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From Sports Illustrated: all about Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk

As noted by the Red Wings’ website, Pavel Datsyuk was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward, and Sports Illustrated’s Brian Cazenueve profiled the Wings forward in nothing less than a frame-worthy article:

THE RED WINGS discovered Datsyuk as a teenager quite by accident in 1997, when their chief European scout Hakan Andersson went to Moscow to watch someone else. Instead he saw the 19-year-old Datsyuk, then about 5’7” and 150 pounds—he goes 5’11”, 194 now—but with magic hands and hockey sense beyond his years. Andersson convinced Holland to take the wispy sprite with the 171st pick in the 1998 entry draft. Datsyuk was certain his Dynamo club teammates were kidding when they told him he’d been drafted into the NHL. “They showed me the newspaper two days later,” Datsyuk says, “And I thought, ‘O.K., printing mistake.’”

He also wondered, So now what? Life in his hometown of Sverdlovsk (which has since reclaimed its pre-Soviet name of Yekaterinburg), an industrial city near the Ural Mountains, had been so simple. His family’s fourth-floor walk-up overlooked an outdoor rink. He learned to anticipate hockey moves by playing chess several hours a week, and he developed outstanding balance and his ability to control pucks with his skates by playing ice soccer. His mother, Galina, a cook, died when he was 16—his father, Valery, a van driver, passed away a few years later—after she had taught him the humility that defines him on and off the ice. When Pavel met his future wife, Svetlana, at age 18, he was too modest to tell her he was a hockey player. Though Datsyuk has often been praised for his unselfish passing game, he says it was actually born of practicality. “I didn’t like to shoot,” he says, “because I didn’t want to buy a new stick if I broke one.”

When Datsyuk showed up for Detroit’s rookie camp in 1999, Holland had no idea what he was getting. Other skilled, undersized European players were intent on showing off by making risky offensive plays, but Datsyuk was almost too modest to flaunt his abilities. “He was always high in the offensive zone, very safe,” Holland recalls. “I didn’t see him as a very dynamic player.”

After letting Datsyuk work on his game in Russia for two more years, the Red Wings finally brought him to Detroit in 2001. The Wings won the Cup that season, and Datsyuk knew he had found a home. In an early-season game in L.A., his giveaway had led to a Kings overtime goal. The next day the team was on a bus to the rink when teammate Igor Larionov, a 40-year-old fellow Russian, consoled him. “He expected the coaches to yell at him or something bad,” Larionov recalls. “It was my job to tell him it was O.K. ‘Learn from it. You’ll be better,’ I told him.”

Datsyuk wasn’t a goal scorer right away. He scored just 23 goals over his first two seasons, and the Detroit brass told him to shoot more often. The next year he scored 30. They asked him to work on face-offs, so he’d repeat them after practice as if they were a detention punishment. “He had these natural gifts of an All-Star,” recalls captain Nicklas Lidstrom, “but he also worked and worked at all the little things the way a fourth-line guy would. That’s why what you see today is one of the best players in the NHL.”

Continued, and the article’s more than worth your time.

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SYF's avatar

Unbelievably good article.  One of the very rare pieces that makes SI a good read.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 04/27/11 at 01:25 PM ET

Nate A's avatar


Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 04/27/11 at 01:41 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Pavs is hilarious:

Did he like winning the Lady Byng in a game that esteems rugged play? “Sure,” he says. “I like ladies.” Asked about his first thought when he has to rush back on defense, he says, “Must get back before Holmstrom, so he’s the slow one and not me.” He claims to have found a silver lining in the broken hand he suffered in December: “When the cast comes off, I ask my doctor, ‘Have I recovered so I can play the violin?’ The doctor says, ‘But of course you can play the violin.’ I say, ‘Wow, this is great. Before this injury, I could never play violin at all. I must break the other hand so I can play guitar.’”

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 04/27/11 at 01:55 PM ET

perfection's avatar

so awesome.

he’s been the best hockey player on the planet for several years now. i’m really glad the rest of the world are noticing. Ovechkin, Crosby, Sedins…. they’ve got nothing on the guy.

much like Lidstrom before him, Dats is one of those players that no matter how much praise he gets, you get the sense that he’s underrated. Even as Lidstrom won Norris after Norris, you always got the sense that the world simply never knew just how good he really was. Even when it became the consensus that he was the best in the league and top 5 of all time, it was several years after most of us around here knew that fact. Lidstrom should have won probably 3 or 4 Norris trophies before he won his first. Same thing with Dats. Only the last two seasons have I started to hear all of the “best all around player” talk around the league and mass media. and even then, it seems like “all around” is often used as a qualifier rather than an emphasizer.

Fact is, he’s been the best all around player for probably 5 years. He’ll never get an MVP trophy (like Lidstrom) because he is simply undervalued on such a great team. He’s not going to score 60 goals because he doesn’t need or want to as it would take away from his defensive responsibility. Yet he is undoubtedly the most talented and effective player in the league if not the world. It’s astounding when you see a super aggressive team suddenly realize HE has the puck and everyone just suddenly backs off. You can almost see their knees quake. He makes world class athletes look like beginners. He’s simply in a league of his own.   

I assume Kessler will beat him out for the Selke this year and while Kessler is a great player, I don’t think he was better than Datsyuk at EITHER offense or defense this year, Pav’s injury and Kessler’s gaudy goal #‘s included. The Selke should simply be renamed ‘the Datsyuk’... and for that matter, the Lady Byng should just be renamed the “lady Datsyuk”

someday, 13 will be in the rafters where it belongs. and it definitely won’t read ‘Kozlov’ either

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/27/11 at 03:09 PM ET

perfection's avatar

uh… i meant ‘Kesler’.... i hate when i misspell players names… unless their super foreign and then i don’t feel as dumb

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/27/11 at 03:12 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Great article.  Pav is a one of a kind gem.  Thank goodness Andersson spotted him.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 04/27/11 at 04:40 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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