Kevin, let's make one thing clear first. Since you come from francophone part of Canada, is your second name pronounced PulIn or PulAn?
This depends on who's pronouncing it. I come from Montreal, where French is spoken. In English it is pronounced PulIn, and in French it's PulAn.
You were born in Montreal?
That's right. I was born and raised there.
A big city and a big ice hockey center. I suppose that you were a fan of "Habs" (Montreal Canadians) as a kid?
As a kid I was, but later, in NHL and AHL, I was a fan of teams that I played for (laughs).
How did your career start?
I am a Canadian from Quebec, and almost everyone there starts to play hockey very early. I started to skate when I was 3 and I started training when I was 4. I started as a player, and when I was 10 I moved to the goal, and then with 11 I started do save more seriously. Before that I was a defenseman, so I was used to play defense.
Goalkeeper position is the hardest in hockey?
In fact it is, but I liked it a lot, and even as a kid I started to feel naturally on that position. As kids, my friends and I played with our parents, and I was a goalie. But when I definitely decided to became a goalkeeper, they asked me if I was certain in my decision. I was, and I never regretted, to this day. If I remained a defenseman, I would probably not make such a career.
People often think that you need to be a bit "crazy" to be a high-quality goalkeeper?
I heard that too (laughs). Definitely, it's not easy or pleasant when the puck approaches you with speed of more than 100 km/h. But this is your job and you must do it the best that you can.
You were drafted in 2008 by NY Islanders, as 126th pick in 5th round. There, you shared the locker room with great goaltenders like Di Pietro, Koskinen, Nabokov, Halak...
All of them are indeed great goalies! Unfortunately, Di Pietro was often injured and I didn't see his best. My true mentor was Nabokov, the Russian. He was much older than me, he saved with a different style, but his preparations and his approach to games were special, and this is why he was so good. I learned a lot from him.
Who is your role model goalkeeper?
Dominik Hašek, the legendary "Dominator". A spectacular goalie! When I was younger, I tried to copy him at home in our basement, but it was impossible. His style was unique, just like the one of former brilliant Canadian goalkeepers Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
In your career so far you saved the net on 50 NHL games, with 90% success. Very good percentage, when we take into account that you didn't have too many chances to play.
When I look back to that period, I have no regrets, but some things I could have done even better. I didn't have a personal trainer, and I was too young among experienced "old lions". I had some injuries, and from all this I gained valuable experience and I learned a lot.
In your career you also have more than 150 AHL games and 14 games in KHL in the last season. Can you compare the three leagues?
NHL is a world of its own and the strongest league in the world. You can see by yourself that players like Kovalchuk and Datsyuk dominate in KHL after they return from NHL, which wasn't the case there. But KHL is still a great league, strongest in the world outside of North America, stronger than American AHL, which is a league for young players mostly.
I suppose that you had a "two-way" contract with the Islanders?
That's right, I remember that they often sent me to their AHL branch, and then they called me back. In one of the seasons – six times. I didn't want to be the third goalie of the team any more, I wanted to play constantly in a good league, in a good team, to win, and to win championships.
How did you end up in Medveščak?
This summer I was waiting for an offer from one of the KHL teams. I was at home until October and I was waiting patiently, even though I desperately wanted to play and to get back to competitive form. And then, there was a contact between Medveščak's sport director Fox and my agent, the conditions were agreed upon, and here I am (laughs). For a goalkeeper, the most important thing is to defend in continuity, in order to be fit. When you sit at home and wait, this is impossible.
Your first impressions about EBEL?
The league is good, homogenous. Professional and well organized. It seems to me so far that for us it is hard to win away, home ice advantage means a lot.
In your short time here, you became supporter's favorite.
I am glad for that, the fans are really great. They support us during the whole game, they cheer and they sing. Nowhere have I seen such support. In North America the fans are more quiet. The hall here might be smaller, but the atmosphere is so much better.
Did you know any of your current teammates before you arrived?
Samson Mahbod, we are both from Montreal. In junior leagues we played against each other, and in summer leagues we played together.
What is the atmosphere like in Medveščak's locker room?
Very good! The players played in AHL and in different European leagues. We are from different countries, but we get along well.
Expectations from this season?
After a few games, I can see that we have a good team that can win and knows how to win. I think that our goal shall be to win the home ice advantage in the playoffs, to be in the first four teams of the standings. This is not going to be easy, but I think we could achieve this. As I said before, home ice means a lot in this league.
Your impressions about the city?
Zagreb is great. I often go for walks in the city centre, with lots of terraces and bars, where people enormously enjoy coffee, on workdays as well as on weekends. People are more relaxed, their mentality is different than ours, they socialize more, and I like this.
Allow us to learn a bit more about your private life. If you weren't a hockey player, what would you do?
Wine is my great passion. I acquired it while I was in California. If I wasn't a hockey player, I would be in winemaking. It's not just about producing it, tasting it and making money. It's more about creating something that people can enjoy.
It is obvious that you have French blood.
Obviously, the French genes are talking (laughs).
What is your favorite food?
Ice cream (laughs). I'm kidding. I like all kinds of cuisines, Italian, Indian... In Zagreb, I was thrilled with hamburgers and beer, so I can recommend these to everyone.
I like hip-hop and house. I have my favorite DJs, but sometimes I like to listen to some other styles.
The one that is a bit old and wasn’t that popular, "The Games".
What do you do in your leisure time?
I mostly stay at home and play with my kids. I have two sons. The older one is three and a half, and the younger one year and a half. They are full of energy and they always want to play. My family is here with me and this means a lot. I am able see them every day and spend time with them, and this is priceless. We all sometimes have a bad day, but my family, my sons, quickly cheer me up and with them I forget about everything bad.
Do you like any other sports except ice hockey?
I love tennis and I play it in summers, and here and there I also play golf, even though I am not as advanced with the golf stick as I am with the hockey stick (laughs).
Do you know any words in Croatian?
Not yet, I am here for two weeks only. Luckily, people here speak English, so I have no problems with getting along, unlike Kazakhstan where we had to learn Russian in order to be able to communicate. People here are very hospitable, very friendly to foreigners and I respect this very much.
Kevin, thank you a lot, good luck with the rest of the season, and we hope that you will stay in Zagreb for a long time and continue to amuse the supporters.
Thank you too, and greetings to our excellent supporters!
Watch Kevin Pulin's interview in the new episode of MEDVEŠČAK TV Magazine, on KREATOR TV on Thursday, November 9th, at 6 p.m.
Photo: MDVPRess/ I.Šoban, Pixsell