The Evgeni Malkin Saga
Well, the Malkin saga is slowly drawing to a close. He’s safely ensconced in the US, likely soon to be signed with pittsburgh and resigned from his Russian club team.
Pittsburgh is happy, Malkin is happy, the NHL is mostly happy… his Russian GM is screaming bloody murder.
Now that it’s all slowly leaking out I have even less respect for Vilichkin (Mettalurg Magnitogorsk GM) then I did previously.
Malkin claimed he was under “great psychological pressure” and was concerned for his family throughout the recent drama concerning his departure from Mettalurg Magnitogorsk.
Malkin confirmed Mettalurg kept pressuring him to remain in Russia. “I was pressured very hard. I kept asking them, ‘Why aren’t you keeping your promise to let me play in America?’ They did not want to listen. They just kept on with their arguments”.
Over the past few days, we’ve heard tales of a 3 a.m. contract signing and immense pressure from the team on Malkin to keep him in Russia. Yesterday, we learned the team had even put a lockdown on his passport in a bid to keep him immobile.
We’ve also heard from the media how times have changed in Russia, and that the talk of a ‘cloak-and-dagger’ escape from the country by hockey players was a thing of a past. Given the way things went down, however, with Malkin’s agent parachuting into Finland and staying with him in a hideout, it’s easy to see the parallels with the defections of yesteryear.
It’s hard to disbelieve Malkin when his Russian compatriots in North America seem completely unsurprised by the litany of complaints. And Malkin’s former coach for Magnitogorsk has largely confirmed everything he’s said.
A good example came in Kamloops during the World Juniors, where the Russians were scheduled to play Latvia on the Thursday night but were supposed to arrive in the city and practice in the morning. Looking to write a small feature on Malkin, James Mirtle (Hockey Journalist) managed to get a copy of the team’s entire itinerary — when and where they would eat, when practice was, etc. — for the few days they were in Kamloops.
The thing was, the Russians were never where they were supposed to be.
Practices were cancelled, media availability was denied and the team’s demeanor just had a very peculiar air to it.
After games the team was quickly herded onto the bus while the coach and one player answered a few brief questions through a translator in the media room. Malkin nowhere to be found.
The Malkin story does little to dispel the oft held opinion that Russian hockey at the professional level is little more than a shadow front for mobsters who will stop at nothing to get what they want whether it’s money or hockey players — mostly money. My sympathies are with Malkin, because Mettalurg promised him his release to play in the NHL and then reneged in hopes of squeezing the Penguins for millions. I suspect they’ll get nothing if this goes to litigation, which is why I think Vilichkin is so furious. He doesn’t care about his “national treasure”, only the millions he thinks Malkin is worth. His comments that Malkin was forced to leave border on the ludicrous, and that he thinks Malkin’s written reignation is a forgery… simply laughable. I understand the Russians position that they feel they should receive better compensation for their players who depart for the NHL, but the clumsy way they’re going about it won’t win them any sympathy or land them a better transfer deal.
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