Ilya Bryzgalov was the man of the hour (literally; he talked for an hour) last night at a Puck Talks event in Philadelphia that also featured media members like Dave Isaac, Sarah Baicker and Bill Meltzer. His session touched on various topics including his time in Philadelphia, his public perception and, of course, his philosophy on life.
Time in Philadelphia
When it comes to Philadelphia hockey, the story always seems to be centered around the goalie. That was one of the first things brought up to Bryz, and he sympathized with his goaltending brothers. He said that a team can search all they want for a great goalie, but it doesn’t make as much of a difference without having a great team in front of him. You can try to run a goalie out of town, or get down on him, but Bryz preached patience. When the Flyers do finally find a goalie “it’s gonna be the same guy” that the fans and media were bashing.
Bryzgalov was well traveled in his time both in and outside of the NHL. He has been quoted in the past as hearing that going to Philadelphia is going to “goalie hell”, and he touched on that a bit Wednesday night. He said that the pressure doesn’t come from the fans, it comes from the media. He said jokingly (or not) that “they’re mean, huh?”
Bryz expanded on his view of the media during his tenure with the Flyers. Everyone knew that he was a good quote, and he would get hounded by questions every day. The thing was that they were the same questions day after day. What confused him the most, however, was when they would come up with things out of nowhere. He specifically mentioned the infamous “Napgate” in which he was asked about napping during a meeting. Of course he didn’t nap during a meeting, he said; meetings are like two minutes long! He was always open to questions about hockey or about things that actually happened, but wouldn’t have the time of day for questions that have no truth to them just as many other athletes wouldn’t.
One question he did enjoy enough to make fun of was when he was asked if he was “scared” of Pittsburgh Penguins’ stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. “Of course not!” Bryz laughed, but he also revealed what would be one of his favorite quotes; that he was scared of bears in the forest. He even enjoyed the fans in Pittsburgh dressing up as bears, pointing out that they were only there for the first two games -Flyers wins- and did not return for Game Five.
Bryzgalov was also famously benched for the 2012 Winter Classic, and had quite a few entertaining quotes in his press conference prior to the game. However, he said on Wednesday that he had known for a few days that Sergei Bobrovsky was going to start, and he was upset about it. “It was hard for me” Bryz said. “Of course I wanted to play that game, I am human.”
After becoming a fan favorite thanks to HBO’s 24/7, Bryzgalov was instructed to focus more on the game in his second season and to avoid speaking too much to the media. He said that he wanted to try to focus on the game of hockey rather than everything around it. He knew when it was time to put his game face on and he did just that.
His philosophy vs. Laviolette’s
Ilya Bryzgalov signed a long contract with the Flyers while Peter Laviolette was coach. Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes the previous decade, and was known for his shot-blocking style. Unfortunately, that didn’t line up with what Bryz preferred.
When asked whether he liked facing lots of shots during a game, or seeing spurts here and there, Bryz said that he liked to see lots of pucks to stay warm. He also revealed that his defensive philosophy clashed with that of his coch while in Philadelphia. Bryz never wanted defensemen to block the shot, he’d rather have them clear the crease or allow him to cover the puck after he sees the shooting lane all the way in. He didn’t speak negatively of Lavy’s system, but said that both him and Lavy had success using their systems in the past and they couldn’t get on the same page while in Philadelphia.
Bryz played for a lot of coaches during his career, and his favorite was one that the Flyers had a chance at this past offseason: Mike Babcock. Babcock was his first coach in North America for the Cincinnati Cyclones and Bryz praised him for his straight to the point attitude; “no BS” he said.
Bryz going full Bryz
Of course Bryzgalov wasn’t all serious during his hour puck talk, in fact he was very friendly and humorous throughout the whole hour. He had life advice on everything from making mistakes to drinking alcohol. I like to call it: Bryzosophy.
Bryz is a humongous big figure in the NHL and the people wanted to know about his thoughts on changing the net size. When asked, Bryz said deadpan “it’s a great idea, let’s put a soccer net.” He went on to say that goalies gear has already been cut down twice, and that goalies are growing even taller now, but “you’re not going to cut their legs!”
One of the fans asked him how he stays looking so young. Instead of laughing it off, Bryz gave a somewhat serious answer while offering some great life advice. He advised to “stay away from the bar” and cited the progression of hangovers as his source. “When you drank when you were 21 you could wake up and be fresh. Right now you wake up and you’re sick for three days.”
Bryz also touched on his social media prowess. When asked if he would ever go back on twitter he answered in the way only Bryz could: he said he lost his password. His loving wife did make him an Instagram, but he grew tired of it in the first week. Vladi (his son) does enjoy a good game of angry birds though!
While he was a hero of sorts on Twitter, particularly to fans here in Philly, he was really just trying to be himself. He said that we as humans have to communicate, that we can learn a lot by listening to each other. Sometimes Bryz is even the one doing the learning, instead of the other way around.
When asked about the perception of Russian players in the NHL by the media, Bryz did not shy away. He echoed many people’s sentiments in saying that Russian players get a harsher judgment than North American players. He specifically mentioned a few analysts by name, but I will leave them out of this to protect the innocent.
Bryz still loves Philadelphia
There is really only one reason as to why Bryz even did the Puck Talk last night, and that’s because he loves Philadelphia and the fans.
Bryzgalov said that he wanted to play his whole career here and he was saddened by the way things turned out. The fans always treat him well, no matter where he is. That is why he stayed in the Philadelphia area. Even when questioned by a pressing fan about choosing Philadelphia despite the love-hate relationship some fans have with him, Bryz professed his love for the city.
“I like it here, that’s why I’m staying here! I could go anywhere I wanted, but I like it here.”
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Sons of Penn Radio (September 21st)
On this episode of SOP Radio, we delve deeper into the World Cup of Hockey, analyzing what makes Team North America so lovable, why the United States had no chance and much more.