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Many this summer said that it was about time for Pavel Datsyuk to retire. After entering the prestigious Triple Gold Club as a winner of the Olympic Gold Medal, the IIHF World Championship, and the NHL Stanley Cup, the veteran forward may have won enough, after all. This may be true especially considering that he also lifted a Gagarin Cup with SKA in 2017 and several other accolades. However, Datsyuk’s passion for hockey proved to be bigger than anything else. Somewhat surprisingly, Datsyuk signed a new one-year deal with Avtomobilist in early July to return for another season. Many were puzzled by this decision, but Datsyuk only needed a handful of games to silence the skeptics. Currently, the 42-years-old forward is tied for second place in the KHL scoring race, with 12 (3+9) points in ten games.
Datsyuk was born in Yekaterinburg, where he started playing hockey for the local Yunost, then Dynamo, now folded. The young Pavel was often ignored by hockey personnel because of his small size, but later, he will have his revenge. He was then noted by a coach called Vladimir Krikunov — nowaday’s Dynamo Moscow bench boss — who took him under his wing in Kazan, after a severe knee injury in 1999. In Kazan, he had a breakout season, earning his first appearance on the international stage at the 2001 IIHF World Championship in Germany.
It was quite apparent that the young center was something special, and he was drafted in the NHL in 1998. In the 2001 offseason, Datsyuk crossed the ocean and signed with the Detroit Red Wings. There, he will play some exceptional hockey and become synonymous with the team and one of the franchise’s leaders. If excluding two stints in Russia with Dynamo Moscow and CSKA in the 2004 and 2012 lockouts, Datsyuk played a whopping 14 seasons with the Red Wings.
In Detroit, Datsyuk will conquer two Stanley Cups and a slew of individual accolades, including three best defensive forward awards and four best gentleman trophies. Datsyuk lifted his first Stanley Cup in 2002 as a rookie, but when he celebrated his second victory in 2008, he was a vital player of the team, scoring more than a point a game in the postseason and leading the league with an impressive +41 rating.
While representing the Detroit Red Wings, Datsyuk took part in three editions of the Olympic Games, winning bronze with Team Russia in Salt Lake City in 2002. He also skated in Five IIHF World Championships, helping Russia triumphing in 2012 at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. In the finals, Datsyuk was terrific, assisting Alex Semin twice and scoring himself in the third period as Russia won its twenty-sixth WC gold medal. The Yekaterinburg native also won a silver and two bronzes in his career.
After his contract in the NHL run out, Datsyuk decided to return home, signing with SKA St. Petersburg. Naturally, he was elected as the team’s captain and added a further line to his already impressive resume capturing the Gagarin Cup in 2017, his first year with SKA.
One year later, he will finally fulfill his dream as he conquered the gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Games, captaining the Russian delegation in his 40. After a further year in St. Petersburg, Datsyuk decided to get back to his roots, signing with Avtomobilist. The rest is recent history. The team’s board is trying hard to turn the Yekaterinburg franchise into one of the league’s contenders. While the mission isn’t accomplished yet, there are evident signs that the team is moving in the right direction. Avtomobilist is currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and its 42-years-old leader is determined to win yet another Gagarin Cup, this time from the East.