More stories in English

Eurolanche´s talk with Sandis Ozolinsh

Eurolanche´s talk with Sandis OzolinshThe first European fan club of the Avalanche hockey did exclusive interview with the former all-star NHL player.

Sandis Ozolinsh (*1972) was not only one of the best defenseman in the Colorado Avalanche history, but generally in the NHL too. He was an important part of then-young and new NHL member in the second half of the 90s. He was drafted in 1991 of the 30th place by San Jose Sharks. He spent first pro years there and won the goal scoring stats (26) of all defensemen, when he was just 22 years old. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche before its inaugural season for Owen Nolan.

Sandis contributed to the win of the Stanley Cup in his first season as the Av. He scored the series-winning goal in the double overtime in a game six against Chicago Blackhawks. One year later, Sandis was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. He gained 68 points, the personal record and finished on the second place amongst defensemen. Unfortunately, the Avalanche management traded him to Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL 2000 entry draft for Nolan Pratt and the draft picks (Vaclav Nedorost, Jared Aulin and Agris Saviels).

Ozolinsh had appeared in six different teams between the time span of 2000 and 2008. He also played two games in the AHL. He did not play during the first full-season lockout and finished his career in the Sharks jersey after the season 2007/08. He suffered many injuries during his NHL career and has never played the full season. After one year break, he signed a deal with the KHL team of Dynamo Riga, his hometown. He has broken several team´s records, appeared in All-Star Games (one team was named on his honor) and finally leave the team three years later. Before the current season, he signed a contract with Atlant Moscow Oblast of the KHL.

What are your memories on your Colorado Avalanche career?

Of course, the first Stanley Cup. I really enjoyed playing on the team with such great players beginning with Roy, Sakic, Forsberg, Kamensky. I really enjoyed playing there. It is my favorite time of my NHL career.

How did you spend your day with the Stanley cup in 1996?

Long story, but I did not have it.

Can you explain it?

No, long story. It was long time ago.

What was your biggest goal as the Avalanche player?

I think the year we won the cup, the goal in the overtime in Chicago. That kind clinched the series against Chicago Blackhawks. It was a risky play, but worked for us.

Was it a shock for your, when the Avs traded you?

It was coming and I expected those things. Shock or not, but I would like to stay in Denver.

Then you changed a lot of NHL teams. Was it hard for you?

It was harder for my family.

I read you own a property in Denver. Do you come there regularly?

My kids are there. I go there once a while.

Do you think there is a chance you will join the Avalanche staff in the future?

I do not know (laughing). I do not know what´s gonna happen tomorrow. To be honest, I really do not know.

Why did you refuse the contract offer by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008 and came back to Europe?

It was long a time ago. It must be a good reason and that´s it.

Can you compare the KHL with the NHL?

You cannot compare two leagues. First of all, one league has been run for decades, the other league is in the fifth season. There are a lot of aspects, the different in the game. But the idea is same of course. KHL is forming every year and trying to bring it to the next level, to have better experience for the fans and players. I do not think the KHL is trying to copy NHL. I do not think that would be such a good idea.

What is your opinion on the lockout?

I am not following it. I do not know issues what there. I do not know.

You are now 40. Do you want to continue in the pro hockey in the next season?

I do not know, we will see.

Tonight, it was a hard game for you with the unlucky finish…

We had many chances in the game and in the third period. However, they scored and we did not, that´s a difference of the game. We are not satisfied with the result. We are satisfied with our effort, but we have to find a way to win a game.

According to the official Avalanche Media Guide, Ozolinsh holds these Avalanche records:

- most single regular season goals by an Avalanche defenseman (1996–97) – 23
- most single regular season points by an Avalanche defenseman (1996–97) – 68
- most all-time regular season goals by an Avalanche defenseman  – 72
- most single playoff assists by an Avalanche defenseman (1995–96) – 14
- most single playoff points by an Avalanche defenseman (1996–97) – 19 (shared with Rob Blake)
- most all-time playoff goals by an Avalanche defenseman – 18
- most all-time playoff powerplay by an Avalanche defenseman – 10
- most all-time playoff winning goals by an Avalanche defenseman – 4
- most all-time playoff assists by an Avalanche defenseman – 47
- most all-time playoff points by an Avalanche defenseman – 65
- Ozolinsh is the last Avalanche d-man, who scored a hattrick (6th December 1999, against Vancouver)

Focus on Sandis Ozolinsh

Ozolinsh played with #44 on his back in the game in Bratislava, Slovakia. He played for almost 20 minutes and spent majority of his ice time on the even game and penalty kills. He was trying to be mostly in front of his net, where he did “massage” of the backs of the opponents. He played hard and tough hockey in the defensive zone. In spite of that, he took a puck and came to his offensive zone, where he passed it to his teammate, which tied a game. Ozolinsh cannot play like in his best years in the past, but still could offer the leadership, experiences and hard defensive-defensive hockey. Many teams would like to have it on the roster.

HC Slovan Bratislava – Atlant Moscow Oblast 3:2 (1:1, 1:1, 1:0)

Goals and assists: 13. Olvecky (Mikus), 33. Dano (Svarny, Olvecky), 55. Kukumberg (Kytnar, Dravecky) - 19. Michnov (Ozolinsh), 31. Bobrov (Rybakov, Dorofejev)

The home team of the Bratislava was leading the pace of the game for the full time of the first period. The opponent from the far Russia could not even to find a way in its offensive zone. The HC Slovan goalie Janus had not enough work. The Slovan took a lead early in the second half of the period after little scrimmage in front of goalie Khudobin. In spite of huge pressure, „the Russians“ could open their score sheet. Ozolinsh took a puck in the offensive zone, passed it to Minichov who took a wrist shot and tied a game.

The second period was much about mistakes of both sides. Goalies Janus and at the other end Khudobin, had a lot of work. Players were nervous and got more and more penalty minutes. In a little mess of the game, the visitors took a lead for the first time in the game. It did not last long. The youngest player of the game, Dano, was alone of the Khudobin´s net and finished the play with a beauty. The score was tied after two periods of a tough hockey.

If I was talking about tough and maybe even boring hockey, everything had changed in the third period. All time offensive plays brought more shots and hits in the corners. The Slovan defense did enormous number of mistakes, showed passes to nobody and almost contributed to the third goal of the visitors. Surprisingly, it happened in Khudobin´s cage, when the Slovan took a lead five minutes left to the game. In spite of the big pressure, the Slovan goalie Janus showed tremendous saves. The Slovan won 3:2; the overtime should be much fair. 

Full public photo gallery of Ozolinsh could be found here.

More exclusive Eurolanche´s interviews here.


David Puchovsky, Slovakia, eurolanche@eurolanche.com
26/11/2012 - 07:59 Eurolanche book - banner

Discussion