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Gunshots in Moscow reverberate in Ducks locker room NHL: The team's three players from Russia watch anxiously as violence threatens their homeland and families. // Orange County Register. 


The political turmoil in their native land, especially Monday morning's bloody showdown in Moscow, has taken an emotional toll on three Russian hockey players employed by the Mighty Ducks.

"Shooting in Moscow - it's terrible," defenseman Alexei Kasatonov, 33, said Tuesday. "I believed before (that) this situation could never happen."

But it has, and all Kasatonov and teammates Anatoli Semenov and Mikhail Shtalenkov - both Moscow natives - can do, thousands of miles away, is helplessly watch television news and make long-distance phone calls to their families.

"I can't explain what's happening over there when I live here," Semenov, 31, said. "I don't have any Russian TV or Russian newspapers."

But Semenov, beginning his fourth season as an NHL center, said he has spoken to his mother and has been assured his family, which lives 20 minutes from the center of the city, is safe.

"It (the violence) is not happening throughout Moscow," he said. "It's happening in individual spots like the White House, the TV station.

"If you don't go downtown and don't go out, yelling and screaming in the streets, nothing is going to happen to you."

Shtalenkov, 27, has not received similar assurances. His parents, his wife's parents and "more family than I can number" still live in the Moscow area, but the Ducks goaltender has been unsuccessful in reaching anyone by phone.

"It's been a difficult situation, the last two days," Shtalenkov said. "I've tried to call but couldn't get through."

He said his family lives "by metro (train), about 25 minutes away from the center of town. ... They're not close (to the trouble), but you never know. It could blow into the outskirts. Thank God (reports indicate) the situation is under control."

That has been Shtalenkov's only contact with home, what he's seen on his hotel TV.

"They show the basic situation on TV here, but you can't know everything," he said.

Kasatonov said: "You hear one side (on TV), what they explain, but you never hear the other side."

Kasatonov was born in St. Petersburg (which he still refers to as Leningrad, the name it held under the Communist regime), where his parents still live. But his wife's parents and family live in Moscow.

"My wife's parents, they're OK," Kasatonov said, "but I can't check on everyone. I still have calls to make."

A 12-year member of the Central Red Army hockey team, Kasatonov _ who helped Soviet national teams win two Olympic gold medals and five World Championships - achieved the military rank of major under what he calls "the old system."

The fact the shooting has stopped for now in Moscow is little consolation to him after what has occurred, he said.

"It still hurts, to know it's going on in the center of Moscow," Kasatonov said, "because the people being shot are completely innocent.

"War with the government is a losing battle. There will always be people sacrificed (when that happens). You'd hope in the best situation they'd find some kind of compromise."

Semenov, who prefaced his interview with the statement that he is "not politcal ... I am a hockey player," later said the violent struggle, while tragic, could be anticipated.

"All people want to live well," Semenov said. "After such an occupation (by the Communist government) of more than 70 years, you can't in two or three years turn the country around to the state you want it to be in.

"You have to wait, have patience."

Monday was a day off for the Ducks players, but they were back at practice Tuesday at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, preparing for Friday night's inauguaral opener against the Detroit Red Wings.

"It's my job, so in practice I try to concentrate only on hockey," Kasatonov said, "but the last two days have been heavy. It was good we had a day off.

"But maybe practicing is a good thing for us, because it takes our minds off what's happening (at home)."

The hockey helps, Shtalenkov said, but there is still a feeling of helplessness.

"Over here, I can do nothing to change the situation," the Ducks goalie said. "I'm still hoping everything's OK (with his family). I'm really trying not to think about it."