
"We were told later the pilot was having trouble
building up enough speed against some headwinds or
something so in order to get enough speed he had to go
into a nosedive. Not once but twice. But I'll tell
you, when I landed I said, 'That's it. I'm getting out
of here. I'm going back to Canada. Enough's enough.
But after a while I decided to hang in for a while
A while has turned into weeks and will likely last
until the end of the season, Plouffe's fourth playing
in the Russian Super League.
"Every year I say it's going to be my last and then I
look at the money they're offering and I think, 'Maybe
I'll play one more.'"
Plouffe isn't the first North- American-born hockey
player to play professionally in Russia. But he can
certainly claim to be among those who have played here
the longest. Once upon a time, you left the comforts
of Canada and the U.S. to play hockey here only for
the experience. But more and more players are doing it
for a different reason: the money.
The Super League has reportedly become the second
highest paying hockey league in the world. Guys like
Plouffe can make between $200,000 to $300,000 US
tax-free a season. Bigger names like Andre Racicot,
formerly of the Montreal Canadiens and Frantisek
Kucera, formerly of the Washington Capitals, can make
twice that. There are players reportedly making more
than $1 million US.
But while the money is nice, and always a motivator, a
move to Russia is not without its challenges.
"It's a different world over here," Plouffe is saying,
sipping on a coffee. "And to be honest, a lot of it
isn't the greatest. You kind of just have to close
your eyes and suck it up and think, 'I'm going to do
this for a few years and make as much money as I can
and then go home.'"
Plouffe was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the sixth
round in 1994 after a solid career in the Quebec Major
Junior Hockey League. Unable to crack the Sabres
lineup, Plouffe bounced around in the minors for a few
years and thought about retiring and getting a job
when his agent, Yves Dufort, called him with an
Khabarovsk Amur was looking for a goalie. And offering
twice as much as Plouffe was making in the Central
League. Why not, he thought. How bad could Khabarovsk
be? Wherever that was.
"I'll never forget the first day I arrived," Plouffe
says. "Well, you've been to the airport here. There
were guards all over the place with guns and no one
speaks a word of English and no one is smiling and I'm
already wondering what the hell I got myself into.
Somehow I manage to get through customs and there is a
guy holding up a sign with my name on it."
So far, so good.
Plouffe picked up his luggage and grabbed his huge
hockey bag and the half dozen goalie sticks he brought
with him and headed for the car. He was told he had to
take another flight to get to Khabarovsk and that
flight left from a different airport.
"There's two guys and we start heading towards their
car and it turns out to be like this 1960 Lada. It's
no bigger than a Mini Minor. Well, there's no room for
my hockey equipment so we have to throw it on the roof
and wrap a piece of rope around it. And it's just
"We head off and the two guys roll down their windows
and they each have a string in their hands that is
attached to one of the windshield wipers. And they
each start pulling the wipers back and forth with
their little strings. I'm not kidding. you wouldn't
"Well, I'm looking and think, 'What the hell have I
got myself into?' I want to go home."
They made it to the other airport where Plouffe
thought he had a one hour flight to get to his new
"Yeah, an hour," Plouffe laughs. "Try eight hours.
This place was in Russia but was closer to China. I
couldn't believe it."
The first season was tough. There wasn't a player on
Plouffe's team who spoke a word of English. Games and
practices weren't a problem. But in the dressing room
and on the plane it was lonely.
"I watched TV a lot," Plouffe recalls. "But I didn't
have to do that much. Here hockey is a nine-to-five
job. You're in the gym twice a day. It's like being in
the army. There's very little down time. You just
train, train, train. They think the more you train the
better you'll be. They're a little stupid that way."
Plouffe was getting home at 8:30, 9 o'clock each
night, phoning his wife, talking to his two kids and
then going to sleep. The next day it was the same
routine all over again.
Then there was the food.
"Awful," Plouffe says. "I just absolutely hated the
For starters, Plouffe hates mayonnaise. Russians love
it and smear it on everything, including soup. After a
couple of weeks, Plouffe asked his translator if they
could go talk to the chef at the hotel where he was
staying. They did and came up with a special menu that
Plouffe could live with.
There were other things that made Plouffe shake his
"Some of the things the Russian players did were just
. . . ." Plouffe shakes his head and rolls his eyes
"They would go to the shower in their underwear and
use hand soap to clean their underwear and then take
it off and let it dry. Then they'd come back in and
have a shower themselves. They were too cheap to take
their underwear home with them and do it in the
laundry like most people.
"And then if we had two practices in one day, like we
often did, they wouldn't use soap or shampoo during
their first shower after the first practice. They'd
save it for the second practice. These are guys who
were making $50,000 US. I thought they were making
$200 a month the way they acted. If they got a new
stick they would take the tape off the old one and put
it on the new one. Stuff like that."
Plouffe's wife Caroline didn't join him the first
season but did the second. She arrived in Khabarovsk
in October with plans to stay until Christmas. She
lasted two weeks. She came back the next year about
the same time and lasted a week longer.
"She couldn't handle it," Plouffe says.
After three seasons in Siberia, Plouffe received a
better financial offer from Spartak, a team situated
in the heart of Moscow. While he had been considering
retiring, the extra money Spartak was waving in his
face and the prospect of living in Moscow for a season
seemed appealing. Now, Caroline is coming over with
the couple's two children with plans to stay until the
season is over early in the new year.
Each year, meantime, Plouffe sees more and more
players from North America touching down in Russia to
play hockey. "When I first came over there was only
one or two of us. Now there's, what, a dozen or so?"
Plouffe doesn't know if this will be his last season
here or not. With the kind of money the Super League
is offering it's hard to leave, even if you don't like
mayonnaise in your soup. The way Plouffe sees it,
besides having a comfortable nest egg when he does
wrap things up here, he'll also have some incredible
"Oh, boy," Plouffe says. "I'll be able to keep the
boys in stitches for hours with some of the tales I've
"It's been an incredible adventure so far. That's the
only way to describe it."
___ Arthur Chidlovski _____________
1972 USSR vs. Canada Summit Series
1974 USSR vs. Canada Summit Series
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