While Kirill Gotovets grew up in Minsk, the defenceman has spent the better part the last seven years playing hockey in America and earning a college degree.
The 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is something of a homecoming for Kirill Gotovets. Since 2008, Gotovets has been in the United States, improving his skills as a hockey player and earning a college degree from the prestigious Cornell University.
Cornell is not only a Division I hockey school in the NCAA, it is one of the most well known and competitive universities in America.
Now in his third opportunity with the Belarus national team at the World Championship, Gotovets is home, and he’s pleased to be here.
“It is great opportunity for the whole country to experience the World Championship and be a part of this type of atmosphere,” said Gotovets, who previously represented Belarus in the 2010 and 2011 tournaments. “It is really nice to be home especially after being away the whole year and now coming back to see family.”
With his parents and brother attending games at Minsk Arena, Gotovets has his family cheering alongside the already exuberant home crowd.
“The crowd is a huge factor here for us,” he said. “I think it is a big advantage for our team to play in our own rink and the fans are great. They cheer for us and live and die with us.”
Gotovets left his native Minsk to attend the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s High School, a boarding school in Minnesota. Shattuck is famous for the NHL players it’s developed over the years, including Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise.
At Shattuck, Gotovets caught the eye of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who drafted him in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL draft. He was also recruited by Cornell to play for the Big Red in 2010. There was a period of adjustment that he needed to go through in getting used to life as a student-athlete in college.
“It was a challenge, especially my freshman year coming out of high school were everything is laid out for you, especially the classes you took were picked out for you,” said Gotovets. “Having to pick out your own classes, manage your time, cooking your own meals, doing your own laundry was a challenge.”
Still, Gotovets was able to make it through and earn a degree in Applied Economics and Management and a specialization in Finance.
After talking with Gotovets for a few minutes you’ll notice he’s thoughtful and somewhat cerebral in his approach to sports much as he would have been in his studies at Cornell.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience over four years,” Gotovets recalls. “I love the University, I love the hockey program. Cornell gave me a lot for which I am thankful.”
On the ice, Gotovets improved as a player. His role was more of stay-at-home defenceman in head coach Mike Schafer’s system.
“I became better defensively in the four years I was there since Cornell hockey was a super defensive program,” said Gotovets. “That really helped me a lot. I became stronger, more defensively aware, and faster.”
And just like the Belarus fans providing the intimidating backdrop at Minsk Arena, so was the case at Cornell’s famous Lynah Rink.
“It was great playing there,” Gotovets remembers. “Cornell has such great fans. Lynah was voted the number one most intimidating rinks to play at so we always had a great crowd for the game. I wish we had more games in the season but still it was good.”