What idiot signed in as Maxim Afinogenov?

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

At Tuesday night’s adult pick-up hockey at the Pelham Ice Rink in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the players signing in asked a reasonable question: What idiot signed in as Maxim Afinogenov?

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.

The man known in hockey as “Mad Max” for his blazing speed up and down the ice has been in Birmingham all week with his girlfriend, Elena Dementieva, the top-ranked tennis player on the Russian team that plays the United States in a Fed Cup semifinal match that begins today at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena.

But with the Thrashers’ season over and training camp coming up for the Russian National Team, the Moscovite was looking for some ice time.

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”

I don’t play hockey, but this reminds me of the time I decided not to go to Chris Brennan’s Westside Tournament, and Genki Sudo, not yet a name in American MMA circles, decided to show up and compete. The first fighter he schooled was Bao Quach, one of Brennan’s best students and now a pro fighter.

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