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THN in Russia with Pavel Datsyuk: Goalie day

Petter Sandstrom works with Artem Khachatvzov. (Photo by Masha Leonova)

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Petter Sandstrom works with Artem Khachatvzov. (Photo by Masha Leonova)

EKATERINBURG, RUSSIA – Pavel Datsyuk may be one of the NHL’s premier skating talents, but here at the PD13 hockey school there’s also a place for goalies.

Taking charge of this aspect of the camp is the laid back Petter Sandstrom, a professional Swedish goaltender with Troja-Ljungby of the Allsvenskan circuit, one level below the Swedish Elite League. When the skaters are doing drills that don’t involve netminders, Petter and his students head off to their corner of the rink with translator (and our photographer for the week) Masha Leonova, to work on the fundamentals of the position.

Petter cites Stefan Persson, goalie coach of AIK, as his inspiration. When working with Persson in the past, Petter says he learned a lot from the coach who gave him insights into positioning he had “never thought of before.” AIK has a rich goaltending tradition, with such names as Miikka Kiprusoff and Tim Thomas spending time there.

Wednesday started with the young group and before hitting the ice the two goalies, Artem and Vladimir, were pulled into the dressing room for a quick video issued by the Swedish Hockey Federation that Petter uses to preview what they’ll be working on during the session. Today the focus began with backing-up and pushing-off one leg to get to the post in the butterfly position.

Petter has been an instructor for a couple of years at the camp and after Day 1 he noted how far along one student in particular had come since last year. Eight-year-old Artem Khachatvzov, a Moscow native from the CSKA program, was a little rough around the edges 12 months ago, but is a different player with a different mentality this time around.

A large part of that improvement is due to Artem’s dedication, but credit also goes to his mother, Aietan, who has provided her son with the opportunity by enrolling him in another goalie school back home.

Still, this is the one young Artem enjoys the most. Aietan said he’s been looking forward to it since last year’s ended.

“He’s been dreaming of seeing Pavel again,” she said.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this series about the upbeat nature of the coaches at this camp and that it runs in contrast to how things are usually done in Russia. Aietan mentioned how good all the instructors here were with the kids and asked me if this is how hockey is coached in Canada. I told her our programs back home absolutely push players to get the best out of them. But, at the same time, you’re being taught, not yelled at all the time, and after-practice joking around is common. Back home, a coach is a coach, but he can also have fun and be one of the guys.

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To which she replied: “You’re lucky.”

There was an added spice to Wednesday’s program. July 20 marked Datsyuk’s 33rd birthday, so his stall was adorned with balloons and our dressing room was pasted with some amusing pictures and photos of him handing out hockey sticks to youngsters and carrying around the Stanley Cup.

The guys carried on a running joke from the 2010 camp as well. Last year Valtteri Filppula attended and rather than coming all the way to Ekaterinburg they thought, why not have a VF51 school in Finland? So, this year, Jeremy Clark had a batch of white T-shirts made with a VF51 logo and the motto “The Prettiest Hockey School in Europe.” When Datsyuk saw that, he had a good laugh.

To all you Red Wings fans, he said he feels like Benjamin Button.

Happy Birthday, Pavel.

212 AWARD FOR WEDNESDAY
The third winners of the camp’s daily award went to Vasily in the younger group and Nikita in the older group – the same Nikita we met in this space yesterday.

Near the end of an on-ice session Wednesday, we were running a “tornado” drill, the most famous one at PD13, where two players battle over pucks inside the center ice circle and try to put them in one of the two small nets. Nikita got frustrated at one point after being bodychecked over, but after a quick pep talk, he went back into the ring the next time and laid a nice hit of his own for a little retribution.

Rory Boylen will file reports regularly over his time with Pavel Datsyuk and Co. at his hockey camp held at the Kurganovo Complex near the Red Wings star's hometown of Ekaterinburg, Russia.

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