|Maxime Talbot and Evgeni Malkin were two of the main attractions at the 74th annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Auction. Watch Video
Nine months have passed since the Penguins’ magical ride through the postseason culminated with the franchise’s third Stanley Cup championship last June. Nearly a full calendar year later the team is still basking in the glow of capturing the most fabled trophy in all of professional sports.
With many of the city’s top sports personalities on hand at the Petersen Events Center for the 74th annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction, it was Evgeni Malkin
and the Penguins who brought down the house on a night filled with jokes, laughs, stories and the celebration of Pittsburgh’s renaissance as the City of Champions.
The 23-year-old center took home the prestigious Sportsman of the Year award, which is presented annually to the top male athlete/coach/executive in the city of Pittsburgh. It was Malkin’s first Dapper Dan award and the third time in the past four seasons that a Penguin had secured top honors (Sidney Crosby
, 2006 and ’07).
With roughly 1,000 people seated on the floor of the Pete, Malkin, normally quiet and reserved in front of large groups, stole the limelight with a humorous speech which would have made even Jay Leno proud.
Malkin walked up to the microphone and without hesitation began thanking the Post-Gazette
, Dapper Dan Charities and the fans for voting him Sportsman of the Year – in Russian.
He then playfully teased the crowd by asking, “What? You guys don’t speak Russian?” Naturally, everybody got a kick out of Malkin’s opening.
The laughs didn’t stop there.
As Malkin was thanking the entire Penguins organization for helping him assimilate to North America over the past four seasons, he gave an extra shout out to a pair of teammates who helped him learn the English language.
“My roommates on the road, Brooks Orpik
and Max Talbot, helped me to learn English,” Malkin said. “But Coach asked me not to use the words Max taught me in my speech!”
Later Malkin had another great one-liner as he gave his appreciation to fellow Russian Sergei Gonchar for allowing Malkin to live with him his first couple years in the league.
“I would also like to say a special thank you to my teammate and friend, Sergei Gonchar,” Malkin said. “Sergei and his wife Ksenia welcomed me into their home and allowed me to live with their family since the extra room at Mario’s was already taken.”
Malkin also managed to draw cheers from the crowd, even when he wasn’t trying.
Before he thanked the fans for the way they have accepted his parents over the past couple seasons, he briefly apologized to the crowd.
“Sorry guys I am a little bit nervous,” Malked said.
He didn’t have to worry about apologizing. Fans were quick to shout out "Yeah Geno" and “You rock Geno.”
Malkin concluded his speech with the perfect ending in a city where sports play such an important role in so many lives.
“It’s truly an honor to be the Sportsman of the Year in the City of Champions.”
Just like Mellon Arena in the seconds following another breathtaking Malkin goal, the crowd erupted with approval.
Afterwards, Malkin was pleased with how his speech turned out.
“I wouldn’t say that I was perfect,” he said. “I was a little bit nervous. The first couple words were tough but I was able to relax and then my speech was OK.”
Malkin was far from the only Penguin to give the crowd a healthy dose of entertainment.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero stepped to the main podium before his star center, as Shero accepted the “Best Moment” award for the Penguins' Stanley Cup championship on behalf of team co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle.
Before he left the stage, Shero offered these words up to Malkin:
“Geno you still have to give a speech here.”
Never one to be at a loss for words, head coach Dan Bylsma was next up as Malkin’s presenter.
Before Bylsma began talking about Malkin, he playfully tried adding a little toughness to his team’s lineup in the form of wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino, who was honored with the lifetime achievement award.
“I saw him this evening and saw how good of shape he is in,” Bylsma said. “If you can skate, we’ll use you against Philly on Saturday at one o’clock. Ray Shero is right over here for your contract.”
Then Bylsma got into talking about Malkin. He certainly won major points for one of his first lines of the speech.
“I was blessed with some outstanding young hockey players,” Bylsma said. “The one sitting next to me is one of the greatest in the world – definitely the best from Russia.”
While Shero and Bylsma were able to display a sense of humor fans might not have known they had, everyone is certainly aware of the entertainment value Talbot adds to a room. Thursday night was no exception.
Following Malkin’s acceptance speech, emcee Bill Hillgrove turned the microphone over to Talbot in hopes of learning something new about Malkin that none of us new. As usual, Talbot did not disappoint.
“I can say he is a good cook,” Talbot told Hillgrove.
“A good cook?” Hillgrove asked.
“Is that surprising?” Talbot replied.
“Yes, it is surprising,” Hillgrove said. “What is his specialty?”
“Pierogies,” Talbot exclaimed. Watch Malkin's Speech on PensTV