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Catching up with Marek Malik

Defenseman scored famous between-the-legs shootout goal for Rangers in 2005

by Cutler Klein @CutlerKlein / Staff Writer's "Catching Up With" series features notable NHL alumni, including reflections on their careers and lives after hockey.

When you do a Google search for Marek Malik, one of the top results is a video of his between-the-legs shootout goal against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 26, 2005.

That goal came to define Malik's NHL career. And he doesn't mind it at all.

"It's really, really nice," Malik, 41, told from his home in the Czech Republic. "It's something that everybody has said they know of from the first day they meet me. It's really great. It's been 10 years, and there are still people talking about it.

Video: Marek Malik pulls puck between legs 15th round winner

"For me, I'm really happy that I was a part of it. I was the one who made that shot, and it really makes me happy. But most of all it makes me happy for the people that they like it. It was something that makes them happy. Lots of people tell me that when they have a bad day, they go on YouTube and look at the goal and they get in a better mood. That's that thing that makes me even happier."

Malik's goal gave the New York Rangers a 3-2 win against the Capitals and ended the shootout in the 15th round, the longest in the NHL at the time.

As a defenseman who hadn't scored yet that season, Malik wasn't expecting to get a chance in the tiebreaker. But when he did, he knew he had to do something to surprise Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig. So he came in with some speed, put the puck between his legs and shot it over Kolzig's shoulder.

The goal sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy, and as Malik skated toward his teammates, he had to find a way to celebrate to cap the moment.

"I'm not the really big celebrating type," he said. "I'm not that kind of guy. As soon as I scored that goal I kind of didn't know what to do. I didn't want to be jumping around the ice. I felt a lot of respect for Kolzig in the net. It must be really tough for him that he was on the negative side of this shootout.

"The Statue of Liberty came to me, so I was trying to maybe kind of pose like the Statue of Liberty, with the hand up to look like that. Then it became this ice-cold celebration, you know? It was a mix of everything."

Malik said he didn't know his goal had become such a sensation until he was walking down the street in New York a few days later. When he passed a store that had the highlight on the TV, he thought maybe one of the sports channels was talking about it. A few hundred yards later, though, his goal was on another TV. Store after store after store had the goal playing on the TV, he said. It was the talk of the town.

But Malik's unexpected fame didn't end there. He got a call from Rangers owner James Dolan, who invited him to sit courtside at a New York Knicks game at the Garden. A replay of the goal and a shot of Malik on the video scoreboard earned a standing ovation from the crowd.

In just a few days Malik had gone from a player who had 27 goals in more than 450 games in his NHL career and was trying to prove his worth with a new team to shaking hands with rock stars and movie stars courtside at a Knicks game.

Since that goal, the NHL has implemented 3-on-3 overtime to try to end more games before the shootout. As the player who scored perhaps the most famous shootout goal ever, Malik said 3-on-3 overtime is another way to entertain the fans and bring about highlight-reel goals.

"The question is: How many goals are being scored by somebody good on offense when the puck gets turned over and he goes 1-on-1 on the goalie?" he said. "Hopefully the goals that are scored are good hockey goals. So many times you see that the player will go 1-on-1 with the goalie anyways. I think it is either/or; I don't mind it. Sooner or later someone has to win. I don't mind the 3-on-3."

Malik played another three seasons in the NHL after his famous shootout goal, then played in Europe before retiring in 2014. He returned to the Czech Republic and became an assistant coach with HC Frydek-Mistek, which will play this season in WSM Liga, one step under the Czech Republic's top-level Extraliga.

Malik knew he wanted to work in hockey after his playing career.

"I like to give the players everything that I learned and make them better players," he said. "I said I'm going to give myself a three-year option to see if I'm good at it, if the team likes me, and if this is something I want to do in the future. It's going to be my third year as a coach and so far I like it. Hopefully I'm good at it. Looks like I'm going to continue to do that."

Malik had 168 points and a plus-133 rating in 691 regular-season games with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning. He made the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 with the Hurricanes, tied the Lightning's Martin St. Louis for the best plus/minus in the NHL in 2003-04 (plus-35), and helped the Czech Republic win a bronze medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Malik has two sons, ages 14 and 16, and they would like to continue the Malik legacy in the NHL.

"I had a pretty good career in the NHL, and I'd like for them to be better," he said. "Right now it looks like they are good at hockey. They are doing really well. They are still very young and there is still lots and lots of hard work in front of them. That's what I'm trying to tell them: Nothing is going to be for free. They have to earn everything. They have to earn it with hard work."

Though Malik's legacy was cemented with the between-the-legs shootout goal against Kolzig in 2005, he said he hopes fans and players remember him as a good teammate and a good friend.

"My wish was always to be a good teammate and a good person," he said. "I always had my teammates as my family. I have a family at home and a family at work. If somebody called me at three in the morning and they need help, I was there for them. I'd like to be remembered as a good player, but also as a great guy and teammate and guy to stick around.

"I hope that's what people are going to remember."

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