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Thrashers Talons Talks to Kulda

Last week I was up in Nashville for the two Rookie Games between Atlanta and the Predators. I had the opportunity to talk to Thrashers prospect Arturs Kulda.

Just as it was a rookie game for the prospects, it was my rookie attempt at interviewing. I took notes on a notepad and then attempted to fill out a full version while it was fresh in my mind. This Q and A is more of a paraphrase than a direct quote--any mistakes are from my own memory. Later that week I moved up and brought an audio recorder so I didn't need to rely on my memory to fill in the details.

I'd like to thank Arturs Kulda for answering my questions about his homeland and his career. I'd also like to thank the Predators organization for allowing me to attend and ask these questions.

I went into the interview with a few topics on my mind.
  • I was interested to learn about hockey in Latvia. The country was part of the USSR for many decades but regained its independence following the end of the Cold War. I was curious to hear about how Latvian hockey is doing in the post-Soviet era.
  • I am also curious to know more about the development process and the draft from the perspective of a player. Most of what we hear about this comes from the perspective of team officials trying to find talent.
  • Finally I wanted to learn something about Kulda as an individual, his strengths and weakness, his heroes and goals.
Thrashers Talons (TT): I see that you played for the Team Latvia Under 18 and Under 20 teams a few years ago. What is the state of Latvian hockey?

Arturs Kulda (AK): When I was playing there, there were only a few arenas and not as many teams. But both of those are improving. We just won the World Juniors [B Pool].

TT: We all know that hockey is very popular in neighboring Russia, Latvia has been an independent nation for a while now, where would you say hockey ranks in your country?

AK: Hockey is a very big sport--I would say it is number one.

TT: Speaking of Latvian sports I watched the Summer Olympics beach volleyball match where the Latvians beat the top ranked Americans [in the round robin play]. Was this a big moment for Latvian sports?

AK: I did not see that match myself, but I did hear about it. Latvia is right on the Baltic so we have many nice beaches.

TT: I have read that Europeans tend to stress skill development more than physical development and sometimes prospects have to catch up on the conditioning side when they come over to North America. did you find this to be true?

AK: Well they do teach both, but yes we did spend a lot of time on the ice practicing skills. But I have always played a physical style.

TT: Speaking of that, I've read that Boris Valabik's physical style is better suited to the North American game, would you say that is true of you as well?

AK: I think I can help in many areas, but yes hockey over here is better suited for me. [smiles]

TT: Many fans in Atlanta have never seen you play a game. Could describe yourself to them, what is your strongest attribute?

AK: I try to do whatever the team needs. If the team needs passing, I will pass.

TT: So you perhaps your all-around game is your strength?

AK: Yes.

TT: Growing up did you think that the NHL was possible for you?

AK: Yes.

TT: Did you know that Atlanta was interested in you heading into the 2006 draft?

AK: Yes, there were a couple of teams watching me and I knew Atlanta was a possibility.

TT: How did you learn you were selected by Atlanta? Did you have an agent call, the Thrashers or perhaps a friend?

AK: I saw it for myself on I sat there reloading online. I was happy because this is a good organization.

TT: Who is the greatest Latvian hockey player? I know Sandis Ozlolinsh is from the Baltic region.

AK: I would say Arturs Irbe and yes Ozolinsh is from the Baltic. You know their names because they have played in the NHL.