Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Not Since the Nazis ..."

Vladimir Malkin's aging frame is racked with rage as he stares at his son. He breathes in, breathes out, inhales, exhales, all in a vain attempt to calm the fires burning within. He knows it is useless, knows he is going to "blow his top"--as the Americans say. He sits down beside the boy at their kitchen table, anyway. Natalia's borscht is smelling especially delicious today. Perhaps, that will soothe his mood.

He stares down at the boy who is staring down at his bowl of stew. Neither wants to look at the other. They both know what is to come. Vladimir decides to speak, despite himself.

"Do you know what happened on 22 June 1941, boy?"

"Yes, father," the boy sighs, refusing to look his father in the eye.

To put it simply, Yevgeniy Vladimirovich Malkin (22), is an international hockey star. Drafted second overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2004 NHL entry draft, Malkin joined the team two years later. In that short time, he has already helped lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row, has won the Calder Memorial Trophy for the rookie of the year, was runner-up for the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2008, and has won the Art Ross Trophy this year for the league's top scorer. He has also won six medals for his native Russia in international competition. Earlier this week, with his Penguins down two games to none in the Stanley Cup Finals, he personally led the Penguins to even the series with five points of his own.

However, last night, the Pens were shut out by the Detroit Red Wings, 5-0. The Malkins all feel that poor Evgeni was largely responsible for the debacle. This afternoon, Yevgeniy Vladimirovich Malkin is no longer an international hockey star. Today, he is a chastened, little boy.

"And what happened on 22 June 1941, Evgeni?" his father asks again.

"Operation Barbarossa, father," the son huffs. "The day the Germans invaded the Soviet Uni--"

"Russia!" Vladimir shouts.

Natalia gasps at her husband's rage and sits down between her boys with her own bowl of borscht.

"Russia," the boy concedes.

"The Heer, the Luftwaffe, the entire Wehrmacht laid waste to our great country," Vladimir continues, turning red. "They slaughtered millions! Men and women, boys and girls, little babies! We all suffered terribly under the Nazis' reign of terror!"

"But father, you were born in 1958," Evgeni meekly protests.

"All Russians--dead, alive, yet to be born--suffered and died that day."

"It was the greatest tragedy the Slavic race has ever known," Natalia adds. "And we Slavs know our tragedy."

"But that would mean--" Evgeni stammers "--what's the logic in that?"

"What was the logic in elbowing that boy in the face, getting that penalty, depriving your team of your talent, leaving them a man short, and your team giving up a power play goal?!" Vladimir roars.

"Yes, father," Evgeni whimpers.

"What was the logic in your hooking and cross-checking penalties?"

"Yes, father."

"Twelve penalties?! Twelve penalties your team had! Three power play goals you gave up!"

"Yes, father."

"And that friend of yours, Kuntz!"

"Kunitz, father. Chris Kunitz."

"You call that a fight?! One, measly punch in the belly, and he barely pulls the boy's shirt off?! Disgusting! That boy is clearly not from Russia!"

"No, Regina, father."

"He is a vagina!"


"Sorry, Natalia." Vladimir pats his wife's hand reassuringly and smiles. He quickly turns back to his son, eyes ablaze. "Now, your team is down 3-2 to the reigning Stanley Cup champions. Men even more experienced than your Aunt Minet!"


"Please, Natalia. I am making a point here." He turns back to his son. "Now, Detroit only has to win one more game, and you have to win two. All because of sloppy puck handling, horrible defense, and all those stupid, stupid penalties! Tell me where the logic is in all of that!"

"There is none, OK, father!" Evgeni cries. "There is none!"

Vladimir sighs. "Not since the Nazis have I seen such wanton self-destruction."

"Oh, father!!!"

Natalia produces a handkerchief and dabs at her son's wet eyes. He takes it, blows his nose, and gives it back to her. She continues to wipe tears as her husband speaks.

"During the war," Vladimir continues, hotly. "We, Russians, burned down everything. We razed entire villages, towns, cities! We burned down every single farm, every single tree, every single crop we could put a torch to in the Nazis' path. Your grandmother's village, Pizdet'?"

"Gone," Natalia adds, tearfully.

"Phht! Burned to the ground!" Vladimir continues. "We wanted to starve the Nazis out of our country. You see, son, all that self-destruction, all the suffering we inflicted on ourselves, we had a plan."

"Yes, father."

"And it worked. We may have starved ourselves. But we starved the Nazis, too, and ran them out of the Fatherland. Do you understand what I'm saying to you, boy?"

Evgeni looks up at his father, his eyes rimmed red. He sniffles one last time and nods.

"Now, tell me, Geno," his father commands, "what is your plan?"

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