Datsyuk's home away from home
And having Pavel Datsyuk contractually bound to Detroit for the next five years is good news for hometown hockey fans. As the Red Wings enter their first-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets (Game 1 is 7 p.m., Thursday, on FSN), Datsyuk is coming off his fifth straight season leading the Red Wings in scoring.
That's a feat accomplished before only by Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman.
"Pavel is one of the top five forwards in the game today," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who considers Datsyuk a candidate for the Hart, Selke and Lady Byng trophies. "He plays offense, defense, kills penalties, on the power play … you can use him in any situation."
Two years ago when Datsyuk was deciding his hockey future, the connection between Detroit and his hometown of Ekaterinburg, Russia, led him to staying put. Datsyuk signed a seven-year contract and became part of the long-term foundation of the Red Wings. Subsequently, Detroit has signed Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Brian Rafalski, Valtteri Filppula, Brad Stuart and Dan Cleary to long-term deals.
"I didn't want to test the water anywhere else," said Datsyuk. "I'm comfortable here. I feel like this is my second home."
Datsyuk's first home, Ekaterinburg, is the third largest city in Russia with more than a million inhabitants. Southeast of Moscow, Ekaterinburg is a factory town noted for its military production, so much so that some areas of the city are inaccessible without identification cards.
Datsyuk was the son of a driver -- transporting people in a van -- and grew up like most in Ekaterinburg in an apartment in the city. Datsyuk said that houses were mostly outside the city limit and for second homes for well-to-do apartment dwellers.
Ekaterinburg's hockey teams are sponsored by auto makers and carry the name Avtomovilist. Datsyuk came up through the hockey program in Ekaterinburg, leaving at the age of 22 to play for a bigger club team, Ak Bars Kazan.
A year later, he was in the NHL.
As a youth player, Datsyuk was caught in Russian politics and was never selected to represent his nation in the World Junior Championships. Since coming to Detroit, however, Datsyuk has established himself as one of the best in the world.
In both of the past two seasons, Datsyuk finished fourth in the NHL in scoring. He did that last season while playing good enough defense to be names the league's top defensive forward. He led the NHL in plus-minus a year ago and finished third in that category this season. He is dominant in the new statistic of takeaways, finishing first or second in each of the past three seasons and holding the league record with 144 in 2007-08.
The hard work with attaining those successes is easily paralleled with Datsyuk's two home cities -- Detroit and Ekaterinburg.
"Both have nice people, hard-working people," said Datsyuk. "Detroit is like my city. Hard-working city, industrial."
With this notable exception: "Lots of people walk back home. Not so much here," said Datsyuk.