Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички

Rambler's Top100

26 ноября 2006 года. 
Two tales of Malkin's pact with Russians // Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Penguins star and his mother say he was forced to sign contract

By Dave Molinari. 

Evgeni Malkin signed a contract to play hockey in Russia this season under extreme duress, and only after he had been badgered for weeks. He and his parents endured hours of abuse, cajoling and threats by men in powerful positions before his signature went on the deal at 2:30 in the morning.

Or maybe not.

It could be that Mr. Malkin gladly agreed to defer his dream of playing in the NHL and that he has ended up with the Pittsburgh Penguins only because he was manipulated and misled by people seeking to undermine the integrity of the Russian Super League.

Both versions of the events that led up to Mr. Malkin's arrival in the United States in mid-August can be found in affidavits submitted in advance of a federal court proceeding in New York earlier this month.

On Nov. 15, U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska denied a motion by Mr. Malkin's former team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented him from playing for the Penguins.

Metallurg officials have not said whether they plan to appeal that ruling, which also applies to two other Russian players now in North America, or proceed with a separate lawsuit

Affidavits from Mr. Malkin, and his mother, Natalia, contend that Metallurg general manager Gennady Velichkin had assured Mr. Malkin in 2005 that he would be able to leave the team and his contract after the 2005-06 season and join the Penguins, who had claimed him with the No. 2 choice in the 2004 NHL entry draft.

"Mr. Velichkin told me that Metallurg was going to try to have Evgeni stay and play for Metallurg, but that if Evgeni did not want to do that, he would be free to leave, without any interference from Metallurg," Mrs. Malkin's affidavit said.

Mr. Velichkin denied any such agreement had been struck with Mr. Malkin, whose departure he described as "devastating and irreplaceable to our team and its fans." He said the affidavits of Mr. Malkin and his mother "regrettably are misleading, untruthful and lack credibility."

He also characterized as "offensive and absurd" suggestions by officials of the NHL and some of its member teams that Super League clubs took legal action over Mr. Malkin and the other two Russians mostly because they wanted to negotiate lucrative compensation packages for their rights.

Mr. Velichkin said Metallurg, like other Russian clubs, operates a player-development program, with children as young as six involved. He added that the budget for the operation this season "will exceed $24 million," with more than $10 million earmarked for players on the Super League squad and the rest used to finance other areas of the operation.

"Unlike the NHL and its clubs, who feast on the hockey stars developed by others, the Russian clubs, including my clubs, make enormous effort -- both financial and human -- in developing our players," his affidavit said.

Mr. Malkin's saga began to unfold -- or perhaps, unravel -- in June when, at the behest of then-agent Don Meehan, he faxed Mr. Velichkin notice that he was exercising his right under Russian labor law to terminate his contract with two weeks' notice.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Malkin was summoned to a meeting with Mr. Velichkin and his assistant, identified only as "Mr. Kuprianov," and asked if he was aware of the letter. Mr. Malkin confirmed that he was and reiterated his desire to terminate his contract.

"Mr. Velichkin said he would not let me resign from Metallurg and made clear that he was going to ignore the notice," Mr. Malkin's affidavit said. "He tore the letter into many pieces, and threw the pieces into the trash can in his office."

At that point, Mr. Malkin said, Mr. Velichkin warned him to keep the meeting "strictly confidential," and "not to reveal to anyone that he had destroyed my letter of resignation."

He added that from mid-July through Aug. 7, he attended "almost daily" meetings with Mr. Velichkin and Mr. Kuprianov, and was told during one that Metallurg would surrender his rights only if the Penguins paid $2 million.

"At each of these meetings, I gave the same response to Mr. Velichkin," Mr. Malkin's affidavit said. "I explained that I did not want to sign a new contract with Metallurg because I had already resigned and I intended to play in the NHL for the Penguins during the 2006-07 season. Mr. Velichkin refused to accept my decision or to honor his promise to me."

Mrs. Malkin's affidavit, meanwhile, said she had "frequent" telephone conversations with Mr. Velichkin about the situation during the summer of 2006, and that he took a new tack during a dinner meeting early in August.

"Mr. Velichkin discussed what the benefit would be for my husband and I if Evgeni stayed and played for Metallurg for more one season," she said. "He promised us a free VIP suite at the Metallurg hockey arena and that my husband [who used to play for Metallurg] could drop the puck on opening night."

Her response: "We told Mr. Velichkin that Evgeni should not be pressured into signing a new contract with Metallurg."

At about 9 p.m. on Aug. 6, Mr. Malkin, his parents and Gennady Ushakov, a Russian representative of agent J.P. Barry's firm, met with Mr. Velichkin, Mr. Kuprianov and Metallurg owner Viktor Rashnikov at one of Rashnikov's offices, about 30 minutes outside of Magnitogorsk.

'You killed my dream'
Mr. Rashnikov considered the meeting so important that, according to Mr. Velichkin, he chartered a jet to return from a vacation in Western Europe. Mr. Barry was sufficiently concerned about it that he advised Malkin not to go "as he would be in an isolated environment and subject to immense pressure."

When the meeting convened, the team officials presented Mr. Malkin with a one-year contract offer -- Mr. Velichkin said it was worth $3.45 million, the most Mr. Malkin could earn in salary and bonuses with the Penguins -- and, according to Mr. Malkin, "demanded" that he accept it.

"They said that if I did not sign the new contract, no one in Magnitogorsk would want to speak with me, and that this was not how I wanted to live," Mr. Malkin's affidavit said. "Mr. Kuprianov then said they could have taken steps to have me conscripted into the Russian army, but had not done so.

"I understood that Mr. Velichkin was referring to how powerful the club was and what they could do to me if I did not sign the new contract. Other Russian hockey teams have found ways to have players who wanted to leave to play in the NHL conscripted into the Russian military."

When the Malkin contingent tried to leave after 90 minutes or so, the session spilled out into the parking lot, then picked up again at the Malkin residence. The accounts from Mr. Malkin and his mother say Mr. Velichkin and Mr. Kuprianov followed them home; Mr. Velichkin said they were invited because that's where the family had its copy of the new contract he had worked out with Mr. Ushakov.

The Malkins painted a dramatically different picture.

"Mr. Velichkin spoke to us in the driveway for another twenty or thirty minutes," Mrs. Malkin's affidavit said. "I did not invite him in because we were extremely tired and I did not want to speak with Mr. Velichkin any further. Finally, Mr. Velichkin said that we should invite him in. We did not think that we could refuse."

Mr. Velichkin said that no duress took place. "The new contract was negotiated by and indisputably signed in [the] presence of Evgeny's Russian agent and his parents," he said.

That conflicts with Mr. Malkin's recollection.

"[A]fter more than five hours that night of Mr. Velichkin repeatedly insisting and yelling that I had to sign the contract, I could not take it anymore," his affidavit said. "I was mentally and physically exhausted, and I just wanted Mr. Velichkin and Mr. Kuprianov to leave me and my family alone.

"At approximately 2:30 a.m. on August 7, I signed a new one-year contract with Metallurg. ... I was extremely upset when I signed the contract, and afterward. After I signed it, I sent Mr. Kuprianov a text message saying that, 'On this night, you killed my dream.' "

Six days later -- after he had left his team in Helsinki, Finland and hooked up with Mr. Barry -- Mr. Malkin notified Metallurg that he wanted to be released.

"When I signed the new contract," his affidavit said, "I was committed to taking all required steps to legally terminate the contract."

Страничка Евгения Малкина на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


"ЗВЁЗДЫ С ВОСТОКА" @ c 1997 года