AVALANCHE

There’s a new twist in the Valeri Nichushkin saga with Avalanche

Jul 8, 2024, 12:20 PM | Updated: 12:31 pm

Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin is speaking about what happened in Seattle in April of 2023 for the first time.

Nichushkin, who is currently suspended for six months and in Phase 3 of the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, did an interview with Russian YouTuber Mikhail Cherkasov right before the playoffs began this year.

The interview is split into three parts, but the second part came out on Sunday and had some interesting comments from Nichushkin. In 2023 he left the team before Game 3 against the Kraken, and didn’t return the rest of the series. The Avalanche ultimately lost in seven games, failing to defend their Stanley Cup championship.

And while at the time head coach Jared Bednar was consistently peppered about the issue, he kept insisting it was personal in nature. There was also a 911 call and police body camera footage, after a mysterious woman, reported to be in Nichushkin’s room, said a “bad man” stole her passport.

Well, Nichushkin is telling a bit of a different story. The interview is in Russian, but the fantastic Evan Rawal of Colorado Hockey Now got it translated and shared some of what Nichushkin had to say.

The response is lengthy but all-important, so here it is.

“It was the most difficult season, there were a lot of injuries in the team all season. I missed 2 months due to bursitis. I also had a shoulder injury, which constantly bothered me. I always had problems sleeping, but because of the pain in my shoulder, the situation with my sleep got worse. They did an MRI and they couldn’t decide whether to have surgery or not. In the end, they decided not to do it and gave me injections in my shoulder. These injections stopped helping and they decided to inject me with another drug. When we flew to Seattle, they decided that I would not play the match due to a shoulder injury, because I needed to not bother my shoulder for a while until the drug starts working and everyone on the team knew that I would not play until the end of the round. It put a lot of pressure on the psyche and was very annoying. I had friends in Seattle at that moment and I made the wrong decision, we hung out with them at night and in the morning I flew to Denver. This girl in my room has nothing to do with me. The club advised me not to give any comments, and I myself was not emotionally ready to explain all this. This was probably the wrong decision and it was necessary to tell the whole situation right away so that there weren’t a bunch of different rumors. If we had made it to the second round, I would have been ready to play.”

Valeri Nichushkin is definitely saying his absence was injury-related. Although the NHL is secretive about injuries, they still do announce when players have “lower-body injuries” or “upper-body injuries.” It would’ve been easy for Bednar to say it was the latter, but again, he kept calling the situation personal.

Bednar also wouldn’t comment on Nichushkin’s location, something that may have been easier to say if he truly was back in Denver.

Nichushkin also admits a “wrong decision,” but said the girl in his room had nothing to do with him. He doesn’t elaborate much more than that.

Nichushkin says he would’ve been able to play in Round 2 if the Avs had advanced. That doesn’t appear to be the case, because we now know Nichushkin was in Phase 1 of the NHL / NHLPA program at the time. It wouldn’t have been his choice.

He then entered Phase 2 during this past regular season and is now in Phase 3. That news dropped hours before the Avalanche played the Stars in Game 4 of Round 2 of the playoffs this year.

Colorado GM Chris MacFarland called the third strike from Nichushkin “disappointing” at a press conference after the season. As for the new interview, the Avalanche have no comment, according to The Denver Post.

Valeri Nichushkin is eligible for reinstatement from the NHL in November.

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