Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings paid his dues in the AHL, waited for his chance with the NHL and realized his childhood dream. Here are three stories from three people from his past, courtesy of sports.ru.
Stanislav Shadrin, Voynov’s first coach in Traktor.
“I worked with Slava until his graduation [from the hockey academy], from when he was 7 until he was 17. I noticed him right away. He stood out among others with his skating, he learned everything right away. He was very strong as a person, a physically strong boy. Very determined, didn’t like to lose. He always wanted to be the team leader, often he was the team captain. Voynov and Anton Lazarev stood out in particular among others of the same age. Overall, Slava had a lot of good qualities since childhood that he has since developed.
“His family was an ordinary one. His father was a railroad worker, and his mother worked for a municipal government entity, I think. He also has an older brother. It is sad that his father didn’t live to see the Stanley Cup… He passed away when Slava was still playing in the AHL.
“He always attended practices, never skipped. He may have missed school, but never a skate. If school was cancelled, he was at the rink right away skating with some team. He is one of those who has never missed a practice. He loved practice, he was hungry for them. He did everything you’d tell him to do. You show him an exercise, he’d get it right away. Some would need to be explained multiple times, but this one got everything right away.
“I joined Traktor myself when I was 16. Straight to the [professional] league from school. And Tsygurov [another coach] noticed Slava and invited to join the team. He was probably nervous inside, but played with confidence. Tsygurov loved the young, actually. He saw that Slava was a good guy, and decided to check him out, and Voynov justified the trust. He kept getting better and better. [Tsygurov] discovered him for pro hockey. Slava played for the [Traktor] first team that year as well as three national teams: the one for 17 year olds, the Under 18s, and he was also invited to the junior team, even though there were 20 year olds there.
“Voynov wanted to go overseas, he dreamt of the NHL. At first, when it wasn’t coming together for him in North America, he was kept in the AHL, he was thinking whether he should stay or come back. He was advised to stay one more year as he’d be given a chance anyway. He stayed and, in the end, he became a regular in Los Angeles. As soon as he was brought it to the first team, everything started going right for him.
"Last summer, when he brought the Stanley Cup to Chelyabinsk, he called me and we met. He gave me his hockey gloves as a gift. As they say, a shoemaker without shoes. He also gave me a hat. I asked him to bring hockey skates for my son, he brought those from Canada. And even now we talk on the phone sometimes.
“His slapshot has been really good since he was a child. Forwards would forget him at the blue line, and Slava took advantage of it. Sometimes we even engineered plays through him. There is a five on four power play, he gets the pass and shoots on goal. If the shot is on net, it was almost always a goal. He had a strong shot. You couldn’t see the puck flying [after his shot].
“We had the following happen. We had a game against Mechel in the city tournament. We got together and Slava tells me: ‘Stanislav, I don’t feel well, I have a fever. Can I not go?’ I tell him: ‘Slava, we should go, we are short on defense. If something, you will just sit on the bench, you won’t play.’ And the game turned out to be very difficult. We won 4-3 and Slava scored three goals. And I remember telling him on the bus: ‘And you didn’t want to go. You scored a hat trick.’”
Miskhat Fakhrutdinov, Russia U-18 national team coach at the 2007 World Championships
“Voynov has always been a gifted guy. He wasn’t always on my team as I was working with guys born in 1989 at the time, and Slava was born in 1990. But when I saw him in 2007 for the first time, I realized right away that he was not a bad player. That he has a future in hockey. His hockey logic is at the right level, his skating is great, a good shot. He can shoot where he wants the puck to go.
“I wasn’t surprised that things are going well for Voynov in the NHL. He was smart beyond his age. He was 16, but played like an adult. It is a rare feat – to understand the game at such age. He made decisions very quickly. He could have stayed back and not immediately joined the rush if he had known that he would lose in speed. At the World Championships Slava was the youngest one, but wasn’t lost among more senior guys. Voynov and Maxim Chudinov were the best defensemen of that year.”
“He was a young guy when he joined the team. He was 16, if my memory serves me right. Gennady Tsygurov got his ready for the first team, and he stayed, played out the entire season. He played very respectively. Not to say that he was one of the leaders, but for his age Slava looked great. It’s not a surprise that he has achieved what he has since. Right now he is one of the best defensemen in modern hockey. As a goaltender I played with comfort behind Voynov. There were no problems whatsoever. He had everything other defenseman with the first team had, apart from the age. He was the youngest, and the rest was at the [required] level. He played really well.
“I don’t remember us pranking or treating Slava badly as the youngest on the team. We treated him well. Just like with any other team, young players collected pucks, helped administrators to get something on the bus from the locker room during travel, but everyone goes through that. There was no hazing.
“It was evident that Slava could play in North America. He dreamt about playing there and that’s why he left for the junior league when he was 18 – to make it to an NHL club. He has achieved all that. Some people say, why do young guys leave at a young age to Canadian juniors if there is an opportunity to make money at home and play [at home]. He chose a completely different path, that he walked all the way and won the Stanley Cup. Slava proved that there is nothing impossible. You can be proud of him.”