PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his third period goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Avalanche 6-3. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
In the car, the translator assigned to help Malkin had some news. He spoke in Russian, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it was Mandarin. This was a universal language. After five planes, a safe-house, 4,500 miles and three continents, a warm bed would have to wait. And Malkin couldn’t have been happier about it. "He tell me we’re going to Mario Lemieux’s house for dinner," Malkin says. "It was so surprising for me—I come first day, and Mario meet me."
The car drove through the ornate gate of Lemieux’s sprawling Wayne Manor estate. At the top of the winding drive, a silhouette stood in the electric gold of the doorway. Then another appeared. And another.
"Mario’s whole family was there and Crosby, too, and Gonchar, too—all there waiting for me," Malkin says. "I’m not speaking English, but I’m so excited. Gonch translated for me, and Mario said, ‘Welcome, we’re glad you made it.’"
A nice reminder on how hard the transition from Russia to a strange new land was for such a young kid at just 19 years old back then. And how funny and awesome Malkin is. Glimpses like this into his personality make him more likeable with each detail you learn about him off the ice.