The Ak Bars selection is called almost perfect this offseason. In the conditions of a rigid salary ceiling, the Kazan club managed to practically maintain the composition with which it won first place in the East last year. Stefan Da Costa from Lokomotiv was also invited to strengthen. But the winner of the Eastern Conference of last season did not stop there. On July 14, the club announced the signing of a one-year contract with Nigel Dawes. In the 2019/20 season, the Canadian striker with a Kazakhstan passport played for Avtomobilist and scored 50 (20 + 30) points in 59 matches of the regular season. For nine seasons in the KHL, Daws scored 501 (267 + 234) points with a +80 coefficient of efficiency. Daws is the third sniper and fifth scorer in league history.
– Why did you choose Ak Bars?
– For me, this choice was very easy. Everything is very simple: Ak Bars is a very strong team. Last season, she won the Eastern Conference, and she had a high chance of winning the Gagarin Cup. Professional trainers and players are gathered in Kazan. I am happy that I signed a contract with Ak Bars. I can’t wait until I can join such a strong team.
– Have you consulted with Stefan Da Costa, with whom you played in Avtomobilist together, before signing a contract?
“Yes, I talked to him a couple of weeks ago.” I know that he signed a contract with Ak Bars back in May. But you know, I didn’t need to talk a lot with anyone about this team. I know what a high level the players are gathered in this club, so there were no doubts about the transition. In the KHL, I played a lot against Kazan, and these matches have always been very persistent. I hope that together we will be able to compete for the cup next season.
– Do you have problems with coming to Russia due to border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic?
– I hope that all issues with flights and visas will be resolved quickly. I want to join the training camp in Kazan as soon as possible and start preparing for the new season.
– What do you know about Dmitry Kvartalnov? Many consider him a very expressive and emotional coach.
– He has been working in the KHL for many years, he has vast experience. I am very glad that I finally had the chance to practice under his guidance. I know that Dmitry Kvartalnov is a very demanding coach. But I am ready for hard work and am going to give all my best. It is important to earn his trust. A strong team has gathered at Ak Bars; I am required to show my game and help the team.
– Is it important for you that from the new season you are no longer a legionnaire in the KHL?
– I think this facilitated negotiations with Russian clubs. After all, this year there are many difficulties: both the coronavirus and the introduction of a hard salary ceiling. But I must say right away that the fact that I am no longer a legionnaire did not raise my financial needs. Fortunately, I have already earned a lot of money in hockey. Now for me it was the most important thing to get into a strong team, with which it will be possible to compete for the Gagarin Cup, which I have not yet won in my career.
– What do you think about the introduction of a hard salary ceiling in the KHL? Many Russian hockey players are not too happy with this.
– Here you need to build on what is happening not only in sports, but throughout the world. Because of the pandemic, millions of people lost their jobs, many governments spend huge amounts of money to support the economy. In this situation, the introduction of a salary ceiling is understandable. I am sure that this decision was not made just like that, but was justified by some financial indicators. We, hockey players, are generally lucky – we do what we love and earn good money. At the same time, now many people were left without work and livelihoods. I think that we are very lucky.
– You have been the leader of Avtomobilist for the past two seasons. Did the club from Yekaterinburg offer you a contract at the end of the championship?
– No, after the season they told me that they would not offer a new contract. We didn’t speak very well and could definitely show a different result. I was saddened by the decision of Avtomobilist, but I understand that the team needed some changes. I am grateful to the club for the last two years. But, unfortunately, we could not complete the task.
– How many offers did you have from the KHL before you signed the contract with Ak Bars?
– For me it was very important to be in the top club. This was a priority. Therefore, I considered very few proposals. My agent was negotiating with several clubs, but in the end we settled on Ak Bars. I think that Kazan is the best option for me.
– I heard a lot about the fact that you had a difficult relationship with Pavel Datsyuk, and it was because of this that you left Avtomobilist. Is it true?
– I can say that it was a great honor for me to play in the same team with such a master. Pavel is a great player and person. He gave a lot to the team, his hockey skills and leadership qualities undoubtedly helped Avtomobilist. I do not know where these rumors came from, very strange. In training, everyone wanted to imitate Pavel. I am including. No problems never arose and could not arise. He is an absolute professional.