Ilya Bryzgalov is an infinitely fascinating person.
This is as obvious a statement as ‘a hotdog is NOT(!!!!!) a sandwich.’
More importantly, when the opportunity presents itself to have an actual person-to-person interaction with a collection of people that are the best at what they do, you should capitalize on that opportunity. Last night was one of those opportunities as the exceptional speaker series, Puck Talks Live brought some of – if not – the best Flyers beat reports in Sarah Baicker, Dave Isaac, Bill Meltzer, Al Morganti, and Adam Kimelman together to share a stage and host a sincere and honest conversation about hockey… PLUS BRYZGALOV DID A 30 MINUTE Q&A!
It does not take a huge leap of faith to realize that Bryzgalov is a genuinely intelligent human being despite the caricature that we assign to him. To listen to him speak with such candor about his hockey career and his divisive time here in Philadelphia was enlightening.
Perhaps the most compelling remark that Bryzgalov made was about his difference in philosophy with Peter Laviolette’s view of how hockey should be played. Apparently the point of contention between the two men centered around shot blocking. Put simply, Bryzgalov much rather the defensemen let him see shots, Laviolette thought otherwise.
To hear a goalie say that he prefers to see shots seems pretty benign, however, the best part about listening to Bryzgalov speak is that anything he says is done in such a way where you know you are getting a complete thought. Every time he is asked a question, he takes a moment to carefully digest what is asked of him, gather his thoughts, and then delivers a very careful and thorough response.
Bryzgalov could have simply said that he didn’t like his defensemen blocking shots and been done with his reply. He didn’t have to go into his theory that Laviolette had Stanley Cup winning success with a contrary philosophy and that despite being the recipient of 9 year $51 million dollar contract, Laviolette didn’t care what the goalie had thought. This remark then seamlessly – without prompting – evolved into a very matter of fact thought about how he enjoyed playing for Dave Tippett while with the Coyotes in such a way that anyone would as they reflected on a time that that was comparatively better.
Then there was the most honest response Bryzgalov gave about how we certainly will not see him playing hockey anywhere this year. He stated how last year playing in Las Vegas and Anaheim he was underprepared with his heart not in it. Again, a pretty obvious statement but when Bryzgalov says or does anything, it is clear that it must be done whole heartedly and with passion, or not be done at all.
The pleasure of getting a better understanding of Bryzgalov from Bryzgalov confirmed what I already had known but couldn’t define:
Bryzgalov is such a compelling figure not because he says things that hockey players “shouldn’t” say, or that a lot of the controversy over his ability to tend net was mnufatured by the circumstances around his contract and the way he was depicted. No, people are drawn to Bryzgalov for ethos, and that his imperative is to make the best out of less than ideal situations and to have passion in whatever it is that he is doing in that moment.
I believe that everyone has an opinion about Bryzgalov because we see his views towards life and we wish our lives had more of the passion that comes so effortlessly for him.
I went to this event with the expectation that I was going to learn something not knowing that I would learn more about myself than I care to admit.
I was fortunate enough to ask Brygalov if he had ever considered writing a book to which he admitted he had thought about it but was worried no one would read it. Everyone in the crowd immediately assured him that they and everyone they know would most certainly read it.
So, for the universes sake, if you ever do write that book Ilya, I hope its title is, The Tao de Bryz.