Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Tarasenko Living His Dream in NHL and with His Family

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Tarasenko Living His Dream in NHL and with His Family

Article excerpt

On this early morning, the smile on Vladimir Tarasenko's face is similar to the one he flashes after each goal. It's reminiscent of the familiar smirk Blues fans have come to appreciate since he scored two goals in his NHL debut, on Jan 19, 2013.

It's similar, yet very different, though. It's pure, completely full of gratitude as Tarasenko drops to the floor inside the home dressing room at the Blues' practice facility.

Tarasenko then leans in the prone position, as though ready to do a pushup, and turns with a huge, proud smile to display how his six- month-old son Aleksandr holds himself up.

Aleksandr isn't crawling yet, but he's tremendously close. He'll be crawling in no time and likely walking before he turns 1 on May 17.

"There's lots of new things," Tarasenko said. "It's crazy how this little guy takes your madness away.

"When you play hockey, things never go 100 percent your way and sometimes you get a little bit frustrated. Then you come home and you see your wife and you see your kid and they give you some love and you feel even stronger."

Thanksgiving isn't a holiday in Tarasenko's native Russia. Even Christmas isn't a big holiday compared to New Year's Eve, he concedes.

Yet, Tarasenko has lots of reasons to be grateful. He counts his blessings with his baby, wife, nine-year-old son and all the way to the paternal grandfather who raised him and finally visited him in the United States this year.

"New Year's Eve is bigger for us," he said. "So for me Thanksgiving is just one more chance to be with my family and to spend time with the closest people to you."

In keeping it simple, Tarasenko captured the perfect meaning of Thanksgiving.

He and his wife Yana welcomed their first child together on May 17, a few hours before Tarasenko played Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at Scottrade Center. The family includes 9-year- old Mark, Yana's son from a previous relationship.

Tarasenko, who won't turn 25 until next month, arguably has never had a better year professionally and personally. He led the Blues to the franchise's first Western Conference Finals berth in 15 years. Then he welcomed his first child a few hours before Game 2 of that best-of-seven series.

He celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary in July. Then in September he finally scored a goal for Team Russia with his grandfather and namesake, Vladimir, sitting in the stands.

Although Tarasenko had competed in four Junior World Championships and one Olympic Games, he had never scored a goal for Russia when his grandfather was in the stands.

He took care of that feat in Toronto during the World Cup of Hockey.

"He's been at the Olympics before, and I never really scored when he was in the stands when I was playing on the national team," Tarasenko said of his grandfather. "In the World Cup I finally scored a goal when he was in the stands.

"He was with me all the time. He was in the national team jersey. I think he was really happy. I think at that time he had a lot of emotions and he couldn't really say something. …

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