Ilya Popov: «I was lucky because here I was able to reach the level of a leading defenseman»


Reaktor defenseman Ilya Popov talks about pregame superstitions, hobbys and hockey schools.

– Ilya, you was part played in Kirov, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhnekamsk. How did this happen?

– I was born in Kirov. At the age of 8 I played in hockey school Soyuz. At the same time, I was a swimmer: for 3 years in a row, I was the champion of the city in breaststroke swimming. Later, genes played their part, and I decided to be a hockey player. My grandfather played. At one of the tournaments, a coach from Ak Bars hockey school invited me to join his team. I graduated from fourth grade and moved to Kazan. I played in the capital of Tatarstan for two years. Yeah, I also played in Nizhny Novgorod for some time, but it did not really work out there.

Neftekhimik Hockey School coach Yuri Ivanov invited me to join Neftekhimik. I think I was lucky because here I was able to reach the level of a leading defenseman. After that, Ilya Susloparov became our coach. He is a good coach; he knows how to communicate with players. We got second place in the Volga region and were in the top 10 strongest teams in Russia in the YHL. Before the finals, I was also part of Reaktor.

– What is the difference between Nizhnekamsk hockey school and other schools?

– I think a lot depends on coaches you work with. Ilya Susloparov gave me a big boost, and for all the guys who were played with me in the YHL. That is why they got on a higher level in terms of playing – Rinel Fakhrutdinov, Marsel Murtazin, Renard Mustafin, Arseny Sokolov, Nikita Artamonov and Amir Nugmanov.

– This is your third JHL season. You also played your 100th JHL game. In your opinion, what have you achieved?

– I became mentally stable during this time. Thanks to the coaches, they develop these qualities so any player, when moving to the adult team, is ready for anything, they also help improve the way we play.

– The guys told us that you are the calmest on the team, do you agree?

– Yes, I am quite a calm person. Our coaches, Vyacheslav Kasatkin and Igor Fyodorov pointed out that I need to be angrier on the ice. I worked on this for a long time. At the same time, the defenseman needs to play with a cool head.

– Is there any connection between desire to win and penalty minutes you got?

– I would not say that I got too much penalties. I have four minor penalties and one major penalties. That is not much for a second–line defenseman. Our team is young one in compare with other teams. Sure, we made mistakes. The whole team is working on it in order to be better and better.

– How did the team react to the news about Grigory Morozov’s participation in the Challenge Cup?

– We are happy. This is good for Reaktor, and it gives Grigory a chance to show his best hockey.

– What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time?

– I like to drive a car. A year ago I got my license, I like to travel long distances alone and listening music.

– Top 3 TV series?

– «Slovo Patsana» (Trust to Boy’s word), «Bodyguards». «Central Russia's Vampires».

– Does your family support you?

– Sure, I have been living in Nizhnekamsk for six years. Now my parents live in two cities. I am here; mom and dad come to watch home games. My parents are real hockey fans.

– Do you have any pregame superstitions?

– I do not have. Sometimes I try to have a pregame nap.

– Who would you become besides hockey player?

– There is no alternative for me yet.

– Are you getting any education?

– At the Volga Region Academy of Sports. I am a second year student.

– Do the fans recognize you?

– It happens during Neftekhimik games. Children try to take pictures, that is all.

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