Off the ice Alexey Lipanov’s first language is Russian, but on the ice it’s hockey.
The 19-year-old Moscow, Russia native is currently in his third season in the OHL, and his English is a lot better than he thinks. Moving 7,424 kilometres across the Atlantic from Moscow to Barrie was a big move for Alexey. Luckily, he had some help once he arrived.
“I was lucky. It was not too bad because I had a couple of Russians on Barrie who can tell me what to say. Sometimes it’s hard,” smiled Alexey. “I want to say thank you to my billets in Barrie who would talk a lot in English with me. I started to learn and feel more comfortable.”
Heading into the 2017 NHL Combine, he had even more help.
“I had a translator at the NHL Combine, it was helpful having someone translate for me,” said Alexey.
Getting drafted to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round, going 75th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft was a major moment in the Rangers forward’s life. He beams from ear-to-ear talking about it.
“The whole NHL draft was an amazing experience. I was so excited when they called me to the combine. NHL is always my dream,” smiled Alexey. “Talking with the teams, it’s amazing actually. Tampa was one of the teams I was really interested in.”
There was even a Russian connection between Alexey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It helped make him feel a little more at home.
“The scout for Tampa Bay is from Russia too. We met probably three times. He asked me questions about my family and my hockey,” said Alexey. “It was nice to have that Russian connection.”
Since joining the Kitchener Rangers this season, Alexey has adapted to Kitchener well. He calls it his second home.
“When I got traded to Kitchener, I was really happy,” said Lipanov. “It’s a good city, good team, good franchise and good history.”
Being able to have connections and a family away from home is important, and he has found that in his teammates.
“I connect with everyone on the team; we are all friends. We love going for Sushi. Everyone always asks me, ‘do you have sushi in Russia?’ and I’m like yes, it’s everywhere,” laughed Alexey. “Sushi is my favourite food. I also love Russian food like soup, borscht and I really like meat.”
Having a home away from home has been excellent for Alexey. He even spent the holidays with his billet family here in Kitchener.
“Over the break, I stayed here and didn’t go to Russia. I went to a couple of dinners with my billet family and got some presents. I talked with my parents on the phone.”
Alexey’s family back home has made many sacrifices to help him get to where he is today. One of those sacrifices now is sleep.
“My family watches every game from Russia. They wake up at night and early in the morning to watch,” smiled Alexey. “They call me after every game.”
During the break, Alexey didn’t stop working. He is looking forward to helping his team get some wins in the second half.
“I went to the gym every day and then skate a couple of times,” said Alexey. As a team, we want to be better every day. We need to be better every shift, every second. Push together.”