Russian team to go to court over Malkin defection

MOSCOW -- Russia's Metallurg Magnitogorsk
will go to court to seek compensation from the Pittsburgh Penguins
after the sudden disappearance of their best player, Evgeni
Malkin, the Superleague club's head said on Sunday.

"They all like to talk about democracy, the American way and
then they shamelessly steal our best players. This is pure
sports terrorism."
Gennady Velichkin, Metallurg Magnitogorsk general director

"We're all in shock," Gennady Velichkin said after Malkin,
Pittsburgh's No. 1 pick in 2004, secretly fled Metallurg's
training camp in Finland on Saturday just days after agreeing to a
new contract with the club.

"The players, coaching staff are also very upset because for
four days Malkin was training with the team and suddenly he is
gone without saying a word to anyone," he told Reuters in a
telephone interview.

Last week, Metallurg said that Malkin had annulled his
previous contract with the club, which would have kept him in
Magnitogorsk through April 2008. Instead, he had signed a new
one-year deal after which he would become a free agent.

But the young Russian, who turned 20 two weeks ago, has
always stated his desire to play in the National Hockey League, saying he wanted to prove himself at a higher level.

Velichkin blamed Malkin's American agents and his NHL club
for stealing Russia's best players.

"They all like to talk about democracy, the American way and
then they shamelessly steal our best players. This is pure
sports terrorism," said the Metallurg general director.

"Don't forget, Malkin is a young kid, he is still very naive
and it was easy for them to get into his head all that stuff
about the American dream and how great the NHL is," he added.

"The Pittsburgh owners are trying hard to sell the club, and
the price would be totally different if they had Malkin.

"But you can't just take our best players and expect to get
away with it."

The talented center, who has been compared with Pittsburgh
owner, the great Mario Lemieux, has been the most sought-after
player by the NHL this year.

Pittsburgh drafted Malkin second overall in 2004 behind
fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin, who took the NHL by storm
last season, winning the Calder Trophy as the best rookie.

Velichkin said the fact that Russia has refused to sign a
transfer deal with the NHL would not prevent his club from going
to court in the United States to seek compensation for Malkin.

Russia remained the only major hockey nation not to sign the
deal, which was approved by the International Ice Hockey
Federation in 2005.

"We've put so much effort, resources and money into Malkin's
development as a player. He was our gold diamond, our prize
possession. He had a contract with us, we were building the
whole team around him and now he is gone," Velichkin said.

"But don't think we'll just sit there and do nothing. We'll
go to court to get what we believe is proper compensation."

Under the transfer deal Magnitogorsk would have received a
basic $200,000 fee for Malkin while Metallurg reportedly wanted
at least 10 times more.

Velichkin declined to specify the sum he was seeking for
Malkin, pointing to similar deals involving soccer players.

"In soccer, a fee for a player of Malkin's caliber would be
into tens of millions of dollars," he said. "He is a franchise
player and we won't be satisfied with anything less."