The Athletic’s Joe Smith spoke with Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and several other hockey luminaries regarding Yzerman’s background with Russian players in Detroit as it applies to his construction of the Bolts:
It should come as little surprise that some of the Lightning’s cornerstones are Russians, with All-Star winger Kucherov and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Last summer, Yzerman traded former No. 3 pick Jonathan Drouin for another Russian, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. If the Lightning advance from this Eastern Conference final against the Capitals and win the Stanley Cup, it’ll be largely due to their impact.
Yzerman saw past the perceptions, the misconceptions. He understood the people. He appreciated the talent.
“I learned the players from (Russia), they come from a very different culture than we do,” Yzerman told The Athletic. “How situations are handled are different. How they were treated are different. Right or wrong.
“But one thing playing with them, they were good guys, very successful athletes, very intelligent and strong-willed athletes. It wasn’t just Russians. On that team, we had players from all backgrounds. And it came down to good hockey players, good people. That’s the most important thing.”