happy birthday, mr. president

tcxmC3VXZF9EnHdvgAwZSj0APYKZHt6g

Say It’s Your Birthday: Vladimir Putin on the ice with teammates, including Valery Kamensky and Alexander Mogilny. (Photo: kremlin.ru)

He said he would — at least, his spokesman said he would — and he did it: Russian President Vladimir Putin played hockey in Sochi on Wednesday on his 63rd birthday. The game was broadcast live on Russian TV; as the teams of former professional stars and oligarchs and politicians (including Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu) put to ice, Russian naval vessels in the Caspian Sea began a missile bombardment of targets in Syria.

TASS.ru reports that Putin’s team won, 15-10 in a game in which International Ice Hockey Federation president René Fasel served as referee. I guess the victors could gave done without Pavel Bure’s hattrick, but Putin’s seven goals were obviously vital to the effort. After the game, Russian Ice Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak awarded the Putin a medal for gall. That, or else it was the nation’s highest hockey award, recognizing loyalty to and love for the game.

A detail of Nikas Safronov's Putin portrait (russieinfo.com)

A detail of Nikas Safronov’s Putin portrait (russieinfo.com)

None of that’s surprising. I am puzzled that they didn’t let Putin score all the goals, but he seems to have to been satisfied with just the seven. And it’s not as though there weren’t other gifts, as well. His teammates presented him with a portrait of himself garbed for hockey, in mid-crossover, by the painter Nikas Safronov.

BBC Russia reported that the rapper Timati recorded a song for Putin, along with a video filmed in Moscow’s Square, called “My Best Friend,”

in which he calls Putin calls his “white lord,” “the most desirable man to all Russian women” and “a great hero.”

Meanwhile, in the president’s honour, (from wired.co.uk):

Luxury Russian jeweller Caviar has released a limited edition iPhone 6s that features a golden emblem of Putin’s head. But you had best be quick — Caviar is only selling 63 of the gold and titanium phone, and each costs £2,000.

There were more paintings, too, and not just in Sochi. An exhibition called “Putin Universe” got underway this week in both London and Moscow, collecting 30 works in which the Russian supremo has been painted — non-ironically, as far as I can tell — as figures from history, including Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali, and Robin Hood.

Finally, there’s … well, I’m not quit sure what to make of the Irina Romanovskaya chapter of the president’s birthday. As you probably already knew, she’s an artist in St. Petersburg who paints with her breasts. Were you aware of the Putin portrait she recently executed, all in blue, using only her left breast?

No, I wasn’t either, for a long, long time before yesterday. I thought at first there had to be an interesting reason why she does what she does, but I don’t think that now. There’s no evidence of that. You can read about her oeuvre here, and even witness her method, if that’s something you want to do. Romanovskaya apparently travelled with the Putin portrait to Moscow this week with the idea of presenting it to the man itself. Not to spoil the birthday mood, but I have to report that at last word the painting had been stolen before she could make the president’s day.

iphone putin

this week + last month: we had way better radar detection than germany, crosby said

Presidential Puck: With joy in his heart and Alex Ovechkin on his team, Vladimir Putin faced off in Sochi last week against a team of gifted children.

Майк Кинэн is thinking about trading in his Canadian citizenship for Russian.

Sorry: Mike Keenan, coach of the defending KHL champions Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Really? Seriously? Seriously. Though as Keenan, who’s 65 and has been coaching in the KHL since 2013, was telling the media in Russian last month, it’s nothing certain yet.

“I’m happy to live and work in Russia,” he said. “No one is saying that it will happen, that I have decided, but I would be interested to explore this possibility.”

Asked what they might think in Canada, how his family would react, he’s reported to have laughed. “It’s only my decision.”

And what about coaching the Russian national team? Would he consider that? His diplomatic answer to that one was that there are plenty of good Russian candidates. If he could lend a hand as a consultant, though … well, why not?

“I have a certain knowledge of the Canadian, American teams — that could be handy. If they approached me for advice, I would be glad,” he said.

Dante Redux: Finnish former irksome winger Jarkko Ruutu published a memoir last week.

Dante Redux: Finnish former abrasively irksome winger Jarkko Ruutu published a memoir last week.

Finnish former right winger Jarkko Ruutu published a memoir this week. In the NHL, where he played for Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Anaheim, he’s best remembered as, what, an agitator, pest, troublemaker? His book, only available in Finnish so far, bears a title that translates to The Divine Comedy. “Sport, great drama and purgatory!” his publisher promises in some of its promotional matter. “Jarkko Ruutu was a rink terrorist and nutcase, an entertainment package beyond compare.”

Ron MacLean phoned Don Cherry for the first time since the Stanley Cup Final to talk about Cherry’s love of Toronto Blue Jays’ third baseman Josh Donaldson. Cherry also paid his respects to Al Arbour, bespectacled defenceman and many-Cup-winning coach, who died on August 28 at the age of 82. “When you talk to his players, like Kelly Hrudey, they all say the same thing,” Cherry tweeted. “He was tough but he was fair. And everyone to a man say they loved him.”

Also, heads up, everybody. “I don’t know if you know it or not,” began another of Don Cherry’s recent tweet cascades, “but a policeman can come into your house, take your dog and have it put down.”

Sidney Crosby made a salad for himself at Pete’s Fine Foods in downtown Halifax. I guess at the salad bar there? For lunch. He had some egg whites, too, and an orange juice, all of which cost him about ten bucks, and which he “consumed around a small table on a publicly accessible balcony overlooking the cash registers.”

Point being? He’s a humble man, Crosby, modest, keeps a low profile during the off-season in Nova Scotia, where he drives not-new Chevy Tahoe and doesn’t expect special treatment despite having earned something like US$17 million last season in salary, endorsements and memorabilia — he “remains most comfortable in sandals or sneakers, athletic gear and a cap.”

That’s what Jason Mackey found, a reporter for The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who ventured north to spend some summer time with the Penguins’ captain and hear him say that he while he tries to stick to a sensible pro-athlete kind of a diet, he also crushes Timbits when he can.

Also: Crosby finished up a college course last season, offered online by Southern New Hampshire University. Mackey doesn’t say which one, but the clues point to HIS241: World War II.

“The material was easy,” Crosby said, “because you’re traveling and you can read. If you have to write a paper and it’s not coming that quickly and you don’t have that much time, you don’t enjoy it as much. You’re just trying to get it done.

“It was nine years since I had done anything school-related. It was a pretty big wakeup call.”

Crosby’s final exam was writing a paper on the influence of radar in World War II.

“We had a way better radar detection than Germany,” Crosby said.

Another former NHL-playing Bure, Pavel’s younger brother Valeri, makes a high-end cabernet sauvignon that’s very popular. Eric Duhatschek was writing about this in The Globe and Mail, all the hockey players who are getting into the wine business.

99wineMaybe you’ve enjoyed a bottle of Wayne Gretzky’s Pinot Noir, his Riesling, 2012 No.99 Cabernet Franc Ice-wine. But did you know that Igor Larionov had a pretty great shiraz a few years ago and still does brew up small batches of “a high-end cab” for his own table?

Former Los Angeles Kings’ centreman Jimmy Fox is delving deeper into the art and the business. As he told Duhatschek, what he likes about wine is that it’s not hockey. On the nothockeyness of wine, he said

“Pro sports is always about the final score and there is a black and whiteness to that which, when I was an athlete, was extremely attractive to me. I loved knowing at the end of the day how you did, and the score told you.

“Wine gives me almost the opposite feeling and it’s probably something I was looking for subconsciously. Wines are scored too, but more than with hockey, it is about the process. There is an artistic element to wine. There is a chemistry element to wine. There is a terroir element to wine. There are so many different elements and I felt that that combination of all those things was so intriguing to me. It really made me expand the way I thought about a lot of things.”

“I don’t do any conditioning during the summer,” Ottawa Senators’ captain Erik Karlsson said upon his return to the capital with looking big and brown with an expanded head. At least I think that’s what the headline on Ken Warren’s article in The Ottawa Citizen was saying:

Karlsson returns to Ottawa with a bigger mindset

“I’ve been able to put on weight and keep it on,” Karlsson said, after skating Tuesday for the first time since the club was eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

Indeed, Karlsson is back, bigger than ever. In his case, though, it’s a measure of pride, part of his continuing growth from the 165-pound stick figure who made his first appearance in Ottawa at the 2008 NHL entry draft.

“I’m almost 200 pounds,” said Karlsson, sporting a deep tan resulting from spending several weeks travelling throughout Greece.

Continue reading