An email interview by Elizabeth ETue with Aleksandra Vafina March 2013.
EE: How old were you and why did you start playing hockey?
AV: I start to play hockey at 9 years old, pretty old for these days and for most American and Canadian girls. My parents suggested me to start play hockey. We lived in a small town in Kazakhstan (Ust-Kamenogorsk) and only hockey was the biggest thing there. I'm glad that parents forced me practice!
EE: What club teams did you play for before coming to USA?
AV: I played for boys and girls in school.
EE: How did club play compare to US college life?
AV: Obviously the college hockey is the best for young girls. That's why I came here to try myself in the best league for women's hockey. (Russian club hockey is not as strong and fast as American hockey)
EE: Why did you choose UMD? I know other Russians have played there.
AV: Yes, my friend Iya Gavrilova played there and she encouraged me to go to UMD. Also, coach Schuler recruited me. I was so glad that the best team in the NCAA wants me. There were no doubts about team. I "fell in love" to what Iya talks about with the bulldogs’ team, what spirit and traditions they have! I was excited to go to Duluth!
EE: Are there any other Russian players in USA? I know about Iya G in Canada.
AV: Not a lot of Russian girls play in USA or Canada. Iya plays in Canada and one more girl Liza Monahova plays in III division in Utica (Finlandia University). I really believe that later more Russian girls will be playing in the US league. Because it is great opportunity to become great hockey player, practice with best coaches and unrepeatable experience.
EE: What do you think Russia’s biggest challenges are in this world championship?
AV: I think the biggest challenge for us would be the first game at the World Championship and also we do not know how the Czech team plays. I think every game will be the biggest challenge.
EE: Will the Russian team centralize in 2013/14 and if so where?
AV: Russian team would not centralize but there would be many camps which as usual would be in Novogorsk (Russian national camp centre) and in Sochi.
EE: Russia has a new coach and no one knows much about him. Can you talk about him and the team reaction?
AV: Everybody is glad about our new coach. He is doing pretty good. He bringsa new atmosphere to us: hope and belief in ourselves. He also knows and believes in us.
EE: Alexei Yashin in the recently appointed Russian manager of the women’s team. Have you met him yet?
AV: Yes I have met Yashin and actually Alexei has been practicing with us some times. He is very good person, he helps us on the ice, shares his experience and gives advice.
EE: Is it challenging being away from your teammates while you play in the US? What are the pros and cons?
AV: Being far away from home this is very challenging, I'm glad that I have opportunity to play with my Russian teammates. When I in the USA and played with my UofMD, Bulldogs teammates I didn't have any difficulties, it is always the game and I play with many players and it is always interesting and challenging.
EE: Has the Russian captain been chosen yet? If yes does she speak English?
AV: Yes our captain has been chosen and a without doubt it is Ekaterina Smolentseva. And she speaks English a little bit. Also, we have assistants who speak English. I think we will not have problems speaking with referees.
On the Russian national team since 2008 and played in the last four World Championships: two and a half years on the Russian U-18 national team.
Season Team League GP G A P PIM +/-
2011/12 Russia World Champ 5 0 0 0 2 -8
2010/11 Russia World Champ 6 2 1 3 4 -3
2009/10 Russia Olympics 5 1 0 1 2 -4
2008/9 Russia World Champ 4 0 1 1 2 -3
2007/8 Russia World Champ 4 0 0 0 2 0
Birth date: July 28, 1990
Birth Location: Almaty, Kazakhstan
Height: 164 cm / 5' 5"
Weight: 57 kg / 126 lbs
Home town: Chelyabinski, Russia
Club team 2012/13 University of Minnesota Duluth. Freshman/1st year.
Position: Forward Shoots: left