BROSSARD – Montreal picked him in 1998; on Thursday, it was Andrei Markov
’s turn to choose.
Since the Canadiens stepped up to the mic to draft him in the sixth round at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Markov has been continuously demonstrating his loyalty to the bleu-blanc-rouge
When July 1 rolls around each summer, some pending free agents prefer to test the waters of the open market, but Markov has never needed to wait that long to commit. The last time the All-Star blue-liner’s contract was up in 2007, he jumped at the chance to ink a four-year deal with the only NHL team he’s ever known. Back in that same situation this offseason, Markov still can’t see himself anywhere but Montreal.
“I’m happy to be here for another three years. Like I’ve said before: I love this team and I love this town. We have the best fans in the league,” explained the 32-year-old defenseman. “Every time I step on the ice here, I enjoy the moment and it’s fun and I want to continue doing that. I’m very happy to be staying here.”
With the ink still wet on his three-year deal, Markov headed right back to work Friday morning. After another grueling workout in the gym – the shifty rearguard is aiming to be 100% by the time training camp kicks off in September – Markov took his usual spot in front of his stall at the Canadiens practice facility in Brossard – something he can’t wait to do for the next few seasons.
“I’m very happy to be coming back. I love it here. The last couple of seasons have been tough for me with all the injuries I’ve had,” admitted Markov, who missed 112 games in the past two years with knee and foot injuries. “But I’ve always tried to stay positive and be in a good mood throughout that. I’ve always believed I can play in this league and play for this team and I’m happy to be here. I’m going to do my best.”
So just how did the 10-year NHL veteran celebrate his new contract?
“I’m fresh and rested. I mean, I was even here this morning to workout and it’s a holiday, so…,” cracked Markov.
Fully aware of the major injuries he’s sustained in the last 18 months, Markov isn’t about to accept the “fragile” tag some onlookers are trying to sidle him with.
“We're not playing chess, you know,” he joked, with all due respect to comrade and checkmaster Garry Kasparov. “Hockey is a contact sport. Nobody is completely safe on the ice. I have no intention of changing my style of play or shying away from going in the corners. I’m going to be even more
aggressive. Like I said in January, when I come back, I want to come back better than ever.”
With just over 100 days until the 2011-12 season kicks off, Markov is confident he has plenty of time to do exactly that.
“My rehab is going well so I’m happy about that and hopefully I’m going to be ready for training camp. I’m looking forward to that. I haven’t skated for a month, but I’m just working on my rehab in the gym every day,” explained Markov, who is currently six points shy of cracking the Top 5 all-time leading scorers by a defenseman in franchise history. “My goal is to just try to be 100% in time for training camp. I’m taking it day by day.”
In his absence, a few younger Habs had to step up and fill in for the perennial All-Star. Markov can’t wait to step in and start teaching them a thing or two.
“I’m really excited about next season,” he said. “It’s important to keep the team together. I think we have a good team and a good defensive corps and our goalie is excellent. I miss playing hockey. I can’t wait to get started and see everyone at camp.” Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.SEE ALSO:Habs sign Andrei Markov to a three-year contract Contractual status of Habs players Exclusive interview with Markov