By Allan Muir
Most parents of pro athletes get it. If the time ever comes that they're interviewed about their pride and joy, their job is to keep the responses as positive and as flavorless as possible. Never say anything that might inflame the home town fans or worse, the employers.
Unfortunately, Evgeni Malkin's dad missed the memo. Or maybe he just got a lousy translation.
In an interview published today at the Russian website SovSport, Vladimir Malkin offered up a couple of colorful quotes about his son and the events leading up to his re-signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For one, he said that his son told him that, "if there was ever the case where I have to leave the Penguins, I would choose the New York Rangers or the Montreal Canadiens."
That little tidbit probably will fuel rumors for a few years and get under the skin of Pittsburgh's supporters, but honestly, you can't blame him for something that's nothing more than a fantasy, right? No matter how loyal a guy is to his team, he probably was a fan of a different club when he was a kid, or maybe he sees a situation that, under the right circumstances, he could see himself in. So Malkin has some affection for a couple of Original Six teams with rich histories and passionate fan bases. Plenty of players, given the right to choose, would make the same call. No real harm done there.
Where it gets interesting is when Papa Malkin says that another team, the Dallas Stars, offered his son a contract.
"You know, Dallas offered him a greater deal than the Pittsburgh. And he said, 'No, I do not want to go there.' The Stars had signed Sergei Gonchar. His best friend is out there playing. Why not agree?
"And Geno said he wasn't torn about not going to Dallas. He didn't want to change houses. 'I'm used to Pittsburgh, the city and the team,' he said."
Now the thing is, this has to be some kind of misunderstanding. Malkin is currently under contract with the Penguins, and the eight-year, $76 million extension he signed this summer kicks in after next season. So there wasn't a window during which the Stars could legally have talked to Malkin, let alone offered him a contract.
Maybe Malkin and Gonchar had a conversation at some point—and this is simply speculation—and maybe the two discussed the possibility of Malkin joining the Stars after next season when he was free to do so. And maybe Geno said it wouldn't matter how much they offered him, he didn't want to go to Dallas. And maybe Papa Malkin heard about that conversation but didn't quite grasp the gist of it. Because surely there was never a contract offer from the Stars because, you know, the league is pretty straightforward about the whole no tolerance for tampering thing.
Whatever the case, this is something that's going to require denials from teams and claims of being misquoted from Papa Malkin. And probably a private and solemn promise from dad to Geno that he won't open his mouth about anything other than how much his son loves playing for Pittsburgh ever again.
(s/t to Dmitry Chesnokov)