Face-Off With Vladimir Malkin

Evgeni Malkin's father shares his love of the Penguins, Pittsburgh and the idea of a potential return visit.

SP: The last year has been pretty crazy for you and your wife, Natalie. Can you describe what your lives have been like?
V.M.: It was a pretty crazy and interesting life. It started from the first minute we came here. Evgeni bought the house, and we were helping him with the house. We met lots of people. We attended lots of hockey games. We visited different cities and places and, of course, to see our team winning the Stanley Cup.

SP: As the season went on, your popularity increased. Do you still like the attention? Or did you start to get tired of being noticed in public?
V.M.: Of course we like that. I don’t think you can get tired from kissing and hugging so many girls.

SP: Could you have ever imagined that you and your wife would have become celebrities?
V.M.: We never thought we were going to be that popular here in Pittsburgh and not only in Pittsburgh. People recognized us in Washington. In Detroit they were asking for autographs and to take pictures with them. A few people told us we are getting more popular than Evgeni.

SP: Now that you’ve spent some time in Pittsburgh, what do you like most about the city?
V.M.: This is a beautiful and great city – very clean, very green with lots of bridges, lots of rivers. Unbelievable people live in Pittsburgh. They are so friendly, and of course they are the greatest fans in the world. I was in different cities and countries watching different regular season games and championship games, but I never saw fans like Penguins fans.

SP: Have you noticed that your son plays better when you’re here? Why do you think so?
V.M. Back when Evgeni was a kid and he played hockey, he always played extra hard when we were at the game. Same thing as now. We think he is playing hard every game, but when we are here, he feels something extra – he feels our love.

Are you still operating the restaurant in Magnitogorsk, Russia?
V.M.: Unfortunately we don’t have this restaurant anymore. Because of the economy, not too many people in Magnitogorsk can afford to go to the restaurant. We are renting this place to somebody else. But if anybody from the Pittsburgh would like to buy it, we will be happy to sell to them with a big discount.

SP: Did the people of Magnitogorsk watch the Stanley Cup Finals?
V.M.: The people in Magnitogorsk who love hockey and know Evgeni were watching the final game live at 4 a.m. They were so happy for the Penguins and for Evgeni. Lots of our friends were telling me that they were watching the Penguins playoff games, and they saw me kissing Natalie. If I knew that television was televising that, then I would have kissed her more often and harder.

: When you were here in Pittsburgh, other than going to the games, what did you like to do?
V.M.: We had a great time in Pittsburgh. We tried to learn more about the city and meeting new people. We also enjoyed celebrating victories after the game with people we met from the Penguins’ organization. I enjoy fishing, and the Pittsburgh area has great places to catch big fish.

SP: Do you have plans to come back?
V.M.: Depends when Evgeni will invite us again (laughs). We would love to come back as soon as we can, but this will depend on the visa. This is not an easy process, and it is very hard to get a visa. But as soon as we are able to, we will come back to Pittsburgh.

Craig McConnell is a born-and-bred Pittsburgher. He is a coordinating producer at FSN, where he’s worked since 2001. Before joining FSN, Craig worked as a videographer at WSYX-TV in Columbus and WTOV-TV in Steubenville. He lives in Hampton with his wife, Jill, and their two kids, Derek and Leah.