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Translations by Tomas Jandik
Marek Sykora (Malkin's first pro coach): Zhenia was growing up in poverty ('Sport' daily) - 13-Nov-06
http://www.deniksport.cz/clanek478853.htm

ZHENIA WAS GROWING UP IN POVERTY, REMEMBERS [COACH MAREK] SYKORA

When you hear “Evgeni Malkin”, what comes on your mind?

My first memory of him. Three year ago, when I went to Russia for the first exploratory meeting with people from Magnitogorsk club, I watched TV for a while. They were showing a tournament of 17-year old boys. And one player did something there that fascinated me. Zhenia Maaaalkin, they were saying on TV. Later I talked about that moment with the people from management, and they said, satisfied: He is ours.

You had to be happy, right?

I was impressed a lot, but at that time I did not have a contract signed. When we agreed and I arrived to take over the team, I could not find Malkin there. Immediately I started searching for him. But the club people were surprised and amused at the same time. They told me he still had two more years [before he would be ready]. I instantaneously objected and demanded his arrival. A player like that had to practice with us. He played for the second team for a while, but soon he joined the A-team.

About that super-action of his. Do you still remember it?

Not in details. But during the power-play he was playing in the back. He got the puck, hinted doing a few things, and then he perfectly passed. After his pass they scored. Jesus, what a champ, I was saying to myself.

After he got to the top hockey, Malkin suffered injuries. And not just a few of them…

First it was a serious concussion. He was trying too much, and then one day he badly fell into boards. He was just playing for the farm team of Magnitogorsk, because they needed to win one game badly. And there it happened. Very bad luck. At that time, Malkin was getting better, his play time increased. We missed him a lot at the end of the season. I am afraid whether his health holds in the NHL. During those equilibristic actions, the constant risk of injury is there.

You introduced Malkin to top hockey. How big share do you deserve in the credit for his fast progress?

Not to be modest, I do deserve credit. Zhenia even praised me somewhere, which pleased me. Russian coach would not give him a similar chance. I had an epiphany that he would be an extraordinary player one day. That’s why I was giving him a lot of opportunities from the start. I see him how he constantly stands in front of the bench, his eyes begging me to let him back on ice. {he smiles}. During his second year, I put Malkin alongside Sykora and Elias. Man, they played… I was convinced we had the league title in our pocket. But Patrik got hepatitis… And everything broke down.

How was he in a locker room?

A silent type. Did not speak much. I was captivated by his enormous talent for all sports. In a sport hall next to our arena, we played soccer, basketball. He was excellent in everything. In everything! The boy knows it all. He is tall, stringy, extraordinarily mobile. To watch Malkin playing B-ball – that was great.

Did you familiarize yourself with his living conditions?

I went to see his apartment once where he lived with his whole family. It was really bad… I don’t want to go into too many details, but Malkin was growing up in very, very poor conditions. In a studio apartment with a separate kitchen, he lived with his parents and a brother. He and his brother slept in one room, the parents in the other. His dad worked at our sport arena, an odd guy. One could not talk to him much. He wanted from the start for Zhenia to leave for overseas as soon as possible.

Young Russians are said to spend their first salaries immediately for cars and clothing. Was Malkin the same?

After the first season we finished in the 2nd place and the team paid enormous bonuses. Zhenia bough an older Mercedes. I used to walk to the arena, and he always speeded right past me. The younger guys were competing about who bought a better car. It was the older ones who were saving.

How much was he making per month?

Given Russian standards a little. At the beginning about $5,000. I don’t know the exact number, because in contrast to the Russian coaches I felt I did not need to know everything. He was making more during his second season.

Have you followed the cause of Malkin – the fugitive in detail? Which side is, in your opinion, more right?

Yep, I have been following it. It’s tough. He was pressured from all sides. He definitely did some dumb stuff, but I would not blame or criticize him for it. The pressure by his father who was chasing him out [of Russia], by all those agents, by the team boss Velichkin… He did not exactly behave in a kosher way, but let’s excuse it by his youthful indiscretion. It will definitely get resolved. It’s all about money, not about anything else.






Tomas Jandik is the resident Czech on LetsGoPens.com and is a man who unifies all the goodies of the American dream - meaning, of course, being a Pitt graduate, a Razorback, and a Penguins fan.

Back to Tomas' Translation List


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