Saturdays with Sully – Pavel and I

Pavel Valerievich Datsyuk, or Pavel Valerievich, if you want to be proper and use name and patronymic, as I do, and will throughout the rest of this epic, is not technically, legally, biologically, medically or chemically related to me, sadly. But being one of the best hockey players today, some day we may say of all time, and being amongst the most talented men in his field, has helped grant him a much higher status in my life than a simple, casual everyday moniker that every sport fan has, which is that of my favourite hockey player.


Just because he can force opponents into crashing into one another without looking up, seemingly of his own prescience, forcing one to immediately leave the ice injured; just because he can soccer-style kick the puck from one end of the ice to the other to set up a game-sealing goal, as though the extra lift that is the skate at the bottom of his boot were no different than wearing a soccer cleat; just because he can take every hit coming towards him from any sized opponent, from any angle, and dump them on their backs; and because he can move the puck between his own as well as opponents skates and around defencemen better than any other player, doesn’t really begin to show why I am such a fanatical follower of his.


He is different. He is legend, before his time. You see, many people do not know this about Pavel Valerievich, but he is an internationally renown superstar in more than just the rink. He is also a trickster, known for feats such as fooling the Sidclops into admitting that nobody stabbed him in his own eye, and inventing a horse that could carry attackers past the defenses of the famed ‘Bulin Wall. Pavel Valerievich was the first Muscovite man-child to figure out how to properly slay a six-headed zmey dragon using only a dagger, accomplishing this before his teens. By his mid-teens, he had traveled the entire Russian motherland on foot and conquered every single one of the tundra’s ice goblins under the watchful eye of the evil Chernobog, dodging each and every mischievous misdeed the god sent in his direction, including Coryperryian flying elbows. The waste he lay to the dark side of his world made him a marked man by the time he saw his twentieth winter, leaving him little choice but to leave his motherland and play hockey, the only sport he engages involving other mortals, here in our land, on our continent, under our watchful eyes.


I’d be a fool to say I haven’t missed a game of his since he joined our world, but it has all been completely against my will, I assure you this. Now Guilherme has proven Darren Helm to be a god, God, according to him, and I won’t argue that. I will simply break away from the Orthodox monotheistic approach and imply that Datsyuk’s supernatural abilities place him the the upper pantheon of the same set of hockey gods we worship. One is a warrior, the other, a trickster, but both don the red in honour of the blood we give them to see them perform their miracles each season.


He is a god. He is, God. He is both hero and trickster. Saviour and comedian, wrapped in one red and white package and numbered with a one and a three, not that artistic genius such as his needs any labeling, it’s merely a formality to conform to the league standards. Do you recall his exploits against Dallas in 2008? Sure, we already that no wall in existence can stop his blade, and though we were well aware of his cunning, I don’t think Turco had nearly the preparation necessary for dealing with Datsyuk, even though he had more than most. Shuffling the puck with his skates to lose a defender he can’t even see; dodging a Morrow hit along the boards by looking through the back of his own head; playing the body when they least expect, all added to his trickery but nothing topped Game 3, a game in which I was taking a Mid-Term for Surface Mine Design (the author would like to let you know, said test was absolutely and completely nailed, by the by).


This was one of Pavel Valerievich’s finest feats, this is where he scored three goals, and yet remains in the hunt for Larry Murphy’s record of ‘Most Two-Goal Games without a Hat-Trick.’ “Impossible!” Most declare. “Improbable,” I say. Either way, just another playoff game for Pavel Valerievich. Without a moments hesitation for takeaways, hits or shots, he saw through his lead-crystal visor with a clarity only the divine can obtain. Everything the man did, still does, is so unpredictable and impossible to defend. It’s why he made such a good inspiration for Sun-Tzu all those years ago.


[Author’s Note: Pavel Valerievich is also responsible for most of the recommendations of Russian Literary classics in my library, which comprises a modest section of my literature, from Gogol and Pushkin to Bely, Bulgakov and Nabokov. And no, I don’t mean the Nabokov that stands on his head in the regular season and then gets perforated with Mule-shot once the postseason gets underway. I mean the Nabokov that writes absolute filth that I can never recommend to anyone, especially close friends and family. Yet somehow, it’s marvelous. And on a further note, this Author’s Note, I’d like to mention that Pave Valerievich is the mastermind, and chief advisor, behind the Mule’s takeover of the first Foundation. That’s for you, science fiction nerds.]


The man knows no limits to his pranks, either. Pulling trickery on the media is one of his specialties. If there were a saying of some such foolishness that started out with “if I had a nickel,” and ended with “for everytime Pavel Valerievich pretended not to speak english well enough to answer questions clearly for the media,” it could only be left to imply that someone would be unrighteously rich. But somehow, his evasions are done with a subtle class and adorable shyness, making him a master of charm and deception. It’s true that if he were cast as the Soviet/Russian villain in any Bond movie, Bond would have to die, both for accuracy of the situation as well as to please the fans. But fortunately, at least for British people, with the luck that only Fate and Pavel Valerievich can control, he has never been cast into such nonsense.


I wish so badly to be like him, in anything I do. Sadly, I was not him, in any field. I never had the talent for anything, save building legos, that he offers in his career, and because I can’t get paid by anyone other than James May for building legos, and because that probably wouldn’t even cover the cost of buying the building blocks in the first place, I remain a phony, untalented sod. Yes, I’d like to compare myself more to the, and don’t take this the wrong way, Kirk, Kirk Maltby’s of the world. If there were only a more accurate way of describing my youth, my playground behaviour, I’d take that path. But, being the talentless hack that I am, I’ll settle for this, a Kirk Maltby comparison: You are at an elementary school, you look upon the children at various sections of the playground, a swingset area, all booked up with twenty or so swings all rotating about the same axis, a soccer field in front of this running parallel its axis, a gazebo behind that, this area surrounded by baskteball courts; and trees and concrete walls on opposite sides of that, and everywhere, cliques are dominating the various sections, one clique per one designated play area, and no one can share because no one knows how to make a clique step down or even move aside and share, until one little A-hole walks into the center of a rival clique and, without knowing what is said, draws their ire and punches start flying in from all conceivable directions. Now, after the teachers break this up they feel bad for the kid who got punched the most, right in the face, and he pleads his case, rather eloquently if I may say so myself, that he simply “wanted to play basketball today” or “wanted to swing, just once, just to feel the wind in my hair,” and avoids any and all punishments, and, what’s more, is further rewarded, he and his gang, the designated play area.


That went on for years, and the best part is that I don’t quite remember anything I said at any time to any one to get them to lose their temper, but I do recall a lot of their mothers being involved in the conversations. That was my war, not an epic, not as Pavel Valerievich could have it, but what can I do? I am a mortal, whereas he has Datsyukian divinity, as well as new words and new nicknames with every highlight. The only thing I really have in common with Pavel Valerievich is our passion for Detroit Red Wings hockey, and maybe a similarly crooked grin. But it ends there, much to my great, epic dismay.