One sport, two languages

📝 by Kailey Lane | AHL On The Beat

For players like Cleveland Monsters forward Kirill Marchenko, the American Hockey League serves as not only the first step towards the National Hockey League, but also a first taste of North American hockey.

A native of Barnaul, Russia, Marchenko began his path toward an NHL career when he was selected 49th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He made his way to the United States this July with his wife, Victoria, and has a very positive, upbeat outlook on his recent transition both on and off the ice.

“We like it here and try to [make the most of] living in different places,” said Marchenko. “We have lived in a few different cities around Russia and now have a [big life] moment in moving to America. It is no problem for us, just a new experience and we just stay happy.”

When Marchenko is not busy inside the rink, the couple enjoys taking walks together to explore their new city. While the move to Cleveland has been an adjustment, city life is nothing new to Marchenko. His hometown of Barnaul has nearly double the population of Cleveland, though the particular layout of his new home city is something that has taken some getting used to.

“It’s completely different here,” said Marchenko. “A lot of American guys have cars but in Russia, I didn’t need a car and it was no problem. Every day I drive about 30 minutes to and from practice, but in Russia, it was only about 10-15 minutes. I drive more here.”

Everything for Marchenko is fresh, but this adjustment period has been completely smooth for this upbeat, eager learner. Adapting to what he describes as a more aggressive style of hockey is one thing, but learning English is another task that he is approaching head-on. Continuing to push himself in learning a new language, Marchenko has found importance in not being afraid to speak up for help and shares his pride in learning more every day.

The 22-year-old rookie has found a sense of comfortability created by his teammates, allowing him to be himself. With the help of a supportive team behind him, a strong sense of camaraderie has translated to a successful start on the ice as one of the club’s top scorers with eight goals and eight assists.

“I have been living here three to four months, and I am now comfortable with my team,” said Marchenko. “I do not really think about [the language barrier] because they are all really good guys. I feel comfortable. I go to practice and talk every time and talk more, and I just have fun.”

Cleveland’s love of sports seems to be rubbing off on Marchenko in all the right ways. From interacting with fans at events to making Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse buzz with noise after he scores, he soaks in every moment. To Marchenko, this is all a part of this exciting transition.

“I am very excited because [Cleveland] loves hockey,” said Marchenko. “It does not matter whether it is hockey, basketball, or football. Everyone here loves to play sports and it is crazy. Crazy good!”

This has only been the beginning for the rookie standout who has discovered a fondness for Cleveland with all it has to offer. While he has plans to continue to explore the world and visit home, for now Marchenko is going to focus on continuing to find the back of the net in Ohio.