There’s another way Evgeni Malkin’s Sunday night should have gone.
The Penguins would have played in Pittsburgh, not Chicago. A pregame ceremony would have honored him, not Marián Hossa. His parents would have attended, not watched from afar on a screen in Magnitogorsk, Russia.
But everything that wasn’t available to Malkin for his 1,000th game and the fact that it was almost like an afterthought, was fitting.
He’s always The Other.
Alex Ovechkin was the only player picked ahead of Malkin in the 2004 NHL Draft. It’s been Ovechkin’s pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s goals record that has eclipsed Malkin’s own historic accomplishments. Only 14 NHL players had scored more than Malkin’s 1,165 points going into their 1,000th game.
Sidney Crosby is the pillar of the Penguins. Crosby is their captain, their No. 1 center, the player with as many scoring titles but also one more Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy win — not to mention the first Penguins player to have played in 1,000 games.
Malkin has been injured a lot.
He’s also put together a Hall of Fame resume largely without his family seeing much of it in person. His parents and brother can spend only a few months of each year in America because of rules restricting travel for Russian citizens. His wife and son split their time between Pittsburgh and Malkin’s residence just outside of Miami, where his son Nikita is enrolled in school with other Russian-speaking children.
Malkin’s wife, Anna, and son surprised him by flying to Chicago for the game. Malkin said seeing his son in the locker room prior to the contest “made me smile” — a positive feeling on “an emotional night for me.”