Xenophobia: Grigorenko, Buffalo, and the Motherland

The Russian Factor.

Lazy Russians.

Enigmatic Russians.

Mikhail Grigorenko slipped to the Sabres all the way down the draft board to #12 for all of the above. It didn’t matter that he was out there trying to play hockey with mononucleosis – concerns over his work ethic remained even after that news tidbit came out. It should be odd that we’d slap a “Lazy Russian” tag on him. As Jeremy White pointed out in a podcast with Brad Riter over at Trending Buffalo, if he was American or Canadian, we’d likely instead be talking about his effort to play while “stricken with disease.”

In such a way, Grigorenko is already an “enigma” in the NHL. He still has to prove his work ethic. Still has to prove he’s not another “lazy Russian.” He still will need years to prove to us that he won’t bolt to the KHL.

So far, none of this is making fans in Buffalo all that nervous, but it is in the back of our minds. It is in the media conversations.

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He looks happy. Right? Then again, why the heck am I analyzing his expression at all?

We’re all going to have to get over our own xenophobia – but the weird thing is, it seems to be up to Grigorenko to do it for us. Hell, all I want is for the kid to succeed, score goals, and help the Sabres make the playoffs. But again – what if he doesn’t stick with the team this year? Will he eventually get frustrated enough playing in the QMJHL and “bolt to the KHL,” where the competition is against men, and the rinks are paved with gold?

Crap – what if there is a NHL lockout this season?

I’d like to call it doubt, or put the blame for all these questions simply the natural dubious instincts of the human mind. But it’s not.

It’s xenophobia:

Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality.”

And I just typed “…where the rinks are paved with gold.” Is that enough “exotic quality” or what?

Mind, the anxiety is playing out in much the same way in Russia as it is here.

Congratulations, we (the KHL) are afraid! Now this is no longer any doubt. If a small number of selected Russians in the last few draft choices, many explained by the fact that, say, and to choose something special there was no one, now it differently as xenophobia and can not be called.Moreover, xenophobic, bordering on panic madness.

Painting League (the mis-perception of the KHL) for North Americans look like this – the mysterious League with very poor infrastructure, but where all the clubs in polls in the presence of a lot of money bags, which they gladly would give young players, and those only happy to take them in his arms.

Realistic looks, really. Of course, Nail Yakupov goes to “Neftekhimik” earning $ 10 million a month if he suddenly did not have to court the “Oilers”. Of course, for the same money back in CSKA for Mikhail Grigorenko.

…Grigorenko was eventually selected as the 12th number of “Buffalo”, and it’s a surprise. Not even because he was chosen relatively late, but because it is “Sabres.” After all, “Blades” had been a stronghold of xenophobia against the Russians – they do not choose our countrymen for six years. And there is not enough that they took Grigorenko, so also the Latvian striker Zemgusa Girgensonsa.

The well-known North American agent, Jay Grossman, said shortly before the draft pick that all of our players will be selected by the teams that they are really interested. It sounds logical. Because if even in an atmosphere of general panic, you make a choice in favor of the Russians, you must be a hell of an interest in it.

However, this also makes the atmosphere of our players to go overseas and make ambiguous statements in the local press to prove that they are not giraffes and they can be trusted. In this case, no Russian club will not receive any compensation for their students, selected in the NHL Draft this weekend.

At the same time quietly in Sweden wins championships “Bryunes”, which shine in the young Jakub Silfverberg, Johan Larsson and Calle Yarnkruk. In Finland, the champion was “UP”, where the glittering 21-year-old Christian and Sami Vatanen Nekyuvya. They (Finns, Swedes) have a robust and clear framework for cooperation with the NHL, there is a clear hierarchy, in which players are developing and there is no xenophobia, while in Russia, we continue to condone the bessistemem each year free of losing its best young people, which are wary of “there” and often hate “here.”

This is a scheme where there are no winners, only those who lose less than others. This scheme creates an atmosphere where all hate each other.

(Above section roughly translated by Google.)

For now, Grigorenko is here to stay. For now, he’s working out with his new team mates, and all would appear that his goal (and the Sabres goal) for him to stay here for 82 (or more) games next season. If he doesn’t make the squad, he has said that he’ll go back to Patrick Roy and the Quebec Remparts. Or is that just one of those “ambiguous statements to the local press?”

After all, it was as recent as January 24th of 2010, when Grigorenko made these statements:

Do you have a hockey dream?
Grigorenko: “Sure I have. I would really like to be called to the Russian national team. And win the Olympics and the World Championships. (smiles)”

Have you already collected any trophy?
Grigorenko: “Yes, I won the Russian championship with the Moscow selects. That’s all for now. It’s not a lot for now, but I hope that more will follow.”

And what about your near perspectives? Don’t you dream about the NHL?
Grigorenko: “I haven’t really thought about the NHL yet. My main thought for now is to get into a MHL team and then to the KHL. I’m thinking about this only.”

In what KHL team would you like to play?
Grigorenko: “I don’t really know. I consider CSKA Moscow as my mother club. They grew me up as player and so I’d really like to play there, it would be a reward for my mother team. We’ll see.”

Well, at least since the draft he’s said all the right things, and is doing all the right things to indicate that he will stay – or at least wants to stay. And there’s that lingering doubt again. And it’s safe to say that same doubt, that same whisper of xenophobia, is what caused me to look for this interview in the first place.

We hope that Grigorenko is 100% committed to staying, but we can’t say for sure. Until the NHL and KHL develop a relationship that prevents players from “bolting” to other leagues, there will always be questions looming over players and prospects from that giant portion of the globe. Because of this, questions and doubts will always come with Russian players.

Just try not to think about it, and focus instead on the “I’m excited as hell to watch this kid play for the Sabres” part of your mind. That advice won’t quiet the disquiet in the backs of our minds, but it’s all we can do. Try to focus more on the excitement of his upside, rather than all those questions.

We’ll wait and see. But will we see what we want?

That question is the same there just as it is here. Sabres fans, welcome to the anxiety and unending frustration of the NHL vs. the KHL. Welcome to the leagues of xenophobes.

Go Sabres.

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