NHL in Russian: Evgeni Malkin Interview
Sunday, 11.6.2011 / 9:30 AM ET / Features
Last month, "NHL in Russian" hosts George Birman and Oleg Mejeritski sat down with Penguins center Evgeni Malkin for an in-depth, exclusive interview that lasted nearly 20 minutes and touched on a smorgasbord of topics. While the interview was done in their native language of Russian, there is a full transcript of the conversation below. Keep reading to learn more about Geno!
Birman: Hello everybody, hello all fans of hockey. Today we have a special program for you. Today not only can you hear us, but you can also see us. And we also have a special guest in our studio today. He is a famous NHL player and a forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin.
Mejeritski: Hello Geno.
Birman: Hello Geno, thanks a lot for coming here today.
Malkin: No problem.
Birman: This time listeners can hear you and see you.
Malkin: First time.
Birman: Geno, I would like to congratulate you on the ending of last year and the beginning of this year. I think that you were the happiest of everybody when last year ended. I don’t think that last season went as you had originally planned and how everyone else planned for it to go. Geno, going back to February of last season, when did you realize the season was over for you?
Malkin: Well, first off let me begin by saying that you can never plan how a season will go for you, especially not at the beginning of it. You just prepare for a season. I prepared for last season by training hard, but it was a weird and unfortunate season with all of the injuries and they bothered me a little – especially that last one, the injury with my knee. It was such a difficult situation. I didn’t see the player. He just fell on the back of my leg and it was such a big injury. But thanks to everybody that supported me, especially my parents who came here to be with me and my friends that came here to cheer me up and give me strength. I was full of optimism about my future and didn’t worry because I knew that my career in no way was over and that I just had to keep going forward. It was just something that I had to keep in my head forever.
Birman: Geno, you were watching a team that was playing without you and (Sidney) Crosby. How hard was it for you to watch, especially playoffs, and not play and not be able to help your teammates?
Mejeritski: Especially Game 7 when there was only one goal that decided the outcome of the match.
Malkin: Well of course it was hard for me to watch. Sometimes I just couldn’t watch it. I would walk around the house talking to someone. It’s all very hard and I can’t even imagine how hard it is for the coaches to stand there on the bench wanting to go out there and help the team and how much they worry. It’s so much harder to watch the game than it is to play in it because it’s a completely different view. You see all of the mistakes and all the goals that could’ve went into our net but didn’t. It’s all very hard, but it’s life.
Birman: Everything goes on.
Malkin: Yes, everything goes on and I hope that never happens again.
Mejeritski: Geno, is it true that if the team went past a few more rounds you would have played?
Malkin: There were plans to do that but it’s hard for me to judge right now whether I would’ve played or not because it is my health and I have to treat it very carefully. Sometimes you want to play but your health doesn’t allow it. You could go out there and do something to it; that’s why I think it’s best to wait two or three days then go out there and play 100 percent. Of course I wanted to play in the playoffs. It was a good team and we had a good chance. The guys played very well so I definitely wanted to help, but it was more wishing and dreaming than what I would really be able to do. That’s why I said yes, yes I will go out, but my knee wasn’t ready.
Mejeritski: Geno, are you surprised by how far Tampa Bay went and how well they played, especially considering the fact that they won the series without you, without (Matt) Cooke and without Sidney?
Malkin: This topic is interesting in hockey and NHL that the team that is the least favorite to win goes on, does well, goes past the first and second round and goes to the conference finals. In the NHL any team can be a big surprise; that’s why you have to work hard every game and Tampa proved that.
Birman: What are your plans for this season, how are you planning for the 2011-2012 season and what are you really going for this year? You already have a Stanley Cup and a playoff MVP award. Do you still want to get more?
Malkin: Well of course there could be a lot of planning on what I want, but my first priority is to go out there and play on the level that I played two years ago and show that hockey that I played when we won the Stanley Cup. I just want to get back to that level and start helping the team win every game and show my best hockey. And then when the goals and assists start coming I will start thinking about the Stanley Cup and MVP awards, but now I want to take it slow. With every game and every practice add more physical play and intensity and go to the level that everyone is waiting for from me and I can show them.
Birman: So you’re not against winning another Stanley Cup?
Malkin: No, no one is against that in our section.
Mejeritski: Geno, let’s talk a little bit about your teammate Sidney Crosby, who hasn’t played since January. In your opinion, how does he feel? How does he look on the ice during practices and when do you think he will return?
Malkin: Well it’s hard to say how he feels because I can’t talk on behalf of his health. But from seeing him at practice, he was always the best at practice and he still is even though he can’t show his full potential.
Birman: But not better than you right?
Malkin: He can’t show his best hockey but he still demonstrates phenomenal techniques and skating, and I can’t take that away from him. He just can’t use his physicality so he can’t show that type of hockey (yet), but I hope that everything will be well with him. Everyone is waiting for him to return, so that’s what we are planning for.
Birman: Geno, it’s hard to talk about this (next topic) of course. It’s hard for us here and it’s hard for everybody, I think. A disaster happened. A disaster happened and a team collapsed and a lot of young people died, not just hockey players but just people. I know that this hit you very hard. I talked to you during that time and you were worrying. I just want our listeners to hear what you think and what you are doing for that. I know that you are doing a lot to help the families, including these bracelets that you came to (Penguins GM Ray Shero) and to (Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma) with and suggesting that the players sign their jerseys from the game with the Capitals so that they could be sold. It’s hard to talk about this; I think that this horror will stay in every normal person’s heart. But let’s talk a little about this topic because obviously, we can’t not talk about this. Did you know many people on this team, did you know somebody or just personally didn’t know them? Why did this event touch you so deeply?
Malkin: I don’t think that it only touched me. We have one big hockey family and everybody knows each other. I myself knew a couple of guys from playing with them. Gennady Churilov and I played in the same city. He was a year younger than me but we would see each other outside every day. I also played on the same team with Igor Korolev when we played for Metallurg and we talked here in America. I saw him a few times in Toronto and he came to Pittsburgh and stayed over my house. So of course you can’t just let go and put on the brakes when a disasters happens to your friends and people you know. I understand that in a hockey family that main person that makes money is the man, so now all the wives left and children left and parents left – the majority of them don’t have a business that will bring money. So the least we can do to help is to cheer them up and help them financially. So ideas are being thought of that can bring money to help the wives, parents, kids and families of the victims. It’s hard to gather up large amounts of money but we are trying little by little. So thanks to the Pittsburgh organization and the Washington organization for doing the auction and making that game a blessings game, even though it was still a real game. But for them, it was a blessings game.
Birman: Well (Oct. 13) was the ceremony before the game. Was it hard for you to play the game after a ceremony like that?
Malkin: I was prepared for that and I knew what was going to happen. It was actually easy to play because we are doing a charity event. That’s why thanks again Pittsburgh and Washington; they did a good thing and we helped and that’s why if the money goes to the right hands, it will only help. That’s why we just wanted to play good for the fans that came and knew that there would be that type of auction and bought the bracelets. So for all of that, we had to show them good hockey.
Mejeritski: Geno, how did you find out about this catastrophe? Was it on the Internet or were you watching a program?
Malkin: No, honestly I left the gym and was driving home and right before I got home my friend and agent called me and told me. I got home in two minutes and turn on the TV, and of course every channel is talking about the catastrophe. I was just watching it all day calling my friends who were by Yaroslavl and of course was just watching TV.
Birman: I hope of course that the money fundraised here in Pittsburgh and Washington and I know that in Phoenix the money made will go to a good cause. My fellow friends listening or watching, you can see the information about the bracelets that you can still buy on our Facebook page or on our website, nhlpenguins.ru.
Birman: Geno, when you came back here this summer to Pittsburgh after you were in Russia you started contributing some time to your connections with the people. You have a Twitter account and you have a Facebook account and you are giving interviews in a more open way. Well, not to us, to us you’re always open.
Birman: Did you change in some way or did your views change?
Malkin: Well, I am always ready for your interviews because the Russian language is a little easier for me. But when English became a higher priority I became more open and accepting, because of course you’re nervous when you can’t say what you want and you get tense. Then after you accidentally say something about food you want to learn English.
Malkin: But then you start thinking do I really need this? That’s why when now I am more confident about knowing what to say, I became a little more open with the English language. And about Twitter and Facebook, I have a (Facebook) page but I’m probably on it once every hundred years so you can’t really count that. So the only thing I really use is Twitter, but I use it so that the fans that are following me can see what I’m doing. It’s for them.
Birman: I know that basically all of your fans like this and they happily talk on it.
Malkin: I like a lot of fans.
Mejeritski: Geno, what do you do in your free time? When you actually get spare time where you don’t have practice or a game, what do you like to do?
Malkin: Well, honestly I don’t have a family except for when my parents come for a little and friends when they come, but they left a long time ago so for now I am alone here. But my off-day schedule is morning practice then nap, lunch, then go to the movies or dinner with the team. But if it is a game day then it usually goes the same except we have a game and then go somewhere with the team. If there is no game then it usually goes the same.
Mejeritski: Of the players that used to play for the Pens, who do you still talk to? For example, Sergei Gonchar and Alexei Kovalev.
Malkin: Sergei and I still talk and I hope that we will always talk and stay good friends. I haven’t talked to Kovalev at all since last season. He left to go to Russia and I am here, so we don’t really talk. But with Max Talbot, I still talk with him and we are good friends.
Mejeritski: What did Talbot say about leaving to go to Philly?
Malkin: He didn’t really say anything. It’s part of a hockey life. He was offered a good contract from a good team and business is business. He couldn’t get a contract that he liked here so he didn’t have another choice. He chose the best option, which was to go to Philly because they offered him a good contract. So he signed it and I don’t think it mattered which organization for him.
Mejeritski: How unusual is it going to be to play against Talbot – not just for you but for all of your teammates?
Malkin: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. But I hope he won’t score two goals against us.
Malkin: So I hope he will be quieter and won’t fight.
Mejeritski: Geno, you’re pretty good at ping pong. Does practice help you? Do you play a lot?
Geno: When friends come over I try to play well. For a few summers I had time so I played at the gym and received training from trainers. I like that game, it’s fast.
Mejeritski: Do you play tennis?
Malkin: I tried to play tennis. Basically I’ve tried to play every sport: basketball, football. But again, you have to love that sport. So that’s why someone like you guys, I would beat; but someone better probably not.
Mejeritski: I don’t know, I don’t know – George and I practice all the time.
Malkin: Maybe in three years I will be good and ready so we can play. But anyways, it’s all about how much you love the game. I’ve tried to play tennis but Sergei Gonchar beats me easily with his left hand. He practices every year but I only do it every two years or whenever it pops up.
Mejeritski: Geno, who is the toughest opponent in your conference? Next year Detroit might come into your conference. Then it will be very tough.
Malkin: Well then it will be more interesting. We’ve played against Detroit before and won. We’ll play them, why not? We play four times with Washington, who is also a very good team, and Philadelphia. Every team is tough and Detroit we can outplay, so I don’t see any problems.
Birman: Geno, thanks a lot.
Malkin: That’s it?
Birman: Yes, unfortunately we have to come to an end.
Malkin: Short time.
Birman: Yes, short time. Thanks a lot for coming. The most important for you is of course good health, to play the season without injuries and to reach everything that you want.
Mejeritski: Good luck.
Birman: Good luck and hopefully all of the wishes that you have made come true.
Birman: My fellow friends, today with you has been George, Oleg, and of course our main guest Evgeni Malkin.