The wild journey that Artemi Panarin led to the fame of the Rangers


Now there is everything.

The money and the fame. The contagious smile under the auburn hair. The fiancee and the dog pose on Instagram.

On the ice, it is the overflowing talent that exceeds even the highest expectations. It is the big goals and the better templates. It's the little defense games and the puck protection. And it's the leg kick festival, waving the crowd and giving sticks away over the boards.

Artemi Panarin is ready to become a star like few Rangers have before him. He has the ability to hold the Big Apple in the palm of his hand. It is almost unimaginable where he came from – and what he had to do to get here.

"A million stories," Rangers team president John Davidson told Post. "It is fascinating."

Panarin would like to bring his grandparents to a game in the garden, but he doesn't think this will happen this year. They would need passports and Panarin is not yet ready to accept them while he is furnishing his newly acquired home in Greenwich, Conn. But the 28-year-old does not lose the fact that it was her victim and they raised her, since his parents separated when he was 3 months old, took him to where he is today.

But Manhattan is still far from Korkino in Russia.

"I'm sure grandpa wants [to come]I'm not sure about Grandma, ”Panarin jokingly told The Post before the long four-road road trip ended Saturday night in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It's a lot of flying for old people."

Artemi Panarin the Rangers. Artemi Panarin carries his World Cup medal with his grandfather Vladimir Levin.
Artemi Panarin carries his World Cup medal with his grandfather Vladimir Levin. (Panarin family photo)

Korkino is a mining town with approximately 40,000 inhabitants, more than 1,000 miles east of Moscow, near the northern border of Kazakhstan. It was 1992, just a few months after the fall of the Soviet Union, that Panarin was adopted by his grandparents Vladimir and Nina Levin.

When he first told The Athletic the story, there is a big difference between arm and arm. Panarin had the bare minimum, but it was not easy to find your way around.

Vladimir was a celebrated hockey player, but he never made it out of Korkino, but he wanted Artemi to play and he wanted him to make it.

So Vladimir found ice skates on the local ice rink that his grandson would fit in by wearing his sneakers. Vladimir found gloves with holes in the palms and patched leather from old boots. Nina sewed jerseys together and upgraded the rest of the equipment to at least fit something.

When Panarin was 8 years old, he practiced six days a week on an old ice rink in Chelyabinsk, less than an hour away. The other guys were always making fun of his equipment and Vladimir's old car. If the car broke down, as was often the case, Panarin would take the bus. Nina sewed a secret pocket in Panarin's pants so that predatory robbers could not get the little money he had.

"I think he has a lot of respect for who really helped him as a child," said Davidson.

When Panarin was 13, he was expelled from the top youth club in Chelyabinsk, and a friend's father founded a boarding school in Moscow, Podolsk, which is associated with a team in the country's top pro league, the KHL. It was a two-day bus ride to Podolsk, but when Panarin showed up, he was equipped for new equipment. Panarin had new gloves for the first time in his life and suddenly felt the puck. It was a revelation.

I don't know [would] playing in the NHL five years ago, six years ago. I thought I didn't [a] Chance to do so. I was not drafted. – Artemi Panarin

He spent four years in Podolsk and returned to Korkino in the summer. He made his KHL debut as a 17-year-old in 2008/09, but jumped from the top team, Chekhov Vityaz, to the second division. The outbreak was successful at the 2011 Junior World Championships in Buffalo when his Russian team beat Canada 3-0 in the gold medal game. Panarin scored, Russia got two more, and then he got the winner with 4:38 in regulation.

He remembered that after this gate he had packed his sweater and shouted "Korkino!"

Panarin established itself in the KHL, won a championship with SKA St. Peterburg and attracted the attention of the NHL clubs. In April 2015, he signed an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks, and the dream came true.

"I don't know that I am [would] played in the NHL five years ago, six years ago, "said Panarin." I thought I didn't [a] Chance to do so. I was not drafted. "

He stopped.

"So," he said with a smile and a shrug, "good luck to me."

When Panarin's entry-level deal was done, the Blackhawks signed a two-year, $ 12 million contract to make the stupid mistake of swapping it for the Blue Jackets as part of the deal that brought Brandon Saad back. When it happened, Chicago winger Patrick Kane said he was "emotional" and "disappointed". The blue jackets, which Davidson managed at the time, were thrilled.

"For me, it exceeded Columbus expectations," said Davidson. "He's a great player and an equally good person. He's a player who makes the game entertaining and does the job. There aren't many players in sports, in time and in hockey who can do that. It is a fascinating package. "

Artemi Panarin
Artemi Panarin with the Blackhawks in 2016.Paul J. Bereswill

Panarin was always grateful for his time in Columbus, and Davidson did everything to prevent Panarin from leaving after signing his contract last season. But Panarin had been honest with the club from the start and had explained how he had the bright lights of a big city in his sights. Nothing is bigger and brighter than New York.

Shortly after Davidson took over the Rangers, Panarin signed a seven-year contract for $ 81.5 million. With so many of Rangers' previous free agent signings blown up, there was a lot of pressure.

Panarin has started to meet expectations with one of the best statistical starts in franchise history. He scored 22 goals and 55 points in the first half of the season and ended Saturday's third defeat in Vancouver. Panarin has immediately become a popular teammate and a respected leader. And he does everything with a smile.

"He was excellent for us," said coach David Quinn. "I actually asked him," Is this the best hockey you've ever played? "And he paused and wondered if it was. And he said," Ah, not sure. "He didn't mean to say that it was the best hockey he'd ever played, but statistically it seems.

“He has always been a great player in this league and from the very first minute when he got here. But he's better than I thought. "

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Panarin's arrival was Ryan Strome, the 26-year-old who has a career year ahead as a restricted free agent while playing as Panarin's center. Strome also understands pure talent after playing four years with John Tavares and two years with the Islanders and Connor McDavid in Edmonton. Playing as the center of Panarin was something special.

"He has an incredible personality and the boys absolutely love him," said Strome. "He was very special for me and this group."

After one of his first preparatory games, Panarin talked to a few reporters and asked if his English was getting better. It was, he was told.

"Well," he said, "I've got seven years to get better."

This is a promising thought for the Rangers, who are already amazed at how hard he works, how committed he is to getting better and how much he loves the game.

"Signing free agents is difficult, generally it's too many years and too much money. That's exactly what it is," said Davidson. "A lot of people had the question," Is he coming to New York or playing he for the Rangers? ". He more than answered this question. And we knew it.

"He has a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eye – but he's a competitor. He's a big competitor."

The blueshirts also hope that he can accelerate this reconstruction – how can he not? – and turn them into a competitive team sooner rather than later. Panarin is already a ranger, but added: "There is room for more pleasure."

And thinking about where it all started, where it is now, where everything could go – it's amazing.

"My life has really changed in the past three or four years," said Panarin. "Thats good very good."

You can find more information about the Rangers in the latest episode of the podcast "Up In The Blue Seats":