[Editor's Note]: Ivano27 will be our Russian Correspondent for the rest of the season, providing us with translations of interviews and other media reports published in his native tongue. Thanks again for doing this sir, and we look forward to all your future contributions.
The following interview appeared in today's issue of Sport-Express, major Russian media newspaper (link to the interview) and below is my rough translation of it. Note - they interviewed Joe following the Sharks game against Atlanta last Saturday. Thornton chats about the Olympic camp, about his relationship with prankster Nabokov and why he thinks Samsonov never lived up to his potential. Hit the jump for the interview.
Joe Thornton is the mind and the pass of Team Canada at the next Olympics and is the dream partner of any goalscorer, and well, the dream of many California women. After the game against the Hawks, Joe looked like a man who lives in full harmony with himself. Very few Buddhists ever reach this kind of harmony, let alone hockey players. His scruffy face made an impression that he and the Sharks have spent the last two years battling in playoffs. Thornton's success can be explained not just by his skills, but also through his on-ice vision. It's not too hard to guess what role he'll play at the Olympics. If Dany Heatley, who was given a rare chance to play alongside Joe in San Jose, doesn't win the Rocket Richard title next summer, Thornton will get a share of criticism. Either way, these two will be hot in Vancouver.
How did you enjoy the Olympic training camp in October?
It was awesome. It was probably a bit more intense than some players thought it would be. It was a serious physical challenge. But it was good to see all the boys again.
How many days did you spend on ice?
Four or five. Enough to reconnect again.
Did coaches already told you about pairings?
(Thinking) Not sure if I can answer that questions. We just spent some time getting to know each other. I don't think they already determined pairings.
What are the chances of Heatley playing next to you? Heatley and you seem to be doing well playing together.
Dany is a great player that's easy to play with. We were very happy when he got traded here. I hope he makes it to the Olympics, as well as Marleau and other Sharks teammates.
How's the magic between you and Heatley working out so far?
I'm a play-maker and I use my body and size to get him the puck. Dany is a big guy too, and can score. He knows how to open up. My job is to get the puck into the area where he's at, and he takes care of the rest.
Who do you think will tend the goal for Canada?
I think it's just as hard of a choice for Russia out of those three.
Are you ready to face Nabokov in Vancouver?
Yes, it's hard to score on him. But I wouldn't mind playing against him. I know him well, so I can share his secrets with the rest of the team. I hope he starts for Russia (laughs).
During morning skate Nabokov hit you with his stick on your back. Is that a tradition?
Yes, we love to mess with one another. That's the kind of guy he is, fools around all the time.
Is that a good luck for you when he hits you with a stick before the game?
(laughs) I don't know. If it gives us good luck, he should hit me every night. We'll see how we do then.
Even at the Olympics you'll allow him to hit you with the stick? For his luck?
Oh no. Not at the Olympics, since we'll be playing for different teams (laughs).
What do you think of Nabokov's poor start this season? Or is he like all Russian, as we say, starts slow?
Well, the whole team started slow. We're still trying to find chemistry. For a couple of games, we left Nabby all alone. We have to fix it. I hope we get better defensively.
Is it important for you to play in the Olympics?
For every Canadian it is an honor to play at the Olympics. I already had a chance to do that in Torino. I hope I'll also be there in Vancouver.
You can also get that honor in four years time in Sochi. Many NHL players, especially Russians, are worried that the right to participate may be taken away from them.
Well, of course, it's an honor to represent your country. I can relate to Russians. They also want to represent their country at the Olympics at home. And of course they're vocal about it.
During the lockout you chose to play in Switzerland, instead of Russia as many other NHL players. What was the reason?
No special reason. Rick Nash and I were looking for a place and decided to play in Davos because it's a beautiful city. Besides, I never knew how to ski, and wanted to learn to. They had Shpelngler Cup going on, their big tournament. We helped them win it, as well as win the league.
Maybe you'll still play in Russia one day.
Who knows. Many former NHL player play there. Never say never.
What do you think happened to Sergei Samsonov? He was your teammate in Boston and looked hopeful. What stopped his progress?
Confidence in yourself is a big thing in hockey. Maybe he lost it during injuries. That seemed to affect him a lot. But looks like he found himself again in Carolina. I hope he does well there.