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Friday, September 15, 2006
Russian court bans Malkin from playing in NHL


MOSCOW -- A Russian arbitration tribunal issued a court order on Friday prohibiting prized rookie Evgeni Malkin from playing in the National Hockey League.

Evgeni Malkin
Mario Lemieux (right) welcomed Evgeni Malkin into the Penguins family.

Malkin signed a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins worth at least $3 million this month after leaving his club Metallurg Magnitogorsk last month to pursue a hockey career in the NHL.

The tribunal ruled that the 20-year-old, who had signed a new one-year contract with his Russian club just days before fleeing to the United States, cannot play anywhere except in Magnitogorsk.

Metallurg have said they will seek compensation of at least $2 million for Malkin from Pittsburgh.

"Metallurg has several options," American lawyer Alexander Berkovich, representing Magnitogorsk, told Reuters by telephone from New York.

"The first option is to seek enforcement of the Russian arbitration award in a U.S. court. This is pursuant to the [1958] treaty for the enforcement of tribunal awards to which both the U.S. and Russia are signatories.

"Other options for Magnitogorsk include filing a lawsuit against the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a U.S. court."

Malkin's defection has sparked a bitter conflict between Russian hockey officials and their North American counterparts.

"This is pure sports terrorism," said Metallurg general director Gennady Velichkin after accusing the NHL of stealing Russia's best players.

The NHL said it would not negotiate compensation packages with any Russian club after the Russians refused to sign a transfer agreement with the North American league.

Russia remains the only major hockey power not to join the deal, approved by the International Ice Hockey Federation in 2005. Under the agreement Metallurg would have received a basic $200,000 fee for Malkin.