Evgeni Malkin: The Epitome of a Pittsburgh Pro Athlete

Matt HunterCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2009

Ham. Lambert. Greene. Lemieux. Clemente. Stargell. 

All these men have worn the black and gold of their respective Pittsburgh franchises. 

They are all poster-men for what a Pittsburgh athlete ought to be. Hard-hitting, hard-working, triumph in the face of adversity, playing with great intensity, and never giving up are perfect summations of these athletes.

These men, along with many other Pittsburgh athletes have shown these qualities, and have shown the rest of the world that just like them, Western Pennsylvania is a group of blue-collared people who are willing to do anything to win.

In today's sports, fans are beginning to see more "pretty boys" than anything. These players want to make money starring in commercials rather than out on the field.

Yet there are still players all around every league that still posses that attitude of earlier days. In those days, the harder you played, the better your team did, and the success of the team determined how well you were paid.

In current times with our Pittsburgh athletes, we are still getting that kind of play, but not like many of our parents or older generations saw with the Steelers and Pirates of the 70s, or the Penguins of the early 90s.

I believe though that one Pittsburgh Penguin in particular possesses all the traits that I listed above, and that player is Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is a player who rivals as one of the best in the league, but he never showboats or lets people know that. This is partly because he is too shy to speak English. Every game Malkin plays with the intensity and heart as if it were a the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

He is a goal scorer who still throws his weight around as if he were an enforcer. That is something that you do not see very much these days in the NHL. Players are beginning to be more specialized in certain criteria in the NHL, and it’s refreshing to watch the type of hockey Malkin plays.

He faced adversity last year when Sidney Crosby was sidelined with an ankle injury, and was left to lead the team who was also without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

His leadership and ability to keep a team on track for a little bit is yet another great aspect to put on his résumé.

Malkin never slows down. He keeps his feet moving at all times while on the ice, and is always trying to make a play or stop the other team from making one. By the time his shift is over, he is bent over with his stick on his knees, and completely spent from his time on the ice.

What makes that such an incredible thing is that he does this game after game for an entire season. He never gives up on plays, and even when his team seems like they are down and out he is still giving it his all to pull them back.

Penguins fan have seen this plenty of times this season and last, where the Pens seemed to have lost a game, and Malkin takes it upon himself to throw the team on his back and take over games. He did it against the Tampa Bay Lightning two weeks ago.

Even though Malkin is at times overshadowed by Sidney Crosby, he still cannot overshadow his hard work, grit, and intensity that we see every night he plays hockey.

That is what makes Evgeni Malkin the epitome of a Pittsburgh professional athlete. 

When he hangs his skates up in the future, I am willing to bet that his name can be added to the list of Pittsburgh legends that have given Pittsburgh sports the reputation that it has today.