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Heart wide open

Andrei Markov opens up about his 16-year NHL career in Montreal, fatherhood and embracing social media

by Joanie Godin. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski. @canadiensmtl /

MONTREAL - In October 2000, Madonna was at the top of the charts with her hit song "Music." *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera and Destiny's Child were at the pinnacle of their respective careers as well.

A few months earlier, the movie American Beauty claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Lucien Bouchard was the Premier of Quebec, Jean Chretien was the Prime Minister of Canada, and Pierre Bourque was the Mayor of Montreal. 

All of that seems a distant memory now, but there has been one constant in that time. In October 2000, a youthful Andrei Markov played his first career game with the Montreal Canadiens. Sixteen years later, the Russian rearguard is still here, with a little less hair and a few more scars, but still as solid as ever on the blue line.

"Time goes by fast. If I close my eyes, I can picture my first season. Now, I'm a little older and I've been through many changes on the team," he said.

Eight coaching changes and five general managers, to be exact. And that doesn't include the dozens of players he's shared a locker room with in Montreal along the way.

Advisory role

At 37 years old, Markov is closer in age to Mikhail Sergachev's father than to the rookie blue-liner, who started the season learning from his veteran countryman before returning to Windsor. In fact, Sergachev is just three years older than Markov's son, Daniil, age 15. 

But Markov isn't interested in playing the role of "father figure" in the locker room.

"I definitely won't act like a father with the younger guys because when it comes to parents, you only have two," explained the Russian rearguard. "I'm not that type of person with young guys. They're all getting older and they're adults. But if they ask me for advice or help, I'm always there and I'm happy to help and to advise them."

Despite having made his NHL debut over a decade-and-a-half ago, he remembers being able to count on veteran leadership when he first landed in the city.

"When I got here, there were a few Russian players who helped me a lot, like Oleg Petrov. He still lives in Montreal and we talk from time to time. He helped me a lot back then," recalled the Canadiens' elder statesman.

The presence of so many 20-somethings in the dressing room doesn't make Markov feel old, though. In fact, it's just the opposite. 

"I don't feel like a veteran. We're surrounded by young players who give us older guys energy. We try to stay young and I think that it's a good thing for us," he confessed, adding that the NHL has come a long way over the last 16 years. "Times have changed. It's a completely different generation." 

Since becoming an NHLer, Markov has seen smartphones become ubiquitous in the room and on the road, and remembers what it was like to play in the pre-social media era. Like he has on the ice, Markov has evolved with the times, recently opening his own Instagram account (@marki79red) to give fans a window into his personality. 

"It's a part of our lives now and we have to adjust. We have to be ready for it. I'm a little indifferent when it comes to social media. I'm not that fond of it, but it's a new generation. You have to deal with it," he said.

A new life

There are plenty of differences, but there also similarities between Markov's early years in the city to now, especially in his personal life. When he first moved to Montreal, he was a proud new father. He's going through that all over again with the recent arrival of his daughter, Vasilisa. 

Not far from hitting the big 4-0, Markov admits that he's now focused on making the most of every moment.

"My eldest son is 15 years old and I have a young daughter. She's just six months old. It's a responsibility. And right now, I'm happy to have a young daughter. I'm enjoying every day. It's nice to see a baby grow up right before your eyes. It's very special," he mentioned.

Vasilisa even has her own hashtag on Instagram already, #oursweetvasilisa.

"I think she has more hashtags than I do!" said Markov with a laugh.

Small moments, both on the ice and off, now seem more precious to Markov, who will turn 38 in December.

"I think that when you get older, you start to realize that all of that is going to end one day, so you try to make the most of it even more. The game, life outside of hockey, all of that. It probably comes with age. Right now, I love playing hockey and I'm trying to enjoy the time I have with my teammates away from the rink. I appreciate the time I have with my family, one day at a time. We never know what tomorrow has in store for us," affirmed Markov.

Writing history

If everything goes as planned, the Canadiens' No. 79 should hit the 1,000 games played plateau in a Canadiens uniform near the end of the season. He's also continuing to climb the ranks in the team's record books in a variety of different categories. 

That's something that still seems like a dream for the 18-year-old who was drafted in the sixth round, 162nd overall, in 1998.

"I never thought I'd be here this long. I probably wouldn't have believed you 16 years ago. But now, I'm here and I have no regrets about what I've done during my career. I'm happy to still be here. I'm proud to have represented the Montreal Canadiens for such a long time," concluded Markov. 

Andrei Markov by the numbers:

19: Spot he currently holds on the Canadiens' all-time points list, with 548

9: Spot he currently holds on the Canadiens' all-time games played list, with 945

3: Spot he currently holds on the Canadiens' all-time points list among defensemen, behind Guy Lapointe (572) and Larry Robinson (883)

3: Spot he currently holds on the Canadiens' all-time goal scoring leaderboard among defensemen, with 115, behind Guy Lapointe (166) and Larry Robinson (197)

2: Spot he currently holds on the Canadiens' all-time assists leaderboard among defensemen, with 433, behind Larry Robinson (686)

2: Spot he currently holds on the Canadiens' all-time power play goals leaderboard among defensemen, with 59, behind Larry Robinson (65)

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