IceCaps’ multilingual blueliner plays a punishing style

Brendan McCarthy
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Defenceman Arturs Kulda (44) listens to Winnipeg Jets’ head coach Claude Noel during a Jets’ training-camp session on Sept. 18, 2011, in Winnipeg. Kulda has spent most of his fourth professional season with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, but did appear in five games for Winnipeg earlier this season. — Canadian Press file photo

If there is a man of the world on the St. John’s IceCaps, it just could be defenceman Arturs Kulda.

That’s not just because he’s from Latvia, and as such, has the greatest distance between his off-season home and St. John’s.

Many biographies list Riga, the Latvian capital, as Kulda’s birthplace. But while Riga may be his hometown, Kulda was actually born in Leipzig, in what was then East Germany in 1988. Kulda’s family later moved to his father’s native Latvia.

Kulda, who moved to Moscow to play hockey in his mid-teens, speaks Latvian, German, English and Russian (his mother is from Russia) and hopes to eventually add one or more two languages to his repertoire. He’s also working on the language of music — Kulda is a guitarist and far better on the instrument than he will admit.

The 23-year-old has been playing hockey in North America for the last half-dozen years, having joined the OHL’s Peterborough Petes in 2006. Since turning pro in 2008, Kulda’s appeared in 15 NHL games with Atlanta/Winnipeg and earned a reputation as a solid — with a double meaning — blueliner. On the offensive end, he has a particularly heavy shot that some would like to see him use more often, but it’s in the defensive part of the rink that he’s been most effective, using his thick, six-foot-two, 215-pound body to full advantage.

“He’s a big, strong guy and if you ask those who come up against him, I’m sure they’ll tell you the same thing,” said IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge.

“You’ll see players from other teams decide to try to take him and go into the corners against him and they almost always come out on the wrong end.”

The KULDA File

Born: July 25, 1988 in Leipzig, East Germany

Drafted: In the seventh round, 200th overall by Atlanta in 2006 NHL Entry Draft

Notes: At the age of 15, Kulda played for Prima/Riga 86 in the Latvian professional league. He then moved to Moscow, Russia to play in the CSKA (Red Army) program, but after being drafted by Atlanta in 2006, joined the Peterborough Petes of the OHL ... As a 19-year-old, he joined the Chicago Wolves at the conclusion of the Peterborough’s 2007-08 season. He played five regular-season and 21 playoff games for the Wolves, who won the Calder Cup that spring ... Played for Latvia in the 2006 world junior championship and in the 2010 and 2011 world men’s hockey championships ... Was the only player from the North American professional ranks to play for Latvia in the ‘11 world championship ...

More of Kulda’s answers from the IceCaps’ biographical info:

Favourite pre-game meal: Fettucine alfredo with chicken

Must-see TV show: Entourage

Favourite hockey player growing up and why: Rob Blake. (He) got a hat trick in an NHL game I went to in L.A.

Nickname: Arty

Favourite off-season pursuits: Relaxing, hanging out with friends, keeping myself in shape

Favourite part of being a hockey player: Travelling, (being part of a) team, doing a job you like

Oldest piece of hockey equipment owned: Shin guards, from 2004

Favourite ice cream flavour: Caramel

What people don’t know about the life of a pro: It’s really tough with all the travel

Song or band played the most on your iPod: Metallica, Limp Bizkit, Korn

Organizations: NHL, CSKA, Red Army Chicago Wolves North American Limp Bizkit

Geographic location: Latvia, Riga, Leipzig Atlanta Moscow Russia East Germany North America Winnipeg Peterborough L.A.Nickname

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