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Ilya Kovalchuk speaks out about his contract ordeal with the NHL

Sep 5, 2010, 5:01 PM EDT

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchukwithstrangestatue.jpgWe’ve heard from just about everyone close to or involved in the Ilya Kovalchuk situation. We’ve heard from Lou Lamoriello, we’ve heard from his teammates but we haven’t heard from Ilya Kovalchuk himself. Until now. The always on the spot when it comes to Russian NHLers Dmitry Chesnokov from Yahoo’s Puck Daddy gets the exclusive first interview with Kovalchuk after the summer-long contract dispute with the NHL.

In it, Kovalchuk speaks his mind about the NHLPA representation and about how Brian Burke did, indeed, testify against his contract and others like it during the contract grievance arbitration hearing.

Two questions and answers stand out in particular from this great interview.

How did you feel when your initial contract was rejected right after you held a press conference in Newark?

What feelings could I have had? I was told that a rejection was a possibility. So, I was actually ready for it. Back then we didn’t know for sure that the contract would be approved. And then there was an arbitration hearing. But of course when I was told that the contract had been rejected, it didn’t feel good. But at the same time, New Jersey made another offer that ultimately satisfied everyone.

Do you feel that maybe the Players Association didn’t mount a good enough defense for you?

Not at all. Why? They presented their case entirely; they said everything they had to say. But ultimately it was up to the arbitrator who made a decision. There’s nothing criminal in this.

All in all, Kovalchuk’s handling of everything is pretty calm, cool and collected. I can’t say that if I were in his shoes I’d be as reasonable and seemingly mild-mannered given everything that went down to gum up the process. I’ll stress that everyone go to Puck Daddy to read the rest of the interview. Being that there aren’t any other writers out there able to get the kind of direct access to speak with players from Russia the way Chesnokov does, he’s doing a lot to help make the lines of communication more open and much clearer for NHL fans.

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