I liked this piece today in the Buffalo News on Max Afinogenov, probably because he's one of the few real offensive stars in the NHL who I don't know a heckuva lot about.
It turns out there's a reason for that:
Afinogenov is one of the roster’s more decorated players. He led the Sabres in scoring with a career-best 73 points in 2005-06 and averaged more than a point per game last season. He’s a twotime Olympian, winning bronze in 2002.Russian NHLers are often, almost too often, portrayed as these strange enigmas, players who don't — or don't want to — fit in with the 'norm' of a hockey dressing room. I think a lot of that is bogus — many teammates, for instance, claim King Enigma Alexei Yashin was a great teammate and a friendly, open guy — but in Afinogenov's case, it seems to fit.
But Afinogenov is seldom interviewed by reporters.
Part of that is because Afinogenov reacts to most interviews as though they were an interrogation, apprehensive of every query. He has worked hard at speaking English over the years, but answers questions in measured, six-word snippets. He’s also prone to ducking the press by disappearing into the trainer’s room or hiding in some other off-limits area.
(That said, I think it's wise to be well aware that those stereotypes exist: the quiet, polite Swede/Finn; the enigmatic, mysterious Russian/Czech; the hardworking Canadian and the brash American.)
I think it's unfortunate that someone like Afinogenov is so wary of the media, even eight years after coming to the U.S., but to each his own (and there's no doubt the language barrier plays a part). Here's hoping he becomes more comfortable with the spotlight as his star continues to rise.