Book Review: “This is Russia” by Bernd Bruckler and Risto Pakarinen

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 10: Goalkeeper Bernd Bruckler #30 and defenseman Alexander Bumagin #87 of the Sibir eye the corner action during the KHL Championship 2011/2012 on December 10, 2011 at the Arena Sibir in Novosibirsk, Russia. The Metallurg defeated the Sibir 2-1. (Photo by Nina Semashko/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images)
NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 10: Goalkeeper Bernd Bruckler #30 and defenseman Alexander Bumagin #87 of the Sibir eye the corner action during the KHL Championship 2011/2012 on December 10, 2011 at the Arena Sibir in Novosibirsk, Russia. The Metallurg defeated the Sibir 2-1. (Photo by Nina Semashko/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images) /
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Carolina Hurricanes Editorial Content Producer and Team Reporter Walt Ruff recommended “This is Russia: Life in the KHL – Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles” by

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 10: Goalkeeper Bernd Bruckler #30 of the Sibir collides with Alexander Bumagin #87 of the Metallurg in the crease during the KHL Championship 2011/2012 on December 10, 2011 at the Arena Sibir in Novosibirsk, Russia. The Metallurg defeated the Sibir 2-1. (Photo by Nina Semashko/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images)
NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 10: Goalkeeper Bernd Bruckler #30 of the Sibir collides with Alexander Bumagin #87 of the Metallurg in the crease during the KHL Championship 2011/2012 on December 10, 2011 at the Arena Sibir in Novosibirsk, Russia. The Metallurg defeated the Sibir 2-1. (Photo by Nina Semashko/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images) /

Bernd Bruckler and Risto Pakarinen to me over Twitter, and as I am a new hockey fan I was intrigued. Being who I am, I look for a book to learn about something I know little about.  Having only seen hockey live since 2013, I am still getting the hang of the game, its speed of play, and the demands that it makes on players.

But this book did well to open my eyes to what life can be like grinding out 82, or more a year on the ice two or three nights a week. To do that, and deal with the craziness of Russia, my hat is off.

“The Kontinentalnaya Hokkeynaya Liga (KHL), founded in 2008, has quickly established itself as the second best league in the world, behind only the National Hockey League.

Bernd Brückler spent two seasons playing for Torpedo Nizhny Novogorod, and a season with Sibir Novosibirsk in Siberia. In his memoir, he tells us what it’s like to be an import player in Russia, and the challenges he faced with the language, the culture, and the game.

He tells stories about life at the “baza”, a training base, and how they’d have to spend big parts of the season away from their families. (Unless they sneak out). His driver was also his buddy and a bodyguard.

There’s the travel, with hours upon hours on planes that are often antiquated, and there are the teammates, the doctors, the pills, the training camps, the saunas, and the money, oh, the money.”- From Amazon

This book was not terribly hard to read and did not take me all that long to go cover to cover. One reminder, it is written by a second language English speaker so we are not getting William Faulkner in the translation. Too, if you are familiar at all with central European, and Russian literature, you will know the frankness of their style.

In its 1st edition “War and Peace” had 1,225 pages, with that many sentences per page. Short and choppy is the rule, not the exception. Efficient, and to the point.

What most folks will likely take away is the toll hockey takes on players as they travel. While NHL teams move from city to city in style, and not in Soviet era cargo planes that have been shot down with rifles, travel does take a serious toll.

As Carolina Hurricanes fans, we saw the aftermath of the road games earlier in the season, and just how well the team has responded to playing at home. Take the 5-4 win OT win over the San Jose Sharks as a prime example. Coming back to force overtime with 1:30 left probably does not happen on the road. Not in this chapter of the book…if you will.

On top of this, Canes fans will get a glimpse into what our Russian imports, current and prospects, have experience as players in the KHL.

In the Carolina Hurricanes organization of course is Pyotr Koochetkov freshly arrived from Russia currently in Chicago, along with NHL All Star Andre Svechnikov. But Carolina is looking more and more to Russian leagues to pick up raw, new talent that is both tough and fast. Even if things have gotten better than they were in Bruckler’s experience, it still is not the lap of luxury.

So Russian players will certainly appreciate the easy of travel if and when they make it to the NHL. Plus, their’s is a different style of playing that fits well with the Hurricanes. Quick, and tough, but not too tough that you lose speed. Hard shooting, and speedy shots.

I have to give “This is Russia: Life in the KHL – Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles” by Bernd Bruckler and Risto Pakarinen at a solid 4 stars. It is an easy book to read, but the insight into hockey and life as a hockey player in Russia more than makes up for anything lost in translation. Hurricanes fans might take a look at this as well to gain a solid perspective on our Russian players and prospects. Of course too….Thanks Walt!