You show up at your weekly pickup hockey game and go to sign in. You look at the sheet and see that the first name on the list is Maxim Afinogenov.
Haha. Very funny. Some comedian decided to sign in as an NHL player. Clever joke.
Except last Tuesday at the Pelham Ice Rink in Pelham, Ala., it wasn’t a joke. Afinogenov, the 30-year-old Atlanta Thrashers right wing and a three-time Russian Olympian, was actually there, according to The Birmingham News.
With the Thrashers’ season over, Afinogenov was spending the week in nearby Birmingham to watch his tennis star girlfriend, Elena Dementieva, compete in the Fed Cup.
But Afinogenov had an itch for ice time, so he had his agent call up Jeff Cheeseman, the rink’s director of hockey.
Cheeseman said there was a pickup game every Tuesday night, and sure enough, Afinogenov showed up.
"He was very professional, sharing the puck and everything," Cheeseman told the paper.
But Afinogenov wanted something a little more competitive, so he came back again Thursday night to play with Birmingham Area Select Hockey (BASH), a league consisting of mostly former college and minor league players.
"As a general rule, we don't allow drop-ins. We made an exception," Cheeseman said.
Unlike Tuesday night, Afinogenov did a little less sharing and a little more dominating. Ten minutes in, his "Black team" was leading 7-2, and he had all seven goals.
He was then traded to the "White team," which came back to win 16-13. Afinogenov scored 10 goals in the comeback and was on the ice for the entire second and third periods.
"He told us he was looking for conditioning," Cheeseman said. "And besides, who was going to tell him to come off?"
Although Afinogenov may have skated circles around his competition, the regulars didn’t want to make it easy for the star.
"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 Chris Pronger. I think he can take a shoulder from you.'"
To Afinogenov’s credit, he fit right in with "the guys." According to the article, he participated in all the usual locker-room chatter both before and after the game.
As news got out that he was there, local kids began showing up with jerseys, sticks and pictures. Afinogenov hung around until he had signed them all.
"It was a lot of fun," Afinogenov said.
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