How good are professionals?
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04-25-2010, 03:49 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Montreal, Qc
How good are pros?
The first name on the sign-in sheet for Tuesday night's adult pick-up hockey at the Pelham Ice Rink had to be a joke, right?
Turns out, the "idiot" actually was Afinogenov, the 30-year-old right-winger for the NHL Atlanta Thrashers, three-time Russian Olympian, and seven-time member of the Russian National Team that is competing in the IIHF World Championships next month in Germany.
Jeff Cheeseman, director of hockey for the Pelham Civic Center, couldn't believe it when he got the call from Afinogenov's agent.
"His agent said he wanted to skate," Cheeseman said. "So I told her we had an adult pick-up game on Tuesday nights, and (Afinogenov) showed up. We limit the number of players, so you have to sign in and pay $10. I made sure his name was first on the list."
But no, he didn't make Afinogenov pay the $10.
"He was very professional, sharing the puck and everything," Cheeseman said. "Then I told him we have a little better level of competition on Thursday nights with BASH (Birmingham Area Select Hockey). These are guys who played college or minor league, a few of the old Birmingham Bulls.
"As a general rule, we don't allow drop-ins. We made an exception."
The biggest problem Thursday turned out to be which team Afinogenov played with. He started out on the Black team and within 10 minutes the score was 7-2, with Afinogenov scoring all seven goals -- "the quickest paced 10 minutes we've ever played," Cheeseman said.
At that point he was "traded" to the White team, which wound up winning, 16-13.
"Of the 29 goals, Maxim scored 17, including the last three after it was tied, 13-13," Cheeseman said. "And he didn't come off the ice in either the second or third periods. He told us he was looking for conditioning. And besides, who was going to tell him to come off?"
Afinogenov, attending the Fed Cup pairings announcement at the Botanical Gardens on Friday, smiled when asked about the game and said, "It was a lot of fun."
This being hockey, you know someone had to try to take the Russian on.
"Not one guy walked away without saying they went after him," Cheeseman said.
"One of the guys asked me, 'What do you think would happen if I give him a shoulder?' I said, 'The guy plays in the same league with (well known NHL tough guy) Chris Pronger. I think he can take a shoulder from you."'
Afterward, Afinogenov hung around in the locker room talking. Word got out and kids started showing up with jerseys, sticks, and pictures hastily downloaded off the Internet.
Afinogenov signed them all, and went out of his way to thank the guys for letting him play.
Any time, they told him. Any time at all.
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