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Author: Slava Malamud (Sport Express Newspaper)
Translated By: Eugene Belashchenko
Date: 08/18/2006
Evgeny Malkin: You can't force someone to sign a contract at 3am! (Pittsburgh Penguins NHL)

2006 Russian Super League

Evgeni Malkin answering questions at the NHL Entry Draft after being selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo is a RussianProspects exclusive)
Yesterday in Los Angeles Sport Express North American correspondent met with the escaped from Magnitogorsk Russian hockey player Evgeny Malkin.

The long awaited call came on Thursday, exactly at noon by Washington DC time: 'Good day Slava, this is J. P. Right now Evgeny is in Santa Monica, this is a part of Los Angeles. Please tell us what are your intentions and we will try to help you...' That's it. Eureka! Evgeny Malkin, who for almost an entire week was being searched for by reporters, agents, functionaries and simply curious bystanders was finally found. The mystery has concluded and now the journalist's work begins. As usual in such cases, not without any transportation thrillers. Taking the call at noon, an hour later I was already racing through the Washington Airport named Dulles, trying to catch the next flight to California. There, on the west coast (you can't get any further from Magnitogorsk), awaited me the answer to probably one of the biggest scandals of the post Soviet hockey history.

As often happens in life when compared to thrillers, the detective process itself was not all that interesting: routine work of feeling out the various components of the network that all led to Evgeny's agents, which before this point did not bring any results. The first electronic message from J. P Barry, the representative of the SAA hockey agency I received back on Monday. All it stated was just a promise to get in touch. On Wednesday I got another, promising shortly a phone call and news regarding Malkin's location. As it turned out, at that point Barry and Malkin boarded a plane at the airport in Helsinki...

I arrived in Los Angeles just at 9pm. I received another call on the cell phone: Barry and his partner Pat Brisson just accompanied Malkin to dinner to a Santa Monica boulevard restaurant. 'Come right there, but you will not likely get a good chance to talk to Malkin - wanred Barry - You can imagine how tired he is after a transatlantic flight, and the time difference is also having it's toll. Let's postpone the interview to tomorrow.' I agreed, but with the condition that I could give Malkin several questions so that they could make the Saturday's Sport Express issue.

So, Los Angeles, late evening, Santa Monica boulevard - a wealthy hang out street right on the ocean coast. Palm trees are there, where would we be without them? The restaurant is 'Python'. I arrive and Barry, a big, happy Canadian, right away invites me to the table. I don't notice Malkin right away, but when I look closer I see that the guy is definitely not up to long stories: Evgeny is battling sleep with all his strength. So, the first questions are to Barry.

By the way, I want to inform you that thus far Evgeny will not be giving many interviews - says the agent - we specifically chose one journalist from Canada, US and Russia. Canada is represented by TSN, US by the Los Angeles Times newspaper and Russia by Sport-Express. You will get the first interview, as we believe that the Russian public must learn about what happened as fast as possible.

That's great. Then please explain the current situation and what does Evgeny plan to do?
We will need to hire lawyers, so as to sort out all the documentation and other nuances. We will do everything in our power, so that Evgeny would have the absolutely best advisors in the field of law as to his rights. The end goal of this effort - is of course, him plying for Pittsburgh this season.

So, you are still not completely sure that Evgeny will play in the NHL.
All of the doubts will be in the legal proceedings. We know that Magnitogorsk's general director Mr. Velichkin plans to file a law suit, but this would have happened one way or another. There is no agreement between the NHL and Russia, and that is why potentially each transfer will be accompanied by a suit, especially one as high level as this one.

Are you confident that you will win in a legal battle?
J.P. Barry:I myself am a lawyer, and that is why I will not make any concrete statements. American judges in contract law more often take the side of the worker, than the employer. But in the current case Russian law is also a factor, and this is something we will need to carefully study.

Recently Metallurg received a written notice from Malkin that annulled his employment agreement with the team. In addition, Velichkin doubts it's authenticity. He stated, for example, it is written by hand and not in Evgeny's handwriting.
J.P. Barry: The letter, of course was not compiled by Evgeny. Under his request, we used the services of a Russian speaking person, so that Evgeny would know what he is signing. Evgeny read the paper and signed it. You can ask him yourself.

E. Malkin:
I signed it, everything is correct.

J.P. Barry:
Regarding being handwritten.... What can you do? Unfortunately at that place where we were, we did not have a computer or even a typewriter (laughing).

Where were you, if it's not a secret?
J.P. Barry: In Helsinki, at a rented apartment. We were there until Evgeny got an American visa. (So that's what it was! So the rumors regarding Malkin's presence in Toronto turned out to be untrue - S.M.) On Monday we had a meeting at the US embassee, and on Wednesday we finally received the documents and flew to Los Angeles.

You said that you did not have a computer at the apartment, but how did you respond to my emails?
J.P. Barry: Very simply - through my mobile phone with an access to the internet.

How did the idea come about regarding Malkin's flight from the Helsinki airport?
J.P. Barry: Malkin called me from Magnitogorsk with a request to do everything possible to help him leave HC Metallurg. He said that for the trip to Finland he will be given his passport, so this would be his best chance. We acted in accordance to his wishes.

If you don't mind, I would like for Malkin to describe this in more detail himself. Evgeny - can you recollect when you called J.P. from Magnitogorsk?
E. Malkin: I called him the first time before I started the negotiations with Magnitogorsk. He said: 'Do not under any circumstances sign a contract with them', and I agreed with this. But then things ended up this way and I ended up signing a contract....at three o'clock at night...and the next morning I called Barry and asked him to help me leave.

Evgeny, two questions come to mind. First, why did you sign a contract if you did not plan on doing so? Second, why after signing the contract you still decided to leave the team and right away?
E. Malkin: I signed because I was strongly pressured. I constantly explained to them that I want to go to the NHL, that I must continue to develop as a player, and that I promised 'Pittsburgh'...but no one wanted to listen to me. They weighed me down with their own arguments.

What were those arguments?
E. Malkin: Well, for example, I was constantly told that they are working politically with the NHL in relation to the new agreement and that they need to pressure the Americans. Things like that. They have politics, but interests interested no one.

So, by three o'clock at night they managed to convince you. Why did you chance your mind so quickly?
E. Malkin: In short, I was very offended with Velichkin. You can't do that with people. You can't force them to sign agreements at three o'clock at night. And in any case...understand, last year they promised to let me go in a season. The promised! But here - it's politics. So, it turns out that it's not really necessary for them to keep their word?

Are you still mad or have your feelings changed?
E. Malkin: Very offended.

Question to J.P. Barry. Considering Evgeny's story, will you be demanding from the court to annul the contract with Metallurg? Does this situation fit the 'exerting psychological pressure' category?
J.P. Barry: As a lawyer I can say so with absolute confidence of one hundred percent. So, if this happened in the US, between an employee and an American company, the judge would have annulled the contract in two seconds. There is nothing to think about. But I will repeat again what I said in the beginning of our conversation: the conversation is not only regarding American law. So, we need to wait for a legal investigation. I see that Evgeny is barely standing on his feet, so let's postpone the details for tomorrow. Tomorrow, by the way, he will hit the ice.

Barry was right...Malkin, judging by his appearance, was not likely ready to continue the discussion. After photographing Evgeny, I agreed to meet on Saturday afternoon. So, read in Monday's issue of our newspaper a more detailed story of the Russian hockey star's adventures and about what was happening behind the scenes.


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