As we ready our popcorn and PVRs for the debut of 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic, we count down the top 10 characters on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings we’re most excited to get to know better. No. 1: Pavel Datsyuk
They call him the Magic Man for the way he dangles the puck on ice. But inside the Red Wings dressing room Pavel Datsyuk is better known as the funny man, and not only because he dances to the tune of his own ringtone (James Brown’s “I Feel Good”) but because he gives amazing quotes like: “I want to be more shooter.”
He’s the most likeable player in the NHL, and arguably the most entertaining member of the Red Wings roster. But he’s also the hardest working man on skates most nights. We’ve become so accustomed to admiring his on ice prowess, we sometimes forget that for the first five years of his professional career he struggled to convince anyone outside Russia that he was any good.
But now he’s an institution unto himself: one of the only players left on the team who played alongside Red Wings greats like Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov. It was those last two who taught him how to speak English in 2001 when he got off the plane from Tatarstan and took his spot on a line between Brett Hull and Boyd Devereaux (two men with whom he succeeded to score but struggled to communicate).
Those who know Datsyuk say he’s a true player’s player, which helps explain why he won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy four times in a row. But might he also be the type to sit down inside his mansion with a bowl of Frosted Flakes and watch himself on the morning highlight reel?
Regardless, expect Datsyuk to embody that old Chekhovian line: “Man is what he believes.”
This guy believes he’s a great hockey player and an amateur comic. And so do we.