In the Latvian Hockey League – OHL – there are some NHL and KHL experienced players who are far from thinking about stopping.

Yevgeni Skachkov #82, Vitali Shulakov #5 Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk, KHL Season 2017-2018 © Zuzana Sefcovicova

At HK Kurbads, Latvian greats are in the squad with Krisjanis Redlihs, Juris Stals and Janis Sprukts, and the goalie coach, the legendary goalkeeper, Arturs Irbe, is also in the team. HK Olimp Riga can also look forward to KHL-experienced players such as Latvians Georgijs Pujacs (393 games) and Aleksandrs Jerofejevs (243 games) as well as the two Russians Ruslan Khasanshin (123 KHL games) and Vitali Shulakov (382 games).

In one of the last games before the championship was canceled due to COVID-19 Kurbads and Olimp Riga faced. At Olimp, which again took part in the Latvian OHL, Vitali Shulakov, a very prominent name, can be found again. Shulakov played a total of 388 games with 6 teams in the KHL from 2008 to 2018. After a short detour to SC Cikszereda, a team from Romania in the Hungarian league, his friend Maxims Sirokovs brought him to Olimp. Sirokov also worked for ASC Brasov in Romania, so it was only natural to recommend his friend Shulakov to Riga after moving to Olimp. Thanks to his many years of experience in the KHL, the 36-year-old defender is a great addition to the team and also an upgrade of the Latvian league.

At one of the last games before the end of the season by COVID-19, puck fans Vitali Shulakov and Janis Sprukts were available for a short statement.

BalticsMedia: Thank you for taking a few words. Today plays 1st against 2nd – the top game of the round, how do you go about this game.

Janis Sprukts (Kurbads): “This is an important game for us, we want to be at the top of the table. It is always difficult to play against Olimp, they have a very well-coordinated team.”

Vitali Shulakov (Olimp): “I can only confirm that, for me personally it is nothing special, it is a game like any other. I will try to help my team as much as possible.”

IIHF Championship 2015 Czech Republic, Praha: Canada vs Latvia Sidney;
#87 Sidney Crosby, #5 Janis Sprukts, © Werner Krainbucher

BM: You have gained a lot of experience in the past, Janis in the NHL at Florida and you, Vitali, have been active in the KHL for 10 years. Can you use and share your experiences?

JS: “I think we can implement our experiences here and pass them on to the youth. At Kurbads, great attention is paid to the youngsters and we experienced players (ex. Stals, Redlihs brothers) can pass this on to our youth.”

VS: “With Olimp, an 18-year-old, two 19-year-old and a 20-year-old goalkeeper are very talented players in the squad who also get the necessary ice age. Like the experienced players, there is a lot that these young talents can pass on.”

BM: How is it that players like you are still playing in this league, which is not exactly one of the top leagues? Or do you just enjoy ice hockey?

JS: “I have to say that I still feel too young to stop. It is my third season at Kurbads and I still enjoy it and look forward to supporting the team every year with players like Krisjanis and Jekabs Redlihs, it’s twice as fun.”

VS: “I had a very exciting and interesting time in the KHL, I was active there for a total of 10 years. I played for Csikzereda in Romania last season. My best friend, Shirokovs, told me about my return to the Latvian league of Olimp and I took up this challenge. It’s a very balanced league with a lot of good players this year.”

BM: Where is the way for the teams, or is it still a long way to the big goal, the championship.

JS: “This path is still very, very long. With the current champion, HK Mogo, there is a strong team in the race. It will be an exciting and exciting season.”

VS: “I can agree with that, the team from Liepaja should not be underestimated. This team is extremely strong at home and not easy to win there, the spectators are also very fanatical.”

BM: Thank you for your time and all the best for the game.

This statement was made prior to the conditional end of the season due to COVID-19. The game itself was won by Kurbads 3-1 after a 0-1 deficit and was therefore in the first place when the league was stopped.