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Rookie Duties: From Russia with Love

First off, I want to apologize for my brief absence from If you were following along with the Rookie Duties Facebook Page, after I returned from my trip to Moscow I began to experience some computer issues – the main one being it won’t start up. Anyway, it seems as though I’ll be able to retrieve the files I had stored on it, however I might have to start shopping for a new one.

Where I left you before was halfway through my trip to Russia. The first week had been exhausting and unfortunately the second one didn’t provide much relief in that respect. For any of you who followed the international news coverage, temperatures in Moscow were at the highest they had been in 200 years. Every day the high ranged between 100 and 110 Fahrenheit, and with no air conditioning in Russian households, at times it was unbearable. But the temperature wasn’t the only source of physical discomfort that graced me with its presence in Moscow. Outside the city itself, buried several feet underground, a mineral that the locals refer to as “turf” was causing quite the problem as well. See, when this “turf” reaches a certain temperature, it reacts much like charcoal – not igniting in flames, but instead just emitting smoke.  And since the temps were the worst they had been in 200 years…you guessed it – the smoke was the worst it had been in 200 years. Pretty solid timing with my visit right?

Despite the sweltering heat, though, my gracious Russian hosts never ceased slaving away in the kitchens. Often I’d find myself eating a lunch that consisted of hot soup, a steaming plate of meat and potatoes, and a mug of hot tea. Even sitting at the table shirtless, the perpetual stream of sweat running down my body refused to quit. It wasn’t that my Russian friends didn’t notice the heat – I was asked constantly if it was too warm in the house. But trying to be an appreciative guest, I always tried to pretend that the heat didn’t bother me.

For the most part, the second week of my stay in Moscow consisted of numerous visits to the Spartak rink at Sokolniky, but as I mentioned on the Facebook Page, most of my action decided to plop itself all within my last 36 hours in town.

It all began Tuesday morning with an early trip to the Canadian Embassy in Moscow to go pick up Kuchin’s Passport. His multiple-entry American Visa was still valid through August, but the Embassy had his Passport as we waited on his Canadian Visa. On Monday Kuch had been told that all his documents would be ready to be picked up on Tuesday, so at 6:00am we woke up and headed into the city. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) when we arrived, we were told that the guy we needed to speak with wouldn’t be showing up until 10:00am. After a three-hour wait in the car, Kuchin finally got into the Embassy. Twenty minutes later, though, he exited Passport-less and without any real answers. I was allowed to enter the Embassy to speak with the official and find out what we could do – after all, Kuchin was scheduled to fly to Chicago that next morning. After I spoke with the guy at the Embassy, we were left with two real options. First, we could scrap the whole thing, wait for his Visa to arrive, and have Sudbury book him a new flight directly from Moscow to Canada. Second, we could withdraw his Canadian Visa Application from the Moscow Embassy, get his Passport back, have him fly to Chicago, and re-file an expedited application from the Canadian Embassy in Chicago.

I immediately had Kuchin take me to the nearest McDonalds so I could hop on their WiFi and try to see what the cost of changing his flight would be. Before I did anything, I wanted to get a hold of Sudbury to see what option they preferred, but with the time change, it was the middle of the night back in North America so it didn’t look like that was going to be possible. We had until 4:00pm local time to get Kuchin’s Passport back from the Embassy, but that’s still only 7:00am Central time.

After I weighed his options for a few hours, I decided to advise him to keep his current application open and just try to reschedule his flight. Since Orbitz wouldn’t let us do that over the phone, it would have to wait until the next morning when Kuchin would be physically present at the airport with me so that we could change it at the United Airlines ticket counter.

Later that afternoon, I had some meetings scheduled with some officials from the Russian Olympic Committee (“R.O.C.”), so Kuch dropped me off with another friend of mine and I headed over to their campus. While there, I got to sit down with their current Press Secretary and a new advisor to the Director of the R.O.C. Naturally, there wasn’t any air conditioning in their building either, so it was a little warm, but it was great to meet some pretty good guys over there.

Now you might be wondering why I was meeting with the R.O.C. right? Well to be honest, there wasn’t any real objective that I sought to accomplish with my visit there. Obviously, though, these people have some solid access to the top hockey talent in Russia, and since I want to continue to build a strong relationship with all those involved with hockey in Russia, I figured that only good could come from meeting with them. Unfortunately, I can’t really disclose all that was discussed, but I will say that the R.O.C. and the U.S. Olympic Committee have put things in motion where both countries will begin working together on a kind of cultural exchange program. And who knows…being close with those that make some of the big decisions in Moscow could help me find some great opportunities for my clients down the road.

After my meetings at the R.O.C. it was back to the Golikov’s dacha for one last night. Sem’s family cooked a fantastic meal for us, and afterwards, we began planning my 2011 trip over a few more shots of vodka. We had to be up at 2:00am to go to the airport, so I was going to have to suck it up and travel on only a few hours of sleep.

Wednesday morning at about 3:30am we met Kuchin at the airport and of course, the United ticket window wouldn’t be open until 9:00am and my flight was scheduled to leave at 6:00am. I told Kuchin I’d try to change his flight during my brief layover in London, so we said our “goodbyes” and parted ways.

On my way to security, I noticed that my iPhone battery was low and my computer was dead as well. I knew I needed my phone to work throughout my transit, so unfortunately I had to bite the bullet and drop close to $60 on a Russian iPhone charger. And all just to get one hour’s worth of charging…oh well, I guess I can always use it next Summer.

In the end, I didn’t have time during my layover to get Kuchin’s flight changed, but I was able to get a hold of Sudbury and they let me know that re-booking the flight wouldn’t be an issue for them. At least that was finally off my shoulders.

Overall, from Monday morning through Thursday morning (local time in Moscow), I’d say I was probably able to get about 12 hours of sleep…total. When I arrived at JFK, though, I somehow was able to catch a second wind and drove over to my friend’s place in Pennsylvania to pick up my dog and crash for the night.

Twelve hours in the car Thursday and I was finally back in Chicago…and let me tell you I couldn’t have been happier to be home.

Since my trip, I’ve had a lot of follow-up work with a few of the Russian kids I met with over in Moscow. Right now I’ve got two new advisees who I’ll be trying to find spots for on some North American clubs in 2011-12. It’s extremely beneficial to start working with these kids so early in the process since most North American teams don’t have very extensive scouting operations in Europe, and this will give me a lot of time to put together some solid video packages.

This Tuesday I’ll be heading up to Sudbury, Ontario for the Sudbury Wolves training camp. Kuchin is set to arrive in Sudbury on Tuesday as well, so it’ll be nice that I can be there and make sure he gets all settled into his new home. I’ve got some meetings set up with the Wolves coaches and management during the week and I’ll also be able to get my first look at what should be a very exciting team to watch this year. Friday night the team will be holding its first inter-squad “Blue vs. White” scrimmage and Saturday morning it will be up early and back in my car for the 12.5 hour trip from Sudbury to Chicago. Obviously, it’d be nice to fly instead of drive but as I think I’ve explained before, my company provides me with a gas card so if I stick to the roads, nothing comes out of my own pocket.

Once again, I apologize for my time away from the site, but work’s been pretty crazy lately and I just want to make sure that I always have a job to write about. Next Monday I should be posting my review of the Wolves training camp, so be sure to check it out. I’ll also be sure to post some pictures on the Facebook site while I’m up there. I hope that all of you are doing well and back into the swing of classes for those of you who are still in school. With that, and until next time…it’s time to hit the showers.

2 replies on “Rookie Duties: From Russia with Love”

Does that mean that the transfer request for Kuchin have been signed/approved by the Russian Federation and the IIHF?

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