Everything changed from minute to minute. It flipped. Nothing was normal after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Are friends and comrades in the cabin suddenly enemies? “I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of Russian boys didn’t agree with the invasion,” says Simon Hrubec, who has a contract at Omsk for next year.
But he doesn’t know what’s next. “None of us understood why this was happening. Yesterday we were teammates, friends and in the morning we woke up to the fact that Ukraine was under attack. They looked at us to see if we were starting to hating them because they were Russian.”
An excerpt from the interview for Championat.ru made it clear that you were not a “hostage” of the club and the biggest concern was how to get payments in rubles.
“It just came to our knowledge at that time. I spoke to the lady in English. At first glance, my English is not perfect, nor is hers. Then she translated it into Russian , then it was translated into Czech, which looked like silent mail. It will change before the message reaches the end. I dealt with this immediately with the club’s media team, I also wrote to the journalist , but the line hasn’t changed either.”
So, how did you perceive the situation from the beginning?
“It’s unbelievable! It’s a war. Wherever war is going on in the world, it’s being taken by innocent people. Children, women, guys. It’s the greatest tragedy. As it goes was breaking out, I was wondering if and how I could leave Russia. We dealt with the agents, with the teammates. In fact, we had meetings every day where we talked about ways and possibilities to get out of Russia. He didn’t there weren’t a lot of options.”
You had Finnish teammates who left, right?
“Yes, we had two boys from Finland – defenders Oliwer Kaski and Ville Pokka, who left. As they said, the Finnish authorities ordered them to leave. They said goodbye to each other, even though they knew that it was difficult to leave the team just from a sporting point of view.”
Didn’t find that chance?
“I was in a more difficult situation, as the only import I had, or still have, signed for next year. Nobody knows what will happen. If I left, my contract would not wouldn’t let go. There are huge penalties in there.”
How was the atmosphere in the club?
“It was impossible to just focus on sport. It was the most difficult period of my psyche that I experienced as a goalkeeper. Focusing on hockey when sport is important compared to what is happening in the world, really far, far behind? We all dealt with it. We made several import groups on the Whats app, where we discussed it. Everyone stayed except the Finns. About the half of them are gone.”
Did you only have a group of foreign players or the whole KHL?
“The whole KHL. But there were more groups. In the team, by country, the whole KHL. The war started and I had about five groups to decide what was going to happen. Who solves it, what what are the possibilities. The family was gone. I carried it too hard. Knowing the horrors of what’s going on and being thousands of miles away from your family… Are you focusing on hockey? It’s not didn’t work.”
How did the Russian teammates perceive and experience it?
“I was pleasantly surprised that many of them didn’t agree with the invasion. They didn’t understand at all why it was happening. It was strange. Even their view of us as foreigners who stayed there. In this sense – what do we think of them now? Yesterday we were teammates, friends and in the morning we woke up to the fact that Ukraine was under attack. They told us watched to see if we were starting to hate them minute by minute because they were Russian. That’s… (searching for his words) The boys don’t fight there, they didn’t invade Ukraine. A lot of them don’t agree with it at all and they themselves are upset about it.”
On the contrary, did you come across a partisan of the invasion?
“It’s hard to say, some guys haven’t even commented. Usually – it’s not about nationality, like people. Who’s watching it. When I come across someone who agrees , we separate very quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Russian boys in the team took it.”
At some KHL games, Russian flags were seen on the standards, Z symbols, support for Putin. Did the club push you towards any form of promotion?
“Not that. We weren’t pushed into anything. We also thought that if we weren’t given something for our shirts, or if they wanted us to comment on it after the game, they would take pictures with banners, no! I immediately said that it is something that I will not sign.”
You said it was hard to focus on hockey. In the playoffs, you defended the title, knocked out Kazan (4-2), then beat Magnitogorsk (3-4). Has it affected you sportingly?
“It just crossed my mind. I spoke to our goalkeeping coach, as well as head coach Bob Hartley. I told them I would leave everything on the ice, but they have to understand that I am somewhere completely different in my thoughts. It was difficult to concentrate one hundred percent last year. There was no chance. I went to forget, for example, during hockey, but how many times did I find myself playing on the other side, and I was thinking what was going on. What will be? How and when will I get home? How is the family at home? We called every day .You see a son, a pregnant woman… It was not easy.”
You also have a contract for next year. What information do you have at the moment about the future of the sport?
“I don’t know at all. There are only a lot of possibilities that could be. We are all waiting for what will happen. The KHL can ban all imports. The IIHF may terminate our contracts and that contracts in Russia may no longer be valid. Or the KHL may be renamed when clubs in other countries are no longer there and contracts may not apply. These are things that can and likely will change from time to time. day to day. I know next to nothing now. Then there’s the agent.”
Are you looking elsewhere in the market?
“Of course, he doesn’t sit with his hands on his knees. We’re wasting networks that might be interested in my services. We have to have all the options. Omsk might not let me go at all because of the contract And if I refuse, I can stand for 18 months if it comes to that.”
I was not at my best in Beijing
If we move on to the national team, how do you rate the Olympics from a distance?
“It just came to our knowledge at that time. Of course.”
Did you fly to Beijing at the last minute for how you felt?
“I don’t want this to sound like an excuse. During the Olympic break, I trained in Russia to be on top of my game. I stayed in training, I gave in, I didn’t wonder how I had worked to be physically prepared. Then I came to the Czech Republic and there was a rush to tenths of digits in the tests, whether I could fly or not. Before the first Olympic game, I had two training sessions. The training I did and wanted to do on the camp in China was in vain. Really, I will not hide anything from myself, I was not in my best shape. And Unfortunately, the Olympics are a short tournament for which you have to be very well prepared, and to be in top shape for it to work.”
For a while you have been thinking about what a World Cup is. How was the decision?
“I needed to be clear. As we are expecting a baby, I have decided to apologise. For a long time my career was in the first place, now I want to be a support for a woman, to be in the process of give birth, the baby should be born at the beginning of June. I called Zdeněk Orct (the national team goalkeeper) and said that I would not go. I wish the boys the success they are all waiting for with I’m looking forward. And I wish the goalies the pucks hit them, they were lucky. I’ll watch this, fingers crossed. I don’t think I’m old enough to end my national team career. Now , I want to put family first, that comes first for me. I want to be with my wife and my baby.”
Do you watch Extraliga from a distance? Trinec, your old club, will play for gold again. And České Budějovice, where you started, has a sensational bronze.
“Great, I experienced that. The woman wanted the final Třinec – Budějovice, it would be nice. She is from Třinec, I come from southern Bohemia. They would probably jam at home. (smiles) She said she would go to Budweiser Budvar Arena in Třinec’s shirt. I was also very happy that Budejovice got bronze, I was very happy about that. Otherwise, of course, I encouraged Třinec. Now in the final too, I still have a lot of friends there and only the best memories. The boys would also deserve to clinch the golden hat trick. »
Do you think they will win the final against Sparta?
“I wish they could. Sparta will miss David Tomášek a lot, we’ll see, I’m really looking forward to the final. Defensive masters and offensive masters will meet. And it will depend on who it goes . »
Will you come to the game in person?
“We will go to Třinec for a health check with a small, but I think it works until the fifth game. So if it does. I don’t think it will be 4:0 for someone fast “In my opinion, it will be a battle until the end. And a seventh game would suit that. The fans have something to look forward to, both teams are great.”
Coach Václav Varaïa announced in advance that he would finish after the season. He surprised you with that?
“It just crossed my mind. And I probably wasn’t alone – it surprised everyone from the pickpocket to the management. It’s his decision, Venca doesn’t look too much from left to right, he does his thing (smiles). And he sticks to his decisions. It would be good for him to reach the end of the championship and put the team back with the gold medal.”
When I return to the war in Ukraine. You have been sponsoring the Saves Help Foundation for several years now and, together with other goalkeepers, you help children and families in difficult circumstances. Did you talk about where the next help could go?
“All the keepers involved always vote for a specific use, it’s a collective decision. Where and what the money will go to. We always buy specific things, helpers. We will try again to help where it is necessary.”