Most who know me know that my favorite prospect in the Rangers system is Artem Anisimov, who currently plays for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. I followed him over in Russia after the Rangers drafted him, watched him in the World Junior Championships and Canada-Russia Super Series, read all the quotes and interviews by and about him in the Russian press, and came away just really liking the kid — both his skillset and personality. To give you an idea how much: I already own a game-worn Anisimov jersey, from his old Russian team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. It arrived earlier this month.
On Saturday night my husband I made the trip up to Hartford to see the Wolf Pack play the baby Devils. Unwilling to break a winning streak wearing my Rangers jersey to see the Pack play, my husband ended up with the Anisimov jersey for the night. During the first intermission as we were walking back to our seats, my husband was stopped by a very animated Russian man who kept repeating “Anisimov! Anisimov!” — among other things in Russian that I wasn’t able to pick up.
Being oblivious (as I often am) I didn’t realize right away that my husband had stopped, and when I doubled back to see what all the commotion was about, I found the two getting ready to pose for a photo. Never big on having my picture taken, I tried to move off to the side, but was motioned back into the frame excitedly with a “Nyet! nyet! Rangers! Rangers!” And so my husband and I smiled quizzically as our photo was taken with with this extremely excited Russian gentleman and then made our way back to our seats for the start of the second period.
It wasn’t until we got back to our seats that my husband turned to me and said “I think that was his dad.” No sooner than he said it than it clicked — they share the same eyes and lanky build. And, well, it made the whole exchange make a whole lot more sense. While I have been with a friend who was wearing a Frolunda Lundqvist jersey at the Garden when she was accosted by a group of crazy Swedes, being approached by such an animated, older Russian man at an AHL game in Hartford seemed an unlikely coincidence.
With all that in mind, we went off to wander around the concourse between the 2nd and 3rd periods, with the thought that we might bump into them again and confirm our suspicions. As it turns out, they (the man, a woman about the same age, and the younger woman who took the picture) were already looking for us, because the man immediately approached my husband and held out a hockey card — a signed Artem Anisimov Lokomotiv Yaroslavl card. Meanwhile, I was able to establish who they were with the younger woman, who turned out to be Anisimov’s girlfriend. Fortunately she spoke some English, because it was at that moment that just about everything I learned in four years of Russian language courses a dozen years ago escaped me.
Dad was extremely curious to know, via the girlfriend, “Why Artem?”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with the Russian to even begin to explain that I had followed his son’s old team since the lockout, and his son specifically from the moment the Rangers drafted him in June 2006. And I don’t think the girlfriend was able to make any sense of what I was saying in English. But it was clear that dad was blown away by the fact that his son already had fans in North America — especially fans crazy enough to buy his jersey!
All-in-all, it was an awesome experience that will likely stick with us for years to come. To be honest, it was probably more exciting than meeting Anisimov (the player) himself would have been. The pride and happiness on this man’s face was really something special to see. It really seemed like we’d totally made his night. In turn, he’d totally made ours.
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