Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2009, 24

Evgeni and his father sharing a moment with the Stanley Cup. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Magnitogorsk, Russia have a great deal in common. They are both large, industrial cities whose key industry for decades has been steel manufacturing. As the crow flies (and boy, are his wings tired), it is a trip of 5,505 miles or 8,859 kms between the two. But for hockey fans, the common denominator between the two is Evgeni Malkin.

Yevgeniy Vladimirovich Malkin was born in Magnitogorsk, on the Siberian side of the southern extent of the Ural mountain range. The city's name loosely translates to 'city of the magnetic mountain,' referring to the iron-laden Magnitnaya mountain that lies there on the Ural River.

Evgeni signs autographs for young kids at a local arena in Magnitogorsk. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The air hung heavy at 9AM on Monday, August 31 when the Stanley Cup arrived in Magnitogorsk to be greeted by the guy teammates and fans alike call 'Gino.' Evgeni first took the Cup to an arena, where teachers had brought their students to see the local hockey hero and the Cup he worked so hard to help bring to his team. The youngsters were all dressed up properly as though it was school picture day. A few of the teachers made speeches, and then Evgeni lifted a child onto his shoulders and together, they rang a bell, which may very well have indicated the official beginning of the school year.

Evgeni along with friends and family sharing a moment with the Stanley Cup in front of the statue at the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Just outside the gargantuan Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works stands an enormous statue depicting a labourer handing a newly-forged sword to a soldier with which to slay enemies of the State. During the Second World War, every second Soviet tank was manufactured from steel produced in this steel mill. Malkin ensured that he got photos taken in front of his hometown's icon.

Gino and friends took the Stanley Cup to JagaJaga for a tasty lunch of fish, potatoes and Caesar salad with mandarin oranges.

A parade of limousines took Malkin and his friends to the steel mill for a two-hour tour. On the way there, Evgeni sat on the limo with the Stanley Cup on its roof. The public was also invited to the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works.

Evgeni lets one of his friends drink from the Cup while photographers swarm the Penguins superstar. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
An entourage of close friends and family went to the lovely home of Evgeni's parents for an hour and a half. Gino's Dad, Vladimir, once starred on defence for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the same team his son later played for. The team, naturally, was sponsored by the city's iron and steel foundry.

They left the Malkin home to take the Cup over to the new arena, one built for the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) in which Metallurg Magnitogorsk now plays. A pre-season tournament was taking place. Malkin pulled on his equipment and took to the ice with his old team. The referee blew the whistle and raised his arm to indicate the opening faceoff of the contest. Gino glided into the faceoff circle and took the draw, winning the puck and then proceeded to skate through the opposition and scored the game's first goal.

The Stanley Cup on display in front of the new arena built for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Now, in spite of Malkin's extraordinary skill, the fact that the clock didn't start may indicate why he was able to so easily elude opponents and tuck the puck in the net, but nevertheless, the crowd cheered wildly. Evgeni skated to the penalty box and grabbed the Stanley Cup, taking the crowd's cheering to a new crescendo. Gino did a circuit of the rink with the Cup held aloft, then made a passionate speech. One more lap with the Cup and then they took team photos with hockey's greatest trophy. While the Kontinental Hockey League parallels the NHL's Stanley Cup with the coveted Russia Hockey Championship Winner Cup, it needs a century or more history to earn the same accord given to Lord Stanley's legacy.

The exhibition contest continued while Evgeni took the Stanley Cup to various suites in the arena, finishing with a nice visit to the owner's suite. As Malkin went to leave, he opened the door behind the arena where the limos were parked and discovered a large crowd of people waiting for him to depart with the Cup. The fans clamoured all over the cars to get at Gino and the Stanley Cup. The limos inched their way through the crowd as Malkin hurriedly signed autographs from the roof of his car.

Evgeni is swarmed by kids looking for an autograph following an exhibition game at the home rink of his former team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. (Bill Wellman/HHOF)
The convoy of limousines drove Evgeni and his friends back to JagaJaga, and took the Cup to a VIP area reserved for him right in front of the stage. The performance included comedians and dancers, and the guys enjoyed themselves immensely.

Time evaporated on the celebration. Gino asked if the Cup could stay for a while longer, but a flight back to North America was on the schedule and had to be met. Evgeni asked for another couple of minutes and took the Stanley Cup to a private area for some final photos to conclude an amazing day.

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The Stanley Cup Journal heads back to North America in the next edition, and spends the day at the White House with the Penguins and Barack Obama.

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Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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