Consistency is the key
Paul Szczechura – about last season, fatherhood and Olympic hopes.
Paul Szczechura needed only one season to prove that he is a fundamental player in the Traktor’s system. Playing on the first offensive line he became the most demanded center in the team – 23 shifts and 18:35 minutes per game. He is used on penalty kill, on power play, on clutch face-offs and in overtimes. Paul calls himself an all-around player and he showed what does it mean. As a result, he earned a new contract until the end of the 2018-2019 season.
We are now in the middle of the offseason, and playoffs are left far behind. Can you evaluate your first season with Traktor?
I think last season was pretty successful for our team. We played well most of the season and did a lot better than some people expected. Obviously we wanted to go farther in the playoffs. It was very tight series with Barys, both teams were pretty even. Unfortunately they had an extra edge in the playoffs. As for my performance, I was pleased with it. The season was good. During my career I have always wanted to be consistent. And I think I had one more consistent year. Consistency – that’s what important for me. Obviously I wanted to help my team win and I did the best I could in all the situations.
How your vacation is going? Do you feel refreshed?
I do feel refreshed. This summer has been very different from the previous ones because of the baby. There wasn’t much time to go on actual vacation, we spent a lot of time in our house in Canada and in the US – back and forth between my parents and my wife’s parents. So it is a summer of friends and family. We went to Florida for two weeks, tried to get some weather and stuff, but either way it was pretty laid-back summer. I just try to get used to a new family.
You day schedule has changed. You get up early in the morning, and your son Tyler demands a lot of attention. How are you adapting?
Yes, schedule is different because now you always have to think about people around. I can’t just think about myself anymore. You always plan around other people, especially little baby. You can’t just get up and do what you want. There should be a plan that everyone else need to know, what kind of things are going on. Nobody misses anything.
Is your family coming with you to Chelyabinsk or they will stay in Canada?
This season everyone is coming to Chelyabinsk, my wife, my baby and my dog. It will be nice to get everyone back this season.
How are you keeping fit? Do you have any special program of exercises for offseason?
Yes, I use a personal trainer, with whom I work for a lot of years. We work with weights, we run. I work a lot with my brother Alex who also plays hockey. As always there is a lot of motivation. Every year I want to have a good season that is why it is very important to take care of yourself in the offseason. And it’s always nice to get your strength back , to let your body recover and also get stronger for the season. I also play some basketball, some golf, some tennis. I try to stay active, I think it is very important to use different muscles and play different sports. It helps you to become a better athlete, a better hockey player. When you play more than one sport, your body starts to move in different ways.
As for basketball, I know you are a fan. Do you follow NBA finals?
I do a little bit. It’s crazy right now in NBA finals. The game has changed, I watched the game two days ago, and these guys are shooting not even threepointers, it’s like fourpointers. They are shooting from way downtown. It’s crazy. They throw it almost from a half and score it all the time. Now it’s completely different game, everybody can shoot now - not 1 or 2 players, but everybody. These guys from Golden State are crazy.
You played in Minsk for two years, this period of your career was great, and the city left a good impression. Are you aware of the current situation in Dinamo Minsk, where the sale of foreigners has started?
I see what is going on, but I don’t really think about it too much and try not to pay attention. I can’t make an opinion on that process and parting off with the foreigners, because it is what they decided to do. Whether it is good or bad, we will see. You never really know, but I hope it will work for them – it is a good country, a good place to play, and I hope this decision will help Belarus to do better in the World Championship, to make the hockey program better. I wish them all the best, let’s hope it will work for them.
Your former clubmate and friend Matt Ellison signed a contract with Metallurg. You played with him for two years, and now he will play for Traktor’s greatest rival. Maybe you will tell us how to stop him…
I wasn’t very surprised, when he signed. I knew what type of player Metallurg was looking for. I had a feeling that Ellison can go there. Besides I talked to Matt about a couple of weeks ago. He’s obviously a good player. We’ll see when the time comes what we have to do against him and his team. And moreover there are a lot of good guys to stop on that team.
Another former Minsk player came to Traktor. We will witness a reunion of you and Nick Bailen here in Chelyabinsk.
Nick Bailen is a good hockey player, he really going to help us offensively. We have good chemistry between us. And we are good friends, we talk all the time. I’m excited to be on the same team with him. Before signing he consulted me. Of course, I said good things about Chelyabinsk and the club, and you see the result. I want disclose what I said but it is a good stuff.
2018 is an Olympic year. And the hockey tournament will be without NHL players. Can you evaluate your chances of going to Olympics as a member of Canada Olympic team?
I’m excited to have a little bit of a chance. I don’t know how big is this chance. I mean, last year I had an opportunity to play for team Canada. It is like dream came true, I represented my country. This time you never know what can happen, but the only feeling that there is a chance – it is exciting. Especially if we are talking about such a stage as Olympics. We will see what happens, but all I can do now is to focus on myself. Try to be ready for my season, have a good start and see what happens.
In fact Canadian press, particularly CBC and The Globe and Mail, already list you among potential players.
That’s definitely exciting, definitely an honor. It gives me even more motivation to start the season. Team Canada is something I definitely want to be a part of. Let’s hope everything comes together in a right way and I play well.
How big is the chance of winning the Olympics without NHL players?
If the NHL players aren’t going, it is a completely different. You have no idea how it’s going to play out. If you take away all the NHL players on a couple of teams – Czech team or Finnish team, will they be as good? I don’t know. Of course there are a lot of good players in KHL and around Europe, but without NHL it is very difficult to see who is the best team.
To go on with Olympics – the Games will influence the KHL calendar, and it will be very tough, especially in December and January. What can you say about the level of pressure – physical and psychological? Especially if we are talking about three tournaments: regular season, Olympics and playoffs.
Very important to take care of your body – mentally and physically. It’s a long season, and you should make sure you are in a good form. I suppose the coaches will manage the players in a little bit different way. It will be very durable season but it is a part of the game, part of the sport that we have to deal with. I didn’t adjust my offseason and I’m preparing the same way as I prepared in the past. I’ve been successful my whole career and I’m sticking with the plan just to make sure I’m ready to go once again.
What are you expectations from the next season? And do you have any personal goals and milestones?
We want to have a great season, get back in the playoffs and go farther. KHL is a hard league, there are a lot of good teams we have to beat, but I think last year we really surprised people. We played really well and now we are a team that nobody will take lightly. I’m excited and I’m looking forward to the next season. As for me, I always said I want to be consistent – in offense and defense. I want to be good on a power play, be on a penalty kill, want to be an all around player. That’s my goal – be consistent, try to beat what I did last year and make sure I’m always ready – every day, every practice, every game.
Don’t you think that coming season will be more difficult, because you surprised many teams last year, but now our rivals know how to play against Traktor, and maybe we will miss the surprise effect.
You know, some things that work in one season may not work in the other season. Of course some changes have to be made. We have different players, we have newcomers. Maybe we won’t be able to play the same type of style we played the previous season. But I’m sure the coaches will figure out what works best for the group of players. As for me, I want to play in whatever system that wins us games and gives us success. In the end of the day we all want to win. When we win, everybody is happy.All news