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4 Feb 2014

TOP-8 Belarusian sportsmen in 2013: MIKHAIL GRABOVSKY, ice hockey player

 Mikhail Grabovski
TUT.BY sums up 2013 with publications dedicated to Belarusian sports heroes, the best of which will be determined by public vote. Sergei Vishnevsky starts the series of publications with a story about how he begins his working day, how he brings up sons held up Michael Grabovski as an example and why the only Belarusian ice hockey player in the NHL got the title of the best sportsman in the country in 2013.

Mikhail Grabovski, the ice hockey player


There are so many articles about Grabovski on TUT.BY. Grabovski scored, Grabovski assisted, Grabovski became ill, Grabovski recovered... So some grumbled dissatisfied on the forum: "The same old game". But it can't be unsaid! How can we ignore 28 (10 +18) points from the beginning of the season. Or 104 goals – the best indicator of all Belarusians who played in the NHL. And what about 400 matches in the strongest league in the world? Before only Ruslan Saley of all our ice hockey players took part in such number of matches. Every day the gallery of figures of the best Belarusian scorer in the NHL is becoming more and more impressive. And we can’t keep it quiet.

Although sometimes we have other reasons to mention Mikhail Grabovski. It's just one thing after another: he has a wedding, or the contract is bought out, or the coach is a "(bleeping) idiot".

I dare say Misha is the brightest Belarusian hockey player. And I hope that the majority of fans would agree with me. It's not only about tricky stick feints or spectacular shootouts.

Grabovski is a person who demonstrates a sincere hockey and enormous dedication, he "strike sparks" in each episode and never gives up in front of an audience of millions.

Until now, the epic story happened with the Belarusian striker even before his going abroad is reported from mouth to mouth. It was happened in 2006 when he played for Moscow "Dynamo". Even the saw service doctor of the "white-blue" Valery Konov didn’t suppress his astonishment then: "I have been working in Dynamo as a doctor for 27 years, but have not seen such injuries yet. And even more I did not see people which are back on the ice in such a state. A puck stroke in his face and damaged the lip in five places. To ribbons. Plus the guy spat out four teeth - two upper and two lower. I look – it seems the mouth is closed, and in some places there is no lip at all – only shreds hang down and stumps of broken teeth stick out". During the match the doctor stitched up Misha’s lips, and he immediately returned to the ice.

What can I say, if necessary Grabovski is ready for a fist fight with a tough guy at once. As it happened, for example, in March 2012, during the match with "Ottawa" when Belarusian stood up for 20-year-old "Toronto" novice Ashton Carter and challenged the famous fighter Chris Neil, who had in his service record near 2000 penalty minutes. And Mikhail looked very dignified with not expected such impudence opponent.

And what resonance was caused by Grabovski’s skirmishes with Sergei Kostitsyn when Belarusians felt over each other in NHL games after the Mikhail’s transfer from "Montreal" to "Toronto"! It is rumored that even high-ranking officials from Minsk tried to reconcile hot heads overseas.

 Mikhail Grabovski

Generally, Grabovski’s matches against his first club in the NHL have almost always differed in intensity of emotions. And fans of "Montreal" aggressively met the forward reached success in the camp of rivals, and the players of "Canadiens" sometimes were after the Belarusian striker. But it has been well said about some doughty guys: "He is not to be trifled with!". Pasioretti neglected this truth and paid a price for it. Even he had to do rabies vaccination. Fortunately, the video recording of this incident does not allow us to assert that the bite took place. That is why the NHL’s disciplinary committee did not punish the Belarusian who later admitted that there was no other way to escape from grasp.

It all began when Mikhail Grabovski decided to stand up for his teammate Leo Komarov, when Brandon Prast the tough guy from "Montreal" called him for a fight. The remarkable fact is that Brandon Prast was much tougher in body than both Komarov and Grabovski. However, when the referees tried to break up Grabovski and Prast who were striving to strike to each other, Max Pasioretti came close to the Belarusian and put his hand over Grabovski's face.

For such episodes, which, if desired, in a career Grabovski you can find a lot, spectators love Misha. He completely gives himself up to hockey. A spectator, as a child, does not tolerate falsehood and insincerity. But if he feels the positive energy that the master gave off... He is ready to forgive him a lot, even if the game goes wrong.

And it was. When Misha returned from CSKA after the lockout he gradually lost credibility of coach – Randy Carlyle, who as it seemed for a hockey player, misused his strengths, overloading him with defenseman’s work. As a result, the highest paid forward in the team received only 16 (9+7) points in 46 matches with a minus-10 rating.

Sometimes it seemed that the Belarusian pulled the devil by the tail. From time to time he even looked haggard. While rivals as if they have a gut feeling about a wounded beast tirelessly hit Grabovski. And he has being often attacked for want of habit, stubbornly got up and went into battle again.

At the end of the season there was an explanation, partly shed light on the state of hockey player. In April 2013 after the match with "New York Rangers" Mikhail stayed in New York to be examined. It turned out that for the past two years Grabovski regularly felt a pain in the stomach and had heartburn.

«We noticed that he’s lost some weight over the last little while. And we just felt it was best that we had the best people in the world take a look at him and he was 100 per cent on side with that», – said the head coach of "Toronto" Randy Carlyle to journalists.

However, after a little while there was information that seemingly doctors found nothing serious. But it is clear that before the play-off club’s representatives are in no haste to share the details about players’ state of health. Also we know that Yuri Alexandrovich the Grabovski’s father was interested in coordinates of physician who migrated to Canada from Belarus and now successfully works at the Institute of Ontario. The material about our former compatriot was posted on TUT.BY.

We do not know whether Mikhail had recourse to the doctor or not, but in the play-off Grabovski was a changed man – more aggressive and confident in his abilities. As also evidenced by trick, that Mikhail has performed in the fifth match against Boston (2-1). Grabovski went behind net then flipped the puck high over the defender of "Boston" and like in baseball batted it in front of the net. It is a pity that he couldn’t get round the goaltender, the goal would be amazing.

"I'm just delighted with this moment! I have no idea how even to venture upon something like that, moreover in the play-off! But Grabovski have a different mentality", - commented the episode Mikhail’s partner Clarke MacArthur who with the advent of Randy Carlyle to "Toronto" also fell out of favor and in summer he left "Maple Leafs".

But generally during the series with "Boston" Carlyle started to put the Belarusian on the ice
more often, and "Toronto" has managed to reach the seventh game, all but got a ticket to the second round of the Stanley Cup. Under the best-case scenario Grabovski could have played better and escaped summer scandalous divorce with "Maple Leafs". But it’s just the "could haves and should haves". In fact we can see a poor statistics – 2 (0+2) points in seven matches in play-off with a plus-2 rating. These figures have motivated "Toronto" bosses to say good-bye to the expensive forward.

But despite the difficult Misha’s season there were no better candidate in Belarus, and in spring 2013 Grabovski was considered to be the best hockey player of the country third time in his career.

If the Belarusian didn’t "garnish" his leaving "Maple Leafs" with a ranting against the head coach Carlyle, most fans of "Toronto" could have seen Mikhail off much warmer. However, even with all the contrariety of the reaction of fans, none of them reproached Grabovski that he did his job for the sake of appearances. And many people sincerely regretted the leaving of forward and even wished him to pick up a hat-trick in the game against the former team.

By the way, the first hat-trick in the NHL Grabovski scored in his debut match for "Washington". And though he made it not in the match with almost native "Toronto", but in the fight against the Stanley Cup champion! It’s also cool.

""Washington" should say thanks to Nonis for a fire under Grabovski’s ass", – non-trivially commented the success of the Belarusian in "Toronto" club fans.

Unlike disinclined to heart talks Randy Carlyle the coach of "Washington" Adam Oates in his work focuses exactly on individual conversations with the players. After such conversation with Misha lasted several hours, the Belarusian made his choice.

Oates said to Grabovski: "You want to go to a team that likes to score, you want to go to a team where you fit in". "If you are a third-liner, many teams just say to you: "Get out!". Our situation is different". These are the reasons adduced by wise Oates, who emphasizes that almost everyone in his team can expect the leadership roles at some time.

In general, in this season "Washington" backs up words with deeds. Since the beginning of the championship Grabovski have played in three different combinations. And at least in two of them he felt very comfortable.

In the rating of the team scorers Mikhail with 28 (10+18) points in 34 games ranks third after world stars Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and the Belarusian’s plus-6 rating is the best one among partners. And according to some indicators as a goal scorer the Belarusian left behind the captain of "Washington". It’s enough to be recognized as the best at home, isn’t it? Even not a hockey player, but an athlete.

In gratitude for the confidence the Belarusian striker is ready to follow his coach through fire and water. Hardly recovered from the flu Misha sent SMS-messages to Adam Oates who was in Philadelphia and expressed readiness to catch up with the team before the match.
And I cannot but recall here the first Misha’s visit to the favorite "Toronto" as a guest that led into 20 stitches on his face. At the end of the second period David Clarkson‘s skate clipped Grabovski’s face. However, six minutes after the start of the third period Grabo, who got 20 stitches, returned to the ice!

"He doesn't get enough credit for how tough he is. He battles through a lot, he fights hard through every game works as hard as anyone on our team. It's great to see he didn't get hurt too bad", – commented the incident goalkeeper of "Washington" Braden Holtby.

Who knows, maybe this example of dedication has inspired Ovechkin to score in the end of the third period sending the game to overtime.

 Mikhail Grabovski




 Mikhail Grabovski


There is nothing more effective than a good example. Do you bring up a child and want him to form the character, patience and tenacity? Try to tell him the Grabovski’s story. In fact he did not immediately become so great hockey player. Mikhail Zakharov the coach of "Youth" once even advised him to give up playing hockey.

Moreover, in 2002 at the World Junior Championship in Piestany, Slovakia, Belarusian team with the coach Zakharov got record 5th place, Grabovski with 3 (2+1) points in 8 matches became only the sixth scorer of the team, in which Andrei Kostitsyn (7+3), Konstantin Zakharov (1+5) and Timofey Filin (3+2) were starring.

But unlike the case with Carlyle, Grabovski hadn’t a grievance against Zakharov Sr. and he even recognize the permanent coach of "Youth" as the best coach in the country and the most suitable candidate for head of our hockey: "I say so because I worked with him and know about his qualities. Though he is a little strange person, but now it’s an ideal candidate taking into account his ability to solve organizational problems. He is the real fan of his job, what is infrequent in Belarus".


Konstantin Zakharov and Mikhail Grabovski
Konstantin Zakharov and Mikhail Grabovski

My older son took to hockey "because of Grabovski and Kostitsyn brothers". When the baby was two and a half, he formed a bad habit to wake up at the crack of dawn. In so early morning entertainment choices were not rich: cartoons on TV or the latest news from around the NHL. And when cartoon characters bored him, Ian sat with me in front of a computer with a great cup of morning tea and found out what’s new with Belarusians overseas: "Is Grabovski recognized as the best player today? How many goals and assists did he make?".

Thus by age 3 he has mastered the English alphabet, learned the names of almost all NHL teams and formed a habit to dash off notes about the Belarusian players sitting at the next table in front of a netbook screen.

And when the younger son Andryusha have kept legs – the hall in our apartment turned into a place of hot tilt-yards. Doors and a wardrobe moan not less than boards during popular battles between "Toronto" and "Montreal", and black traces from pucks and roller skates became an integral part of the pattern on the floor and walls.

Since the autumn of 2012, the five-year Ian joined the hockey section, and the younger brother for two consecutive seasons now regularly went to trainings as a spectator. But he insistently asks: "And when will Ian grow out of skates? I'll also be a hockey player like Grabovski. Will I, Dad? And a racer".
You know, the story of Grabovski’s four knocked out teeth is like a survival guide. Kids can start squalling when they scratch gums with a toothbrush. But they nearly always patiently hiss when they hit with a puck. During trainings Ian have never yelped that something is difficult for him, he toughs out all hurts. Because he knows that when Grabovski spat out four teeth, he felt much more pain: "I mustn’t give up. And I won’t give up!".

Later I will tell them that the same motto – "Never give up!" – was also chosen by our favorite hockey player Mishka. Who every year runs summer training camps and even founded with friends in Minsk "hockey school of Mikhail Grabovski MIG 84".

Mikhail Grabovski

Frankly speaking, neither in childhood nor later I have never had any idols. But I will be glad if for my kids it will be Grabovski. He is, of course, not Ovechkin, but our – Yesenin of the Belarusian hockey. Would a less poetic nature dare to promise in the early 2000s to be an Olympic champion in the national team of Belarus? And not just to promise, but to say to guys from Nizhnekamsk "Neftekhimik" that he bet them the five-room apartment if he would not do it? It’s also a part of Grabovski’s story and I doubt that he regretted it.

Sergei Vishnevsky
TUT.BY

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