Every Penguins fan knows the story of Evgeni Malkin
, the Russian hockey superstar who came to Pittsburgh as a teenager without knowing English.
Malkin is also a hero back home in Russia, and one young fan decided to follow in his footsteps.
David Mnatsyan, 17, traveled to Pittsburgh from Omsk, Russia to be just like his idol. He earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Junior Penguins team – wearing No. 71 of course.
On Thursday, Mnatsyan went to Southpointe to watch the Penguins practice. Unfortunately, Malkin didn’t participate in the off-day practice. But it turned out to be a blessing for Mnatsyan.
While the rest of the team was out on the ice, he was invited into the locker room to meet his hero – Malkin.
“I’m so happy,” Mnatsyan said. “I love Malkin.”
The two struck up a conversation entirely in Russian, and Malkin talked to him about hockey and coming to America. Malkin also invited him to attend a game at CONSOL Energy Center.
“It’s good for him to come,” Malkin said. “It’s good to see what we do here and how we practice.
“It’s difficult to learn to speak English, but he lives with a good family so I think he’ll learn quick.”
Mnatsyan lives in a billet home with Bob Ardisson, who brought him to Southpointe Thursday.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” Ardisson said. “I wanted for him to experience his hero.”
Ardisson heard about Mnatsyan’s story and he couldn’t help but open up his home to the young hockey player.
“He had the heart to come over here from Russia, wanting to wear No. 71 and wanting to play in a Penguins uniform only,” Ardisson said. “He managed to get this done, so I thought this boy is not going back, so I’m going to give him a place to live.”
Not only was it a wonderful experience for Mnatsyan to meet his hero, it was refreshing for Malkin to hold a conversation in Russian again.
“I like Russian, so it was good for me to have a Russian kid here,” Malkin said. “He was very excited, and we had a good talk.”
Mnatsyan’s older brother, Samvel, currently plays professionally for HC Kladno in the Czech Extraliga – the team that also employs former Penguin Jaromir Jagr.
David has played for both the Junior Penguins A and B team, and he hopes to also play professionally.
“Who knows, maybe he’s the next superstar,” Malkin said. RELATED VIDEO: Evgeni Malkin and David Mnatsyan Meet >>