KHL transition smooth as Glass

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat might be a blockbuster movie, but it's not exactly renowned for its accurate portrayal of the former Soviet Republic, where Jeff Glass is now tending twine for Barys Astana of the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.

"That's exactly what I was thinking when I was coming over here -- I'm going to Borat-land," Glass said with a laugh. "But I haven't met Borat yet."

That's not to suggest that Glass hasn't had any star sightings in his first season in what's widely recognized as the second-best league in the world.

Future Hockey Hall-of-Famers Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Federov headline a long list of former NHL standouts now fighting for an opportunity to hoist the Gagarin Cup.

"Jagr was the big one for me. I didn't realize how big he actually was, how strong he actually was, and obviously how hard he can shoot the puck. The first time playing him, he kind of gave me the wow factor," Glass recalled. "The first game wasn't so good. I think we wound up losing 4-3, and he had a hat-trick. That was my welcome-to-the-KHL bad moment, but it was something I won't forget.

"Before the game, there was no secret who Jaromir Jagr was, and still, he found a way to get three. I can sit back and laugh about it now, but at the time, it wasn't too funny."

Glass suited up for the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice and backstopped a star-studded Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship in North Dakota, posting a 6-1 victory over Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and the Russians in the tournament finale.

Some might contend the 24-year-old goalie has now fallen off the hockey map after four seasons in the Ottawa Senators organization. Glass, however, insists it doesn't feel that far off the beaten track.

"Hockey is huge in Astana," Glass said. "It's the capital city of Kazakhstan, so all our games are televised nation-wide, I guess you could call it. I guess I didn't really realize how big the KHL was until I came over here, but you get recognized on the street, all that fun stuff. Hockey is a pretty big deal over here.

"Before I came over, I couldn't even tell you where Kazakhstan was on the map. But after living here for almost a full season, I've got a new respect for the city, the country and its hockey community."

Glass has likely earned some newfound respect with the solid numbers he's posted in the KHL, a circuit known for a fast, freewheeling style of hockey he describes as "very entertaining for the fans, sometimes not so entertaining for the goalies."

He won the starting job with Barys -- or the Leopards -- and has posted an 18-11-4 record (2.95 goals-against average, .918 save percentage).

If he can keep it up, there's a possibility Glass could eventually follow in the footsteps of fellow Senators castoff Ray Emery, who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after one campaign with the KHL's Atlant Moscow.

"Ray was a great example of how he made this league work for him and how this league helped him, as well," Glass said. "I actually talked to Ray before I came over here and was able to get his insights and stuff, and he had nothing but good things to say about the league.

"I'm definitely very happy with my decision to come over here, and right now, I'm not in a rush to come back. But it was nice to be able to see a guy like Ray Emery do what he did."


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