Sure, the Penguins and Capitals may be two of the NHL’s biggest rivals. And yes, each team features an incredibly talented Russian superstar – Evgeni Malkin
for the Penguins, Alex Ovechkin for the Capitals.
|Commemorative Lokomotiv patch |
But they’re all setting aside their differences to team up for a great cause when Washington comes to Pittsburgh on Oct. 13, as the two teams today announced a joint effort to raise money for the families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the KHL team that perished in a plane crash Sept. 7 in Russia.
Penguins and Capitals players wore jerseys with commemorative Lokomotiv patches at the Oct. 13 game, then autograph the game-worn and game-issued jerseys afterward and auction them off at nhl.com. All proceeds benefited the Lokomotiv players’ children and families.
This initiative means a lot to Malkin, who grew up in Magnitogorsk and played in the KHL before being drafted by the Penguins in 2004. He made a heartfelt statement last month urging hockey fans to always remember those lost in the crash and to keep them and their families in their prayers – and is now getting the opportunity to do more for those affected.
“We were born in Russia. We knew those guys and played with those guys with the national team,” Malkin said. “We need to help their families.”
|Malkin and Ovechkin are teaming up for a great cause. (Getty Images) |
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
said he and the entire team are behind Malkin as he tries to help in any way he can, as this horrible tragedy has a far reach in the close-knit hockey world.
“Geno knew some guys and family members and things like that that were involved with that, so we’re aware of what he’s doing and we’re behind him 100 percent,” he said. “That’s a great thing they’re doing. We were all pretty saddened by that.”
While Malkin has been the driving force behind the event, he credited his teammates and the organization for their support and for making his ideas into a reality.
“Not me, it’s the whole team, the Pittsburgh organization,” he said. “We talked to Ray (Shero) and we had a couple ideas to sell bracelets and jerseys. I played with the guys in the plane crash. I knew them. It was all of our idea.”
Malkin and Ovechkin will participate in a ceremonial opening faceoff.
Both players, who have been sometimes portrayed as Russian rivals since Ovechkin, 26, was selected No. 1 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft while Malkin, 25, was taken No. 2 overall, know how important it is for them as Russian NHLers to step up and help in any way they can.
“I know Alex. We talked to him,” Malkin said. “We had ideas to sell jerseys Oct. 13 and do an auction.”
Wives and girlfriends of the Pens and Caps players also will be selling remembrance bracelets to benefit the Lokomotiv families. The Capitals’ event will take place at their home opener on Oct. 8 against Carolina at Verizon Center. The Penguins’ event will coincide with the Oct. 13 game.
“You just try to help in any way you can – for us, for Geno, for those guys. They’re able to be a part of something, to help,” Crosby said. “That’s just being a good neighbor, being a good person, trying to make sure you can help out in any way you can. As hockey players we have a pretty good opportunity to do that and they’re doing the most with it.”