During Geno's years in Pittsburgh, his mom and dad became the faces that most Pittsburgh Penguins fans were familiar with. Animated and jovial, they're fun to be around and fun to see cheering on Geno and the Pens at Consol.
Geno's dad Vladimir gave a telephone interview to a Russian sports website Sovetsky Sport (Evgeni Malkin's Father: We are not pressuring our son with grandchildren). It appeared on Monday evening our time, but given that Russia is 7 hours ahead of us it is dated August 13. In the interview he discusses many things, starting from signing Geno up for hockey rather than track and field as a kid, his growth spurt at age 16, moving on to his hockey stardom and new digs in Moscow, while complaining how they didn't see much of him this summer at all.
The fascinating part of the interview happens in the middle, when he's asked about the possibility of Geno doing what Ilya Kovalchuk did and returning to Russia and the KHL. While I initially planned to just paraphrase it here, I decided to translate that part for you guys to the best of my ability. The Russian text is obviously a transcript of a conversation. Still though, here it is for what it's worth:
Q: The big news this summer was Ilya Kovalchuk ripping up his $100M contract with New Jersey and returning to SKA. Could Evgeni Malkin do something like that?
A: I don't think so. If Zhenya [Russian nickname for Evgeni - NA] wanted that, he would be in no rush to extend his contract with Pittsburgh, which happened this summer.
Initially the Penguins seemed in no hurry to re-sign my son. The talks weren't going well, but at the last moment, when Zhenya was already packing to fly to Russia, Pittsburgh suddenly agreed to all the terms proposed by his agent.
Q: They sensed something...
A: Started scrambling. Perhaps thought he was ready to change his mind. Called early in the morning. Zhenya went to the office, signed everything and left for the airport a few hours later.
Q: So could Malkin have gone to a different team?
A: You know, Dallas was offering my son an even bigger contract than Pittsburgh, and Zhenya responded "No, I don't want to go there." They signed Sergei Gonchar. His best friend is playing there. Why not take it?
Zhenya said "If at some point things don't work out with the Penuins and I have to leave, I'd rather go to the New York Rangers or Montreal Canadiens. There are several clubs. But I'm not rushing to Dallas. And I wouldn't like the change of moving my house and going somewhere else. I got used to Pittsburgh, the city and the team."
My son's nature is such that he doesn't like to hop from place to place. As a father, I think, if the player - a big star, often spends his entire career with the same NHL team. Same as Datsyuk, Crosby, Ovechkin. There are many examples. And if you start running then you can't stop. What good is that?
So that's the key part of the interview. Again, the tone is informal and conversational, but still the meaning is very clear. The key part for me, besides that the Pens seemed in no hurry to get it done (which is not what Shero was saying - he claimed Geno was his priority), was of course the Dallas bomb. Did those guys really not know any better than to tamper with a player who, at that time, still had another year left on his contract? That's the million dollar question.
Of course, one can question the authenticity of the whole thing. Sovetsky Sport is a known website, but who knows. The questions of the interviewer seemed leading and suggestive. But still, Geno's dad seemed to elaborate quite a bit. If Dallas did what this website says Geno's dad said they did, they should be investigated by the NHL for tampering. The Gonchar connection is there, for sure, and perhaps this is the key to the whole mystery. I'd be curious to see if there is a statement from Shero or Geno's agent JP Barry. Stay tuned folks.