This story first appeared on www.nhl.com/ru as part of an exclusive interview with Evgeni Malkin's wife Anna Kasterova in honor of International Women's Day. It has been translated from its original Russian text.
The other day Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin published an interesting photo on his Instagram. A beautiful Anna Kasterova is resting on his shoulders as he walks along the beach. The caption: "I've been carrying her for five years." What was the origin of the picture?
"This is in Miami, next to the place we live," said Kasterova. "It was our joint photoshoot for one glossy magazine. The photographer made this photograph as a gift on our fifth anniversary. We also made a video. I mixed in the music, made it romantic ... You want me to tell you a thousand words about this picture? You can't image how many ideas I have. But the fact is, there have been so many events and adventures over these five years that even a million words couldn't describe it all! "
Malkin himself was asked to describe their love story. In these past five years, in which he's won two Stanley Cups and became a father, has it been the happiest stage of his life?
"It's been very important," Malkin confirmed. "I met the right woman, and she gave me a child. My wife does everything so that I can play at my best. The family is your foundation, your source of help. I am very grateful to Anna for everything she does for me. I sure hope these were not the last five years of our life together".
So how did they meet?
"I still can't make him confess from whom he got my phone number!," she admits. We have known each other for more than five years. Evgeni was trying to court me for three years before we ever met in person. At first they were simple text messages. He saw me on TV and got my number somewhere. It couldn't have been difficult with his connections.
Malkin was simple in his introduction: "Hi Anna! My name is Evgeni Malkin. May I write you sometime? Maybe we can develop some kind of friendship..."
"Yes, very modest," Kasterova agrees. "Maybe that's what was so endearing about him. We texted each other for several years. Corresponded every six months or so. We discussed our lives, chatted about television, I shared news with him. Or sometimes just chirped him, 'Buy yourself a book on speech!'"
These loving chirps have become the hallmark of their relationship. If you have seen the famous documentary about this couple on Russian Channel One, you probably noticed that Malkin and Kasterova were teasing each other constantly.
"Yes, there is quite a bit of sarcasm in how we communicate," Kasterova said. "And we constantly joke with each other. Those soft nothings aren't really us. Evgeni is the manly type in this regard, someone who doesn't reveal his feelings very often. But he surely knows how to impress a girl. Makes a variety of surprises. I have never seen anything like it even in movies. He struck at the very heart!"
One example in particular, Kasterova gleefully recalled.
"Evgeni was scheduled to fly from Pittsburgh to the World Championship in Minsk. But he did not say that he had changed his plans and set off through Moscow a day earlier. He persuaded my girlfriend to take me to a restaurant. So I go with her, not suspecting anything unusual. And when I saw him there, it was just such a storm of emotions! We had not seen each other for six months. I did not expect him in Moscow at all. It was an impressive move on his part. "
Creating that special atmosphere at home is a special skill. It's not like Malkin has no work-related issues on his mind. Recently, he was suspended for one game after a high-sticking incident with Michael Raffl of the Flyers despite getting punched in the back of the head by Raffl first. How does the wife calm her husband down before the next game so that he can keep a cool head, but still play with emotion?
"When things like this happen, I curse more than my husband," she admits. "And he just needs to be alone for a little while, so that no one incites him or, God forbid, feels sorry for him. But you know, I never heard him talk dirty about anyone. Not a single swear word about his opponents. He is very worthy and noble in these situations. Although I can see how upset he gets."
How does the Malkin family spend its days off? After all, you can't just take Gino on a stroll around Pittsburgh. He simply has too many fans for this not to turn into an autograph session.
"We don't do anything out of the ordinary," Kasterova says. "During home stands we spend most of the time at home. We walk around the neighborhood, cook dinner. Evgeni might order some fresh fish somewhere. This is the best time. We can't just go out without attracting attention. Evgeni is a superstar here. We only get privacy and tranquility when we're at home."
Apparently, paying a family visit to Sidney Crosby's house is also an option.
"It is," Kasterova confirmed. "Everyone has their own family, and the guys spend so much time together on the road that we don't come over that often. But several times a year we'll go over there. Or Sid might come to us. He always plays hockey with our son Nikita. He loves the kid. And we are obviously always happy to see Uncle Sid. Malkin and Crosby are great friends, they have a wonderful relationship."
And again we go back to how it all began. World Championship 2014 in Minsk. Famous TV presenter Anna Kasterova is standing near the barrier hoping to see Evgeni Malkin for even five minutes, because the Russian team's bus is already warming up to take the team to the hotel.
"It was the first tournament I went to as Malkin's girlfriend," Anna recollects. "To be honest, I did not really understand how to handle myself. There are, after all, female clans of wives, and their own rules and principles. I had no idea how these things worked. And there also is a bit of a pride element in running somewhere after the game to only see Evgeni for two minutes. It was hard get used to."
"We barely saw glimpses of each other in Minsk after each game," Kasterova said. "Gave each other a few hugs and kisses, and that's all. Evgeni was all in serious mode, as was the whole team. Nothing else was allowed. We only got to talk normally when we flew to Moscow with gold medals… And now five years have passed. Feels like it was all yesterday. "
Pavel Lysenkov is a columnist for Match TV (LINK: http://www.matchtv.ru) and a regular contributor to NHL.com/ru.