September 01, 2009
The Chronicles of Stanley is an occasional series this summer that tracks the Pittsburgh Penguins as they each get their special alone time with the Stanley Cup. For more about the travels of the Chalice, visit the Hockey Hall of Fame's Stanley Cup journal.
For Evgeni Malkin(notes), this was a chance of a lifetime to bring the Cup to his hometown. Two HHOF representatives accompanied the current Conn Smythe winner to the Russian steel city of Magnitogorsk. The locals called them "Men in Black" because both were dressed in black suits with matching sunglasses.
The Cup was flown in business class of a regular flight from Moscow to Magnitogorsk. But Evgeni Malkin sat in economy with his friends, his girlfriend and his former Russian agent.
In Magnitogorsk Malkin traveled around the city in two limos -- a black and a white one, just like the colors of the Penguins. They were followed by a Metallurg Magnitogorsk team bus full of Malkin's friends all wearing t-shirts commemorating Pittsburgh's win this year with "Malkin 71" written on their backs.
Coming up: More on the Pittsburgh Penguins star's journey with the Cup, and a Q&A with him about life with Stanley.
Malkin took the Cup to a local hockey school next morning signing thousands of autographs and taking just as many pictures with the locals. It seemed that they were more interested in taking a picture with Malkin rather than the Cup.
After a visit to the hockey school, Malkin took the cup to his former high school. Sept. 1 is the first day of school for kids across Russia. The first day of school is sort of a celebration and Malkin brought the Cup to the festivities. Malkin also participated in the traditional "First Bell" ceremony when a first grader is given the honor to ring the bell for the first time this school year.
After school, Malkin took the Cup to the WWII memorial. It is a tradition in Russia to honor those who fought against the Nazis.
After a visit to a local steel factory, Malkin left for a game between two KHL clubs: his home team Metallurg and Ak Bars Kazan. On the way to the game Malkin, surrounded by bikers, stopped at his house to show Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport his collection and answer a few questions.
Q. Evgeni, where is the Cup going after today?
MALKIN: To Mario Lemieux, to America. Of all the Pittsburgh players, I was the last one to host the Cup. Now it's the owners' turn.
Q. Did you speak with any of your teammates? How did they spend their day with the Cup?
I didn't call anyone. Not even Sidney Crosby(notes). By the way, it was his birthday yesterday. Let's wish him a Happy Birthday through the media. Let's wish him health and happiness. [Geno was wrong actually. Crosby's birthday is on August 7.]
What will you give Crosby as a present?
What do you mean "what"? Me, of course!
Crosby, by the way, brought the Cup on a tank.
It's good that there are no tanks driving around in my city. The schedule for the Cup is full enough. Entourage is not as important for me as having all to have everyone take a picture with the Cup and get autographs.
Are you tired of the excitement?
It is difficult, I won't hide it. But you can take it for one day. My schedule is tough. I had to make it to the Olympic camp. All the guys practiced on Monday but I excused myself and went home. Of course I wanted to meet with Vladimir Putin. But there is only one daily flight from Moscow to Magnitogorsk. I simply didn't have a choice.
How did the camp go?
Great, it was a lot of fun. Almost all candidates came. Everyone wants to play in the Olympics. This is the strongest national team that I have ever played for.
When are you leaving for the States?
On Sept. 5. And then in four days we'll have an audience with Barack Obama. The entire Pittsburgh team is going to Washington.
What will you tell the president?
Just say 'Hello.' And take a picture. When else will I come to the White House?
Why did you only bring the Stanley Cup to Magnitororsk? Where's the Conn Smythe?
It's a good point. I thought that that trophy would be brought here as well. But it didn't. It's ok, though. I have a small replica of the trophy at home in Pittsburgh.
He has a young daughter, that's why Sergei doesn't leave the States. Although a lot of friends from Chelyabinsk came to his party in Miami.
I don't have the appetite yet. Maybe it will come in the evening. But we will certainly drink champagne out of the Cup. For sure.
What will your emotions be when you spend 20 seconds on the ice tonight wearing a Metallurg jersey?
I got extremely nervous during practice. I still have friends on the team, it's the same locker room... All the memories started spinning in my head. I got back to normal only after some talking. I will be honest, I never was this nervous in Pittsburgh, or at the Olympic came in front of 8 thousand fans.
Is the euphoria of the Stanley Cup win gone?
Not yet. You just reminded me, and right away the last seconds of Game 7 flooded into my mind; how I got the Cup in my hands; how I shook up... No, I can not explain it with words.
It was completely different for me. This was the first big trophy of my career. It took me so long to get there. A lot of people said that Malkin is not a playoff player. And it bothered me. But now I became a winner. Those first moments [after winning the Cup] it felt like a mountain fell of my shoulders. I felt this incredible lightness. I wanted to fly, hang out, party all night and all day. That's what I did, actually.
And where's your championship ring?
It's not ready yet. It will be presented only in November at a ceremony. The ring will have my name and, I hope, a lot of diamonds.
Does your owner Mario Lemieux order those rings?
Yes, he has a shop in his basement. He is sitting there right now carving the rings. He promised to be ready come November