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amid the blue haze

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Amid the blue haze of the ocean

A sail is passing, white and frail.

What do you seek in a far country?

What have you left at home, lone sail?

- The Sail , Mikhail Lermontov




[Video transcript:


Created: Friday, December 2, 1994 at 19:22

File Type: AVI]


Be careful with him Alia, he is only three-years-old. No, do not let him–! Oh dear lord, hold on.”

“It is fine, Mama. Look, he is laughing. And Lyosha is almost four, but you brought me out on the ice when I was two.”

“We learned from our mistake with you.”


“Do not look so upset, zaya. Now, how do I stop the camera?”

“You are too much Mama. Here.”



[Picture description: Alexei, age 5, in a rink in Saint Petersburg, hands outstretched for balance as he skates with his body nearly parallel to the ground. His tongue pokes out slightly between his teeth. 07.07.1996.]



[Picture description: Alexei, age 6, lacing up his skates. 25.01.1997.]



[Picture description: Alina teaches Alexei, age 7, how to do a Biellmann. Her foot is held over her head to form a teardrop shape. Alexei watches her intently. 02.06.1998.]



[Picture description: Alexei, age 9, standing on a podium with a bouquet of flowers larger than his head. There’s a silver medal in his hand, and he smiles brightly for the camera. 14.11.2000.]



[Video transcript:


Created: Saturday, February 17, 2001 at 09:14

File Type: AVI]


“Lyosha! Smile for the camera!”

“Matushka! I won!”

“You did, oomnitsa. Mama is so proud of you.”

“I never want to stop, Mama.”

“If you are really good, Lyosha, you will never have to. You could become even better than Alia or me.”



[Article excerpt: From the Saint Petersburg Times, June 2, 2004, pg. 7.]


An Unfortunate End to a Promising Career



… Young figure-skater Alina Dmitiriyevna Mashkova, last year’s National silver medalist and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist… found dead in her apartment… signs of forced entry… It is a tragedy she died at only 23 years old… there were many hopes for her at the 2006 Olympics… Her parents, Dmitriy Mikhailovich Mashkov and Yekaterina Olesevna Mashkova, vehemently denied any implications of homosexuality… funeral will be held according to Orthodox traditions…  




[Picture description: Alexei at his first hockey practice. His skinny frame is not yet large enough to fill out the baggy hockey gear. His face is emotionless. 04.09.2004.]



[Picture description: Alexei in the middle of a game, halfway through the motion of a slapshot. His clothes aren’t as baggy anymore. His face is tight, and his eyes are not on the puck but on the goal. 26.12.2005.]



[Audio transcript: phone call with Agent. 17.02.2006.]

“Have you thought about playing internationally?”


“You would definitely succeed in the NHL. You have the speed and the technique. A little refinement in these next two years will give you enough tape to stand a good chance of getting drafted in 2009.”

“I never considered that. But what about getting out of the country?”

“We have our ways. You just need to announce your commitment.”

“I will do it.”



[Text messages with Zoya. 25.03.2006.]



You know we will never work right






Just as long as we are on same page

You seem like ok enough guy, Alexei, and you are not terrible soulmate

But there is no way we will last

Fuck, I am only 16

My whole life is ahead of me



And I have NHL draft. Long distance is difficult.



We can fuck around, but it is better to not be serious




[Text messages with Father. 13.09.2006.]



Where are you.



At rink.



Do not lie to me Alexei.

I am at rink now.

You are with that bitch.



No I am at SKA rink.

Late practice.

[img attachment]



Leave by 10.




[Text messages with Zoya. 17.10.2006.]



Cute how that shitass you call father likes to call me bitch



Be thankful he does not call you worse.



What the fuck Alexei

What does that mean







[Phone log: Zoya. 02.06.2007]


[17:36] Outgoing Алексей +7 (812) 758-25-93

[17:37] Outgoing Алексей +7 (812) 758-25-93

[17:38] Outgoing Алексей +7 (812) 758-25-93

[18:01] Outgoing 103



[&*%@#&( *$^&*^]


Name: %#&*^# (@*&#%&@^^#* (*#&$%^

Birthday: 24.01.1991

Recent diagnosis: Mental illnesses (PTSD and depression).

Notes: Unfit for military conscription.



[Picture description: Alexei with SKA Saint Petersburg. He has the puck with two defenders converging him. His face is blank. 12.05.2008]



[Text messages with Zoya. 27.05.2008-15.07.2008.]



Real fucking mature Alexei

You can not shut me out forever asshole




Are you really giving me silent treatment?

Was it not my duty as your friend to help you?

Or do you think you are too fucked up to love?




You are not most fucked up person I know Alexei

I am still trying so hard to care for you

And you can not fucking see that




I am just fucking yelling into darkness

Well we sure as hell are not soulmates now

And since you are not reading these

[message deleted]




Do you just announce that to anyone?

What if I had not seen it? What if it was my father?

He would not hesitate to kill you.

Stop texting me, Zoya. I deleted your message and I am blocking your number.



[Зоя has been blocked.]



[Audio transcript: phone call with Agent.]

“Your flight is July 25th, 7 in the morning. Make sure you do not let your passport out of your sight. Your contract terminates once the season finishes for SKA, and I will make sure you do not get roped into an extended one.”



[Phone log: Alexei. 25.06.2009]


Airplane mode: On


[09:23] Incoming отец +7 (812) 368-17-38

[09:23] Incoming отец +7 (812) 368-17-38

[09:25] Incoming отец +7 (812) 368-17-38

[09:26] Incoming отец +7 (812) 368-17-38

[09:51] Incoming отец +7 (812) 368-17-38

[10:00] 1 new text: “Do not come back мудак.”



[Audio transcript: 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montréal, Québec. 26.06.2009.]


“With the first pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, the Las Vegas Aces are proud to select, from Rimouski Océanic, Kent Parson.”


“With the second pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, the Providence Falconers are proud to select, from SKA Saint Petersburg, Alexei Mashkov.”



[Text messages with Kent. 28.06.2009.]



Hello! Is Alexei ))

Want to ask if you okay?

Seem very sad at draft.


Кент Парсон

i was going through some stuff

still am i guess



((( Sorry to hear.


Кент Парсон

it’s. kind of fucked up.

sorry i’m not in the mood to talk about it



Is okay.

I know little about “fucked up” things.

Friends make easier.


Кент Парсон




Da. While ago my sister died.

I make few bad decisions.

Friend stop me from making badder decisions.

I was not good to her, but she help.


If you need friend, I help.


Кент Парсон


i don’t know if i want to talk about it ever

but thanks




[Text messages with Kent. 05.07.2009.]


Кент Парсон

so i fucking lied



What happen?


Кент Парсон

i went to visit jack

in the hospital

and he refused to see me

and i’m kind of breaking down



You are… upset? Is meaning?


Кент Парсон

yeah i’m just

god i look so fucking ugly right now

i’m an ugly crier



Can not be pretty all time,  Kent Parson.

Is okay to be “ugly crier.”

Does not make you less.


Кент Парсон

i don’t fucking believe that but whatever

jeez what am i trying to do

i’m crying to a guy i met a week ago about my fucked up life



Maybe he need time?

Why is he in hospital?


Кент Парсон

i can’t say

but maybe you’re right

maybe he just needs time

i can do that



Are you still having as you call “breakdown”?


Кент Парсон

i’m mostly just trying to convince myself you’re right

i’m feeling a little better though so i guess you did help

thanks mashkov



Is Alexei. ))


Кент Парсон

then stop calling me kent parson, you sound like my mom

it’s kent



[Кент Парсон has been changed to Кент.]



[Text messages with Unknown Number. 28.06.2009.]


Unknown Number

Hey Alexei! This is Sebastien St. Martin, 1/2 of the Falconers’ alternate captains, but call me Marty.

We’re really excited to have you join the team! We were looking at your stats from the season and you have incredible talent.

Our GM, Liam, wanted me to help you get settled in and offer you my place as a sort of billet situation until your position on the team is fixed.

And here’s Thirdy’s number, the other alternate. 401-729-7348.



[+1 401-930-2715 saved as Marty.]

[+1 401-729-7348 saved as Thirdy?.]



[Text messages with Thirdy?. 30.06.2009.]



It was really good to meet you today, Alexei.

This is Thirdy in case Marty didn’t give you my number.



Thank you very much.

It was fun to play with team.

Still very different from Russian hockey.



It’s definitely an adjustment, but you’re handling it very well. I can’t wait to see you in a game.



[Thirdy? has been changed to Thirdy.]



[Text messages with Sebastien. 25.07.2009.]



Alexei, you aren’t home yet?

Gabby said you went out around 4.



Sorry for late response.

I went to arena. Am still here.



That’s ok kid.

Do you want me to pick you up?



Is okay.

I walk here, can walk back.



I’m sure you can kid, but it’s probably not safest to wander around in a new city.

What were you at the arena for?



Old coach teach us many skating practices.

Keep us fast.

Hockey in Russia about speed, always move.



That’s some dedication, Alexei.

Gabby’s going to have dinner ready by 7:30, so I’m sorry I have to cut your time short.

But we have another free day next Wednesday. Want to show me your drills?



Sure. ))




[Text messages with Kent. 21.11.2009.]



the fucking balls of the kings

i can’t believe they just let that elbow check go uncalled???

it was completely illegal


also why the fuck are you on the blue line


you’re too hesitant to play the puck

go after that motherfucker!!

god i know you played differently in russia but please alexei you’re killing me


look at that fucking breakaway!! go get it alexei!!





ugh i know you won the game but the kings are terrible



You watch my game?



only so i know how to crush you when you come to vegas tomorrow



Of course. ))))



i keep forgetting to ask, what are those? the )))



Are smile faces!



why don’t they have eyes??



Why do your smile faces have eyes?

Also easier to type.





get some sleep it won’t be any fun to beat you if you’re a zombie on the ice



Good night Kent!




[Excerpt from an interview with ESPN. 13.05.2010.]


THOMAS: Coming off a 48-point season with SKA Saint Petersburg, how did you adjust to the NHL?


MASHKOV: Was difficult. Russia hockey is different. Rink is bigger, and we do not play dump-and-chase, focus very much on proper skating. Was hard in training to understand.


THOMAS: Ah, that’s a huge difference.


MASHKOV: And puck always moving. Players always moving. Never play people, play ice, if make sense? Look for open ice, not player.


THOMAS: How do you think that has helped your team? This is the first time the Falconers have been in the top three of their division, and you were edged out of a wildcard spot by only five points.


MASHKOV: Team effort is only as good as players. I play my best hockey, keep puck moving and give team chances to score, and they will do rest.


THOMAS: You were a forward in the KHL, right?


MASHKOV: Yes, but is needed change to be D-man.


THOMAS: Why did that change happen?


MASHKOV: My style is not as good for forward in American hockey. Falconers have good forwards but need… in-between people. Players who do many things, have many talents. I am still young, can still learn to do other things. Is not always needed to replace someone.



[Text messages with Sebastien. 02.06.2010.]



Hey kid, I don’t mean to pry, but are you alright?

You were really quiet these past few days and now Gabby says you won’t come out of your room.


If this is about the game against the Leafs at the end of the season, it isn’t your fault.



Is not about game.


Today is bad day for me. Always is.

I do not mean to make you worry.



It’s alright bud, I’m not upset. Is there anything we can do for you?



No, is alright. Want to sleep today.



I’ll let you know when we have lunch. I’ll leave the food outside your door.




[Text messages with Falconers. 09.06.2010.]



Someone come help me Alexei hasn’t stopped crying since the third period started.



Kent is doing so well!!

Am very proud of him (((



[vid attachment]




Dude you’re like. Really into it




You and Parson are friends, right?



Yes! We meet at draft.



Glad to see you getting out there buddy.

It’s good to have friends in the league.





[Text messages with Kent. 06.11.2010.]



Marty call me Tater today. What is meaning?




taters are tiny potatoes, you know? shortened name for tater tots

must have come from your last name

mashkov=mash potatoes=tater tots



Why he call me that?



it’s a hockey nickname

kind of a tradition to be given one to show you’ve become part of the team

you don’t have them in russia?



I do not know. I started hockey late, much later than others.

I do not remember time in VHL or KHL well.



well it’s definitely a good thing dude.



Thank you Kent.




[Text messages with Dustin. 01.24.2011.]



happy birthday dude

u’re fucking 20 now

how’s it feel



Feel no different. )))

Funny how Kent ask me same thing.



wait a mfing minute

u talked to KENT PARSON before u talked to me

how the fuck did he message u first



He says he is fast typer, and you need to “get on his level”.



fucking brat




[Text messages with Sebastien. 02.02.2011.] 



I am sorry.



Tater there’s nothing to be sorry about.

If anything I should be saying sorry.



I hid from you.



You went through some serious trauma, Tater.

You should have been able to tell us in your own time.

I’m sorry we took that choice away from you.



I should have said before.

Should not have waited so long.



We’re not mad or disappointed.

We’ve got your back tater tot.

Do you want to come eat dinner with me and Gabs?







[Text messages with Randall. 03.02.2011.]



We don’t have to talk about it again if you don’t want to Tater. I’m sorry we pushed you.

If you want us to keep it quiet, we will.


We’ve got your back.



Thank you.

I do not want to tell whole team. Only people who matter.


Was going to tell you. Some time. I was scared.




[Audio transcript: a soundbite given to ESPN. 05.04.2011.]


“You played a hard game out there–”




“–but what did you feel your team lacked to scrape out a win from the Avalanches?”


“We need more movement on ice. Puck isn’t going anywhere, shots are blocked because there is no setup time. Avalanches move faster, my line has work cut out for us.”


“This is your second season with the Falconers, how has the chemistry been between you and the team?”


“I think we work well, defend well. Guy is veteran on team, he teaches me much. In future, we want to keep up defense work and make plays faster.”


“Your playoff hopes have been dashed after this loss, so what are you planning on doing over the offseason?”


“Kent Parson invite me to visit Las Vegas, but is too hot in desert for Russian. I invite him to Providence, he say no. So we make plan to meet in Buffalo for his birthday.”


“Sounds like you’ll have an exciting time then! Parson is known to be a party animal.”



[Text messages with Kent. 07.04.2011.]



Why you never say anything about rumors?



it’s not going to stop them

if they want to think i’m a party animal, there’s really nothing i can do


it’s enough for me that the people who matter know the truth




[Text messages with Yekaterina. 23.06.2011.]



Will you come back?



Not for him.



For me?



How can you ask that of me?

You know what he did. I do not want to mourn him.

I will visit you afterward, Mama.




[Phone log: Alexei. 23.06.2011.]


[21:19] Outgoing Кент +1 (702) 753-8422 (01:09:32)



[Text messages with Kent. 17.09.2011.]



i’m freaking out

i can’t do this

what the fuck were they thinking, i can’t be captain



Kent please breathe. Have you called therapist?



layla’s on her honeymoon i can’t disturb her



You will be good. Not this season, this season you will be mess.



i’m loving the vote of confidence



Am not done.

You will be mess because you do not know much. But you are good player, better leader.

I know you can be good, Kent. Only need experience.

Team will see skill.




ok yeah

it’ll be a wreck at first but it’ll get better



You will be good Kent. ))))




[Text messages with Kent. 26.12.2011.]



i just want to say

all of those promo pictures were absolutely hilarious

and i’m definitely showing them to the whole team



You are so mean. ((



you give me too many opportunities haha

can’t believe i can’t mock you in person until all-star in january :/



Time will pass quickly, no worries!



your birthday gift will be in person this year :)




[Text messages with Kent. 31.03.2012.]



i’m sorry alexei



Nothing for you to be sorry about.

If we played better, we would not need wildcard.




i know it sucks to miss out




[Text messages with Sebastien. 02.06.2012.]



Tater, how are you feeling?




worse knowing i can not watch kent.



Hey, it’s ok. You can watch the highlight reel.

Besides, it looks like the Devils are going to take them to game 7.

Do you want me to stop by later?




thank you marty ((




[Text messages with Kent. 11.06.2012.]





You probably will not be on phone for while.

I am scared for you. I hope you will be okay.

You played well. Your team played well.




[Text messages with Sebastien. 16.08.2012.]



How’s Russia? Gabs is already missing you.



Is exactly as I left it. ))

Mama still live in same house, Saint Petersburg still same city I grew up in.

I am spending time out in country with Babushka soon, so will not be texting.

Tell Gabby I am missing her too. ((



How’s Kent going to handle not being able to text you?



What does that mean?



You two are pretty close.

You were the first person he told about his new kitten.



Kit Purrson should be loved by all.

Kent will be fine. He has other friends.




[Text messages with Kent. 03.09.2012.]



you’re FINALLY in the same country as me

never go visit russia again



))) Miss me Kent?



it’s so boring without you

i can’t live like this all the time


wanna see the mess kit made of my drawers?



Is not mess. Is art Kent.



you won’t be saying that when you see what she did




[Text message with Kent. 02.10.2012.]



so this lockout huh



Is bad.

Zhenya and Ovi are going back to Russia to play.

I think I will go with.


What are you going to do?



i don’t know

haven’t really thought about it

probably finland




[Text messages with Kent. 07.01.2013.]



all i’ve gotta say is that sucked balls

like the finnish players were nice and all but i didn’t fucking know finnish

fuck bettman



Am glad to go back to NHL. 

But have to wait to fly out tomorrow.



oh right today’s christmas for you

merry christmas alexei :)




[Text messages with Kent. 02.03.2013.]



what the fuck

was that

alexei i’ve Never seen you throw gloves with someone like that



Talk shit, get hit.







Snowy. ))))




[Text messages with Dustin. 02.06.2013.]



hey dude, i’m outside ur door

u don’t have to let me in

just wanted to give u some food gabs and marty sent over



come in

door is unlocked



that’s dangerous tater

but i’ll let it slide this once




[Phone log: Alexei. 20.08.2013.]


[22:43] Outgoing Кент +1 (702) 753-842 (43:21)



[Text messages with Kent. 21.08.2013.]



you didn’t tell me you were on meds



You have been thinking about this all night?



long enough to know you didn’t bother to tell me



No. I did not.


I… did not want to explain.

Is very difficult to talk about.


Why do you care?



never fucking mind

i’m not doing this right now



If not now when? When we yell at each other? Ruin our friendship? When we are strangers on opposite sides of country?

I have done before, Parson. I play same stupid game. I lose first soulmate and friend because I pretend I do not need to talk about it.

i had bad childhood. i have meds because i nearly killed myself then, not because i am trying now







[Text messages with Sebastien. 22.08.2013.]



Tater, why is Kent in the lobby?

He’s saying he needs to talk to you? And that he doesn’t know where you are.



Let him in to locker room. Is fine.


If you hear shouting, please do not come in.



That is mildly concerning, but if you say so.


So I think I can assume everything got worked out?



Is better.

Thank you Marty.



Anytime tater tot. I’ll always look out for you.


Just know that if he ever hurts you, I’ll make sure he never forgets it.







[Text messages with Kent. 24.08.2013.]



When is next time you visit?



whenever you want lexei

although we’re playing you guys in november



Get ready to lose Kenya. ))))



did you really just call me kenya

you know that’s a whole country right



If you give me American nickname, I give you Russian nickname!



[Кент has been changed to Кения.]




[Text messages with Kent. 21.12.2013.]



happy holidays lexei



Christmas not until January. )))



ha i know

just felt like telling you




[Text messages with Kent. 14.02.2014.]



soops i justg want him to be my boyfreidn s bad

hw’a ao tll ns cute and he looks like hes suggle so well

ad hos hand us so soft

why did i have to fal in lov with my best firned

and he laughs about the cutest tnhings

ike shut the jfuck up !!!! sto p thzt!!






tthats wat he calljfs me

gos i miss him so ad swpops

bu t he’s all the wy in peocidence

is huld fly there



Kenya you should not be flying anywhere.

Who are you talking about?



ssoops yuui jnwo who im takjing abuot

byt lexei i s to good forme

and qwe arnet evrn soulanres

siuil ates







jesus christ.

hey alexei it’s jeff.

kent thought he was talking to me the whole time.

thanks for talking to him since it made him stop running from us, but if you could kindly forget this whole conversation, kent would probably appreciate that.



I do not think I will forget.

But I will not mention it to him.



thanks man, sorry we woke you up.




[Text messages with Sebastien. 16.02.2014.]



Marty, I have… important question.



Sure Tater tot. What do you need?



There is… someone I know. They are defensive and do not like confrontation.

But if I want to help them, I must do that. And they will not like it.



Are you close to that person?



I think so. At least, they have few friends, so I am automatically close.



I see.

If the problem is really big, I’d take the risk. If it’s something small, that doesn’t have any bad consequences, maybe hold off.



Hm. Thank you Marty. Maybe I talk to them when they come visit.




[Text messages with Kent. 28.04.2014.]



the playoffs are boring this year ugh

how about we take a trip






let’s go to yellowstone

i always wanted to see their potential supervolcano



Supervolcano is… big volcano?



fuck yeah baby

and i wanna see it up close >:)




[Text messages with Kent. 16.10.2014.]



holy fucking shit

that was

it looked awful jesus fucking christ

please text me back when you can



sorry to worry

i am on meds

surgery tomorrow



christ lexei

listen when i get my hands on hall

he’ll wish he’d never stepped foot on the fucking ice



is not too bad

only 3 or 4 months



don’t push yourself




do exactly what trainer tells

be back before you know




[Audio transcript: ESPN broadcast, 17.10.2014.]


“Last night was rough in the NHL.”

“No kidding. We saw injuries in three games, all of which resulted in the players being removed from the game.”

“This is the clip of Alexei Mashkov’s fall during the Falconers and Oilers game. Watch how he checks Hall into the boards, completely clean, and–right there, you see Hall’s skate catches Mashkov’s right skate, and he falls backward on his other leg. And then he stays down, clutching his left knee. The Falconers haven’t announced the status of Mashkov’s injury, although they’re bound to soon.”



[Text messages with Kent. 10.01.2015.]



Guess who has been cleared for ice time!




you’re gonna be no contact right?



Yes. ))

Very excited to be back on ice.

Snowy keep sending me pictures of team at rink when I am at therapy. (((



when do you think you’ll be cleared for games?



Trainer says maybe another month. Do not want to rush anything.


You are going to All-Star game?




gotta defend my fastest skater title :)




[Text messages with Kent. 14.03.2015.]



Why you throw down gloves with Hall?

You are too small to fight him.



asshole took down swoops

and i had to get him back for what he did to you

i only stopped cause they threatened to eject me >:(



Too much anger in small body Kent.

Thank you, but please do not try to do it again.



no promises




[Text messages with Kent. 03.04.2015.]



well this fucking blows

can’t believe neither of us are in the playoffs this year



Is disappointing. But means we have more offseason.



ha i guess

so where to this year lexei



I visit Vegas last year, you come to Providence this year.



UGH fine

do you want me to fly in early or



When finals start. We can yell with rest of team.



will they be fine with. you know. me



You have never been rude to them. And I talk about you lot. They will give you chance.



works for me




[Text messages with Kent. 14.06.2015.]



plane just landed

now i can be a sap and say i’m already missing you



Missing you too Kenya. )))

You are not always missing me when you leave?



… no, i did miss you all the other times

but now i can say it without seeming weird

idk i didn’t want you to get put off by it



You are too cute milyi.



goddamnit you have so many nicknames

stop i’m gonna cause a scandal if i blush in the airport



Need to find your own nicknames Kenya!




[Text messages with Sebastien. 25.06.2015.]



So you and Kent.



Kent and I.



He makes you happy?



He always makes me happy.

You know that Marty.



You’re right.

Guess Gabs is going to have to come up with an amended WAGs name to include Kent.




[Text messages with Jack. 09.08.2015.]



Hello Zimmbonni, is Alexei. ))



Oh hey Tater. What’s up?



You are new on team, so I help you around!

I also want to talk about Kent.



I don’t think that’s a good idea.



Probably is not good idea. Kent tell me what he can, not tell me what is yours to tell.

But I do not want to talk about that.

Kent is soulmate for me. Means he will be around often, that team knows him.

Means unless you want to avoid or ignore him for rest of hockey career, you need to talk to him.

Is not for me to decide. I will not be mad if you do not.

But is important you know expectations.

See you tomorrow Jack.




[Text messages with Kent. 13.09.2015.]



not sure if i should thank you or yell at you

did you really scare jack into talking to me



Of course not Kenya. I only say it will be very awkward career if he ignore my soulmate.






No! Was very calm conversation, I tell him I will not be mad if he does not want to.





thank you




[Text messages with Kent. 15.10.2015.]



i’m sorry



Why Kenya?



i’m being so annoying

i mean. you’ve heard me talk about him

i hated his guts

he was a shit ass father and never tried to be better

and i’m still upset he died



Does not make you bad person for wanting something else.

Maybe wish father was better. You are sad that will never be true.



i thought i’d come to terms with it by now

but i’m just. crying

i can’t even talk about this out loud, i have to text it

how pathetic is that



Is not pathetic. I did worse than you.



your dad was so much worse



Not competition for worst dad, milyi.




thank you lexei

i’ve been an absolute brat



Is never annoying to help you.



ugh you’re making me wanna kiss you, you bastard




[Tweet transcript.]


Kent Parson @kvplva · Apr 7, 2016

is it sad i went to my first college party at age 25

[Picture description: Kent, Alexei, Jack, and Eric are lined up in a row, smiling at the camera as the chaos of the college party goes on behind them.]



[Text messages with Kent. 14.04.2016.]



lexei, call me when you actually look at your phone

i’m sorry i know this is hard on you

but marty’s so worried about you that he asked me to try and talk to you



Doctor say is mild strain.

All I hear is 6 weeks off ice.



i know this is difficult for you babe

but it’s not healthy to shut yourself off for this long



Do not want to talk about it.



if this is about your injury, then we don’t have to talk about it

if it’s about your tendency to shut off everyone who cares for you as a coping mechanism, your therapist said we have to



Andrea is very mean.



she’s also right

call me?



… Fine.




[Article excerpt: From Sports Illustrated. 12.06.2016.]


The Triumph of the Underdogs



The Providence Falconers came into the season as the most unlikely contenders for the Stanley Cup. Despite reaching the playoffs twice in the past, they have only made it as far as the second round (2012-2013 season) before being defeated, and in recent years have struggled to secure a spot in the playoffs after the loss of veteran Colby Sanders. However, the addition of the infamous Jack Zimmermann to their first line seemed to light the fire of the expansion team we’ve been seeing so much potential in…


… With a turn of bad luck, they lost top defenseman Alexei Mashkov to a muscle strain early in the first series after a questionable hit from Capitals’ center Nicklas Backstrom… Despite the odds stacked against them, the Falconers won the series, and then the next, and then the next…


… They were rejoined in the finals by Mashkov, who immediately took point on the defense to handicap the Schooners’ defense… 


… In the press release after, Mashkov, Snow, St. Martin, and Robinson steadily steer all questions away from Zimmermann’s kiss on the ice with who can be presumed to be his boyfriend…



[Text messages with Kent. 29.07.2016.]



Marty is asking when you will come to CAPs skate. )))



oh was i. supposed to? was this some sort of initiation?

oh my god are they going to retract their blessings if i don’t come


tesoro please i’m gonna have a breakdown

una crisi



Milyi they will not do that. ))

They have seen you many times, but family skate is special.

And you are family.



… oh

fuck you mashkov i’m crying







[Text messages with Kent. 30.12.2016.]



did your gift arrive yet??



[img attachment]

I am very excited. ))



oh geez now i’m nervous

open it first and then call me



Why you not want to see my reaction?



i’m just really nervous

just open it already





Kenya, this is…


You made it?



… yes?

you told me sometimes you’re afraid all of this is too good to be true so

i tried to pull together all the things i love about you



I cannot call you now, I am crying.



patatino no don’t cry :(

i’m calling you




[Text messages with Kent. 02.01.2017.]



You are asleep right now, but I wanted to tell you this.

Call me Leka. Is nickname only for people I love.



sending me that at ass o clock in the morning isn’t gonna stop me from crying bastard

you just indirectly said you loved me



Then I should say it directly.

I love you Kenya.



do i get a new nickname too

you know, since it’s only between people who love each other

and any of your russian friends could call me kenya



If you want Keniechka. ))



[Кения has been changed to Кенечка.]




[Text messages with Kent. 14.03.2017.]





[img attached]




Kit is magical, Keniechka. )))



if i didn’t love her so much, she would’ve gone straight to the shelter

what a brat




[Text messages with Jeff. 25.05.2017.]



How is he?



he’s… dealing.

but it’s better than his 2012 playoffs.



Hm. Thank you Swoops.




[Text messages with Eric. 04.07.2017.]



Little B! I need help!




What’s wrong?



I am about to meet Keniechka’s family.

Am very nervous. What if they do not like me?



Oh Tater, you’ll be fine.

They’ll love you! You’re kind, you make Kent happy, and you bring good drinks.



Will they like Merlot?



If it’s anything like the bottle of Chardonnay you served us, they’ll be falling over themselves honey.




[Audio transcript: ESPN Sportscenter. 21.09.2017.]


“And in related news, Alexei Mashkov has been named captain of the Falconers this offseason, following the retirement of their alternate captain Randall Robinson. It’s been a long time coming, hasn’t it Cassidy?”

“Oh absolutely. We’ve seen so many other top draft picks from 2009 enter stardom quickly, with Kent Parson and John Tavares being named captains of their teams in 2011 and 2015. And he’s shaped up to be an excellent franchise face, with stunning stats almost every season barring his 2014 knee injury. We were surprised when Jack Zimmermann was named alternate captain his first season, but he’s certainly shown he deserves it. With Mashkov as captain, we’re sure to continue seeing a powerful Falconers’ defense and an incredible season ahead.”



[Text messages with Kent. 02.10.2017.]



you’re going to do great tesoro

you’re a leader for your team, no matter how much you think otherwise

they’ve listened to you as an experienced player for years

and you know them well

crush this season so i can see you in the final


ti amo



Is cute how you are nervous speaking to me in Italian. Is not like I understand well. ))

Thank you milyi.

We will crush you in final as well.



it’s the sentiment that counts




[Phone log: Alexei. 24.01.2018.]


[02:34] Incoming Кенечка +1 (702) 753-8422 (02:34:15)



[Text messages with Kent. 15.04.2018.]




i know you’re playing the penguins right now but

i’m sorry

i still don’t deal with loss well and. i’m trying to be better

i’m really happy for you alexei, i’m sorry if i sounded bitter when you tried to talk to me about it

i’m rooting for you (not like i ever stopped)



I know milyi. I am not mad.

(Deleted draft) I just worry about you.

Will you come watch?



i already booked tickets for a flight to providence and game 5




[Text messages with Kent. 07.06.2018.]



congrats on winning the cup babe!!

kit and i were on the edge of our seats the whole time

and look at you with the game-winning goal




Next time you come watch, da?



not if i’m playing you ;)



[Audio transcript: phone call with Kent.]


“Fucking hell Leka. You were amazing.”

“Thank you, Keniechka. Why are you still up?”

“I wanted to talk to you. I know we facetimed this morning but. Ugh, I miss you so much.”

“It’s okay, milyi, Kit was hurt.”

“I know, thanks for understanding. But still, this was huge. Your second cup!”

“Is two more cups than I ever believe I win.”

“It’s late for you guys, isn’t it? You spent so long with the reporters.”

“Press conference was horrible, Keniechka. So many reporters, so fast. English too hard after hockey.”

“You were great. Amazing. And you finished the series in only five games, so that says a hell of a lot about your defense.”

“Eh, Keller is biggest threat. Coyotes are not much without him.”

“Hah, that’s true. Although I haven’t been on D enough to know that first hand.”

“Watching tapes is all you need to do. Kessel needs to find puck first.”

“God, did you see how many times he turned it over?”

“Da, I stole them.”

“An embarrassment! He’s on their first line and this is the performance he has in a final?”

“But makes it easier for us, no? Two cups in three years, Keniechka… Still feels like dream.”

“It’s pretty much a dream. Now we match.”

“When will you fly in? We will celebrate together.”

“I’m going to Buffalo for the 4th, so around then?”

“Hm, come to Providence for Canada Day. Zimmboni will have party, no one else will like it except Marty and Ransom, but we will still go because Little B has best pies.”

“Bittle still kind of hates me, caro. I’m still Jack’s ex.”

“Little B does not hate you, Keniechka. He sends you pies almost every week, da?”

“Yeah, but–”

“I ask, then we spend Cup Day in Buffalo.”

“Don’t mess up your plans for me!”

“I did not have plans before I talk to you! Do you not want me to spend your birthday with you?”

“Ugh, I know you’re pouting right now. Alright, you can pick the 4th as your Cup Day.”

“You are best Keniechka!”

“And you’re a puppy in a human body. Anyway, it’s late for you Leka, and you should be celebrating with your team.”

“I am standing outside club.”

“Leka, why the fuck are you just loitering outside.”

“Is loud inside! I want to hear you.”

“That’s. That’s actually kind of sweet.”

“I am sweetest.”

“Hah, that you are. I’m gonna crash soon, but celebrate for both of us, yeah? Love you.”

“Mm. Ya tozhe tebya lyublyu.”



[Audio transcript: Excerpt from a Stanley Cup press conference. Released 08.06.2018.]


“Mr. Mashkov, how did you feel hoisting the Cup for the first time as captain?”


“It felt much better than 2016. I was able to play with team, was able to support them as both D-man and captain, and we play good games. I am very proud of my team, proud of my contribution, and very proud to be able to lift cup with that knowledge.”


“Were there any concerns going into the game?”


“We had two injuries, Järvinen and Fitzgerald, but we know our own strength. We were confident we would still win.”


“Were there any concerns for yourself, coming off of multiple leg injuries in the past and getting put in a high pressure situation?”


“I was focused only on game. There is no room for being afraid, only determination.”



[Audio transcript: Excerpt from the NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada. 19.06.2018.]


“And the Hart Memorial Trophy goes to–Alexei Mashkov.”


“Winning Hart Trophy is dream come true for any player, no? But it would never have been possible without my sister. Thank you, Alina, for showing me how to love skating.”



[Text messages with Dustin. 23.08.2018.]



yo how’s iceland



Very not icy. I am betrayed.



u’re probably 1 of the 3 ppl to not know that

n e gay, has anything happened

anything worth mentioning



I am telling Marty you are being weird again.



oh fuck off why do i even bother

we both know he likes you better anyway >:(




[Text messages with Dustin. 31.08.2018.]



Fuck you Snowy.




i’ll decline, but i’m sure kent will be more than happy to




[Text messages with Kent. 19.11.2018.]



Do you think about coming out Keniechka?





it feels impossible

the amount of scrutiny we already get is overwhelming and

i hate thinking about how much worse it’ll get


but it’s tiring to hide

i want to kiss you so badly sometimes, but i can’t even hold your hand in public



I think… I want to come out next year.



that’s a really big step leka

and you already know i’m with every step of the way



I know. But is nice to hear. )




[Text messages with Sebastien. 02.01.2019.]



So were you going to tell us you got engaged or were we just supposed to find out from Snowy?



… I thought Kent already asked you if he could marry me.



Well he did. But you never told us you said yes.



I wear it on necklace haha.

Is why you did not see when I come over for dinner.

How is Gabby? It has been month since last meeting.



She’s been doing great so far. The cravings throw me for a loop every once in a while, but she’s got it rougher than me, so I don’t complain.

The doctors say the due date is probably April, somewhere between the 15th and 27th.



Is very exciting!! Soon little St. Martin will be running around.




[Text messages with Kent. 16.03.2019.]




Marty asked me to be godfather.



holy shit!!

that’s awesome leka!!

what did you say?



I said yes.

I do not know what to say. I am very surprised and happy.



tesoro, facetime me

we’re celebrating together




[Instagram post description: Alexei stands in the center of the frame, carefully holding a newborn in his arms. The baby looks incredibly small amongst his large arms and hands.. The caption reads: “First time meeting my godson ( posted with parent’s permission )). )




[Text messages with Kent. 02.06.2019.]



Should I get dog Keniechka?




why were you awake at 3 in the morning??



Answer question first.



it’s up to you i guess

i mean obviously you’d be gone a lot, but as long as you have a sitter

and if the dog isn’t super high maintenance, which would it make hard to be gone



I was thinking Samoyed.

They are big and fluffy.



only because they’re fluffy of course

not because they’re native to russia

that would be silly







[Tweet transcript.]


Alexei Mashkov @a91mashkov · Jun 08, 2019

Welcome new member of Mashkov family, Bolshoy!!!

[Picture description: A fluffy white Samoyed stares at the camera, tilting his head to the side.]

[Picture description: Alexei smushes his face into Bolshoy’s neck fur as his dog tries to twist his head to lick him.]



Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease · Jun 08, 2019

Replying to @a91mashkov

HE’S ADORABLE ☆*:.。.o(≧▽≦)o.。.:*☆ When can I meet him??


Alexei Mashkov @a91mashkov · Jun 08, 2019

Replying to @omgcheckplease

Little B!! Come over now!! Bring Jack!!


Jack Zimmermann @jzimm · Jun 08, 2019

Replying to @a91mashkov and @omgcheckplease

Haha, you just want more pies


Alexei Mashkov @a91mashkov · Jun 08, 2019

Replying to @jzimm and @omgcheckplease

I would not say no to pies!



Kent Parson @kvplva · Jun 08, 2019

Replying to @a91mashkov

i’m booking my flight rn


Alexei Mashkov @a91mashkov · Jun 08, 2019

Replying to @kpvlav

Bolshoy will be so excited!! So many new people!!



[Text messages with Kent. 09.06.2019.]



do you think kit and bolshoy will get along :/

i don’t want them to fight



Milyi you worry too much.

Will be fine! Bolshoy very good already, Kit Purrson will love him.



hah i guess

kit is the queen, bolshoy will learn that soon enough



Cannot wait to see you )))



only one more day leka

you’re gonna get so many mfing kisses




[Instagram post description: Alexei stands next to Jack, a rainbow flag over both of their shoulders. There is a tri-colored swipe of paint on both of their cheeks, pink-purple-blue. The caption reads: “Just some bistanders on standbi.”

Location: Providence Pride Parade




[Audio transcript: Excerpt from a Falconer press conference, translated. 18.06.2019.]


“How has the culture of the locker room changed as a result of coming out?”


“Falconers’ locker room has been very tolerant even before me and Zimmboni. We never allow demeaning commentary or jokes at expense of anyone other than ourselves, so jokes about being gay have never been problem. I do not know what other teams’ locker rooms are like.”


“Shameless fags like you should burn.”


“Sorry, would you repeat question in English?”


“Wasn’t question.”


“Then it is unimportant to this press conference.”


“Would you translate his statements, Mr. Mashkov?”


“I do not think I will. Is not very nice, no? To call someone pidor.”


“What does that mean?”


“Is Russian for fag.”



[Text message with Kent. 18.06.2019.]



i’ve never been as mad about anything as i am at the fucker who called you a slur in the middle of a fucking press conference

imagine the fucking BALLS


i’m so sorry leka



is okay keniechka



now i know you’re not okay

i’m calling you babe



[Audio transcript: phone call with Kent.]


“Leka, what’s wrong?”

“I am so tired, Keniechka. Is so hard.”

“I know, I’m so sorry I can’t be with you right now.”

“Soon, milyi.”

“Not soon enough. Is there anything I can do for you? Talk to you? Facetime?”

“Just talk is fine. You shouldn’t see me now. Would only make you sad.”

“I’m already sad, Leka. But if that’s what you want. Kit’s been beyond excited to see you again, I think she recognizes your ringtone.”

“You have ringtone just for me?”

“Uh-huh, it’s just the lyrics ‘Russian roulette is not the same without a gun’ on repeat. Lady Gaga is your queen after all.”

“Mm, good taste. Poker Face is best song. Johnny Weir skated to it in 2010, for exhibition at Nationals.”

“Really? Did you try to copy the routine?”

“I do not have right… what do you call… vi-bing?”

“Hah, you mean vibe? Yeah, I guess you don’t have the same flair. Your skating music of choice is Tchaikovsky.”

“Lady Gaga is best for warm-ups. Also was to piss off father as much as possible.”

“We live our lives in spite. Where are you?”

“Back home. Waited until I was alone to answer you.”

“Fuck. I’m sorry about that.”

“Is okay, Keniechka. You don’t want to make public because of this exact reason.”

“That’s the worst part. I can’t help you like this.”

“Stop thinking is your fault. Is not your fault. I know what coming out means for me. Was my decision.”

“No offense babe, but your country sucks.”

“Mm. I know. But was still home, in ways that mattered.”

“God, now I’m not even angry, I’m just sad.”


“It’s not your fault babe. Can I see Bolshoy?”

“I knew it, only love me for my dog.”

“Oh yeah, I became your soulmate solely because of your future pack of dogs. Now let me see my son.”

“Then you let me see my daughter.”




[Article: From the JUL 2019 issue of VOGUE. The cover photo is a picture of defenseman Alexei Mashkov of the Providence Falconers, his hair damp and pushed back from his forehead. He wears a mesh button-up from Dior, ocean blue except for the white sleeves from the elbow down, tucked into his straight-leg white Versace sailor pants, capturing a nostalgic summer aesthetic. A golden chain hangs around his neck, the cross tucked into his shirt, and leather and gold bracelets mix together on his wrists. His body is facing a mirror, hands in his pockets, while his head is turned to the camera, and where his face would have been reflected is a splash of dripping paint in the colors of the rainbow.]


Alexei Mashkov Talks Hockey, Coming Out, and Recent Dog Adoption


photographed by VINCENT MARTÍNEZ


ALEXEI MASHKOV isn’t what you would expect. What you would expect is a brutish hockey player, with little eloquence except on the ice, and a bulky, muscular stature. You would expect the typical postgame interview spiel for everything, whether it’s about their clothes, their hair, or their personal life.


I’ll be honest: I’ve never interviewed an athlete, and I was lost on what to ask during our time together. So I did some digging on the defenseman (or D-man, as I’ve heard) to understand who he is. Wikipedia says he’s Russian, #7, two-time Stanley Cup Champion, multiple other awards including his recent Hart Memorial Trophy, and bisexual, which isn’t anything new. The Falconers’ Youtube channel provided more interesting content. He’s a regular in their videos, always popping in to say hello even when he isn’t starring in that episode. His Instagram (@a91mashkov) is a mix of food, sports, and his new puppy Bolshoy, but oddly enough never Alexei himself. On Twitter, using the same handle, he has a respectable 643.7K followers, and spends most of his time interacting with other players whom he befriends. There’s also a baker who shows up every now and then for Tater to beg for blueberry pies from, which I must admit is kind of adorable.


So I build my list of questions, taking into consideration the massive leaps and bounds Alexei has made in both his career and professional life. I spend the three days before the interview watching tape after tape until I reach the press conference. It’s stilted and scripted, everything I’ve already determined Alexei isn’t, but the burst of emotion at the end is, despite his anger, refreshing. That’s the man on the ice, who refuses to back down from a challenge. That’s the man on the Falconers’ channel, who stands by his morals. That’s the face of a captain.


It may seem stereotypical for an athlete to take an interview in their home arena. I certainly did. But once again, Alexei subverts my expectations. He meets me in the lobby, at ease in his own territory. He’s wearing beige cargo pants and a white top with the Falconers and Under Armour logos in the top right corner. When I’m close enough, he reaches out a hand to shake, and I can smell the mixture of woody and sea breeze tones from his aftershave and cologne, reminiscent of a forest overlooking the ocean. His smile is inviting as he greets me. I’m already aware that every expectation I had is being disproved.


“Apologies for my dress. Morning skate just finished and I do not make a habit of bringing suits near my team.” There’s a story there, but I don’t ask after it. He leads me to the stands, and we settle down near the ice. My first question is, predictably, “What drew you to hockey?”


Alexei smiles and shrugs. “Nothing, really.” That wasn’t an answer I was expecting. “I never chose hockey. I was figure skater first. But there was accident, my sister died, and I quit. But I could never forget how it felt to skate. So hockey became new life.” He says it simply and without fanfare. I’m realizing there’s much more to the man than I thought.


Does his past in figure skating influence his hockey? “I think so. It is big part of how I move on ice. Many big D-men use brute force only, but it’s important to have speed. I still figure skate as hobby, so I think my skating is more… how you say… graceful? But I was also forward in VHL KHL, so perhaps is not whole truth.” That’s one of the other facts I gleaned from the Wikipedia article. Alexei played for Dinamo Saint Petersburg for three years, and SKA Saint Petersburg for another one before the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, where he went 2nd overall to the Falconers. He’s been with them ever since. “I am very lucky I have chance to play in NHL, and luckier to have Falconers. They are wonderful teammates and people and have supported Jack and I very much.”


He refers to Jack Zimmermann, son of the hockey legend Bad Bob Zimmermann, who is now a legend in his own right. Jack is the alternate captain of the Falconers and two-time Stanley Cup Champion, along with a few other awards, and more famously known as the first out hockey player. He came out shortly after their Stanley Cup win in 2016, three years ago, and got married last year to his fiancé Eric Bittle. Alexei recalls it fondly. “Little B, is nickname for Eric, was so stressed. Constantly harassing caterers about food, arguing with baker of cake, unhappy with decorations on tables. This was before wedding. During wedding, I do not think he was thinking very much. Head was in space.” It’s a hyperbole on “head in the clouds”, which Alexei insists is the only way to describe his friend’s wedding day. There’s a wistfulness in his expression that softens the light-hearted barb.


HOCKEY IS REGARDED AS a highly masculine sport. There’s no question that there was significant backlash because of Alexei’s choice to come out. “There were certainly bigots,” he says calmly, staring out at the ice. “I am captain of a Stanley Championship team, and I’m Russian, but I have male soulmate. Those are contradictions, no? Russian hockey players are brutes, speak broken English, and throw back vodka like water. I don’t think I am any of those things. I like Russian red more than vodka. English is hard because Russian is different. And I am brute on ice, but off ice I think I am much more relaxed.”


Alexei is very much a philanthropist. “I do not have time to manage foundation of my own, but I donate to the Zimmermann Foundation, You Can Play, and many organizations to help LGBTQ+ youth.” On the topic of You Can Play, he adds, “Is funny, you know, that I am first Russian supporter. When I first did it, many people criticized me for it. My uncle sent me message with many words I should not repeat because I chose to support people my home country despised.”


It’s the biggest reason Alexei’s coming out has made waves. Being queer was a criminal offense in Russia, as in many other places, and while technically it was made legal in 1993, propaganda laws restrict LGBTQ+ advocacy, and torture, jail, and death of suspected or out members of the community are tolerated. It also forced Alexei to renounce his Russian citizenship after being a dual citizen for two years. “Once you know what it is like to not worry about being killed, you never want to go back.” But his family in Russia was what made him wait so long. “I didn’t want to cause trouble for them. I didn’t want to renounce it until I absolutely had to.” That ultimatum came following his vocal support for Zimmermann. The year after, Alexei officially renounced his Russian citizenship and was disowned by his family. He doesn’t say anything more about that, however, so we move on.


“Locker rooms are worst,” Alexei muses. “Difficult to explain. But conversations always end up with gay joke or ‘no homo’ thrown in somewhere, and because it is part of culture and how they experienced hockey, it is difficult to stop. As captain, is my responsibility to make sure they are not only respecting teammates, but other people, fans or friends or strangers.”


Surprisingly, this knowledge only made him more determined to come out. He wanted to show that being bisexual didn’t have any effect on his game or his success. “Kids need role models, people who are like them and who they can look up to.” If coming out and sharing this part of himself with the world gave kids the courage to chase their dreams, he thought it would be worth it. “It was definitely worth it,” he reaffirms. “I had so many people come to me with messages about how I helped them accept themselves, or how I helped them to continue playing the sport they love. Bisexuality is equated to being gay, and people hate to think you can be attracted to multiple genders. No such thing as too little love.”


When I ask about his position as captain, his smile becomes more genuine. “Was not expecting to get position, no? Jack is alternate before me, so thought it would be him. Instead, George calls me to office and tells me I’m wearing C now.” He talks about how he has to regularly split up fights now instead of happily watching from the sidelines, and that he never knew how difficult it was to get two players to stop lunging for each other’s throats without shoving himself in between them. He references forward Kyle “Eddy” Edison, #52 on the Falconers, as one of the most hot-headed guys he’s met, and that he “gets in more fights than he makes goals.” “I’m still learning how to be leader for the team, but at least playing Now or Never gets them excited before games.” From High School Musical? Alexei’s response is a deep, rumbling laugh.


THE FALCONERS are possibly the most outspoken franchise in regards to LGBTQ+ advocacy. They have a history of LGBTQ+ players (Jack Zimmermann, Dustin Snow, and now Alexei), and are to date the only team to participate in a Pride Parade. Because of this, Alexei never felt his team would resent him. “We are family. Like Lilo and Stitch quote.” His coming out was mostly spearheaded by Georgia Martin, the Falconers’ GM since 2017 who the whole team affectionately calls George. Alexei says she’s been looking out for him since day 1, and he appreciates her efforts more than he can ever say in words. “My English is much better than when George first met me, but is hard to express how thankful I am.”


Being out to the team was as simple as saying “I am bisexual” and getting a series of reiterated platitudes along the lines of “Thanks for trusting us.” It doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate them for putting him at ease, he clarifies, but it’s a little repetitive to hear from nineteen guys at once. What he hadn’t done was say he had a soulmate.


“Is easy to get caught up in the joy of finding soulmate,” he explains as he stands up and stretches. I stand up with him and we begin a slow walk around the ice to reach the player’s entrance. “Makes it more difficult to understand what you say when you give exciting news like that. I am not gay, I am bi. It is important to me that people understand distinction, because there is big difference.” It’s a reasonable request, but I can’t help but be curious about the situation. Was it having a male soulmate that helped him understand his sexuality?


“I was bi before soulmate,” Alexei snorts, not unkindly. “But soulmate was first man I ever tried to have real relationship with. It was not easy before. My career and home were in danger before, but now I am free to have boyfriends if I like.” He doesn’t say if they have plans to become public, which is what Jack and his soulmate, Eric, did only when their wedding was imminent.


Do they get in arguments about him choosing to come out? The rumbling laugh comes back. “No, he is out as well. Not publicly, but to people who matter. But is different to let everyone know, yes?” Was it a whirlwind romance? “No, we were very good friends for long time. We weren’t ready to move on from old soulmates, who we already fell out of love with, so it took few years before we got colors.” Care to share them? “I will give you hint. Colors happen to match two of my favorite poems.” The mischievous smile on his face says he knows how cruel the hint is. How does hockey mess with their relationship? “We both knew what we were choosing to get into. Hockey takes lots of time out of relationship, but we make it work.” But with all the fervor surrounding his coming out, we can forget that Alexei is, by almost every measure, an astounding hockey player.


THE FIRST RUSSIAN to be sponsored by Under Armour is a beast on the ice. His past three seasons have been steady +/- scores of 40 and above, with last year’s 92 points landing him as the number one defenseman in the league. It also secured him the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded to the defenseman with the highest overall ability. When it’s mentioned, Alexei ducks his head bashfully. “Is as much because of team as me. Having good players makes it easy to have good games.” I remind him the team didn’t give him the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2018 and get a chuckle in response. We walk through the player’s entrance, past the locker rooms, which Alexei refuses to let me into because the “smell will make you pass out. It has happened.” I do not want to risk it.


Under Armour is a huge sponsor, and has backed some of the most famous athletes for years. Amongst their illustrious ranks are Tom Brady, Lindsey Vonn, Stephen Curry, and now Alexei Mashkov. Landing the sponsorship is difficult, as Alexei attests to. “So many interviews, I thought my head would explode. English is hard enough on good day. Stressed out is worse.” When asked about its duties, he says they’re mostly comprised of wearing Under Armour merchandise. Occasionally, commercials will include his name and a video of him, but he says it’s generally very laid back, and that’s how he likes it.


“I was chosen because I am good man and good player. As long as I continue to be both, there is no problem.” Alexei says he intends to expand his scope next off-season to include a greater focus on helping children, not just those involved with sports. He recalls quite sadly his childhood experiences with hospitals and says he wants to help kids with chronic illnesses.


The majority of Falconers fans are as tolerant as their team, and they’re all enchanted by Alexei’s commitments outside of hockey. There are plenty of tweets to his user talking about the humanitarianism Alexei engages in, praising him for making such an effort to help others with his privilege, along with several about his new dog. When I point this out to him, Alexei seems to practically glow. Bolshoy is the Samoyed’s name, and Alexei sheepishly admits it only means “big” in Russian. But it describes the smiling pup well, and he’s more than enthusiastic to share some of the pictures in his camera roll that never make it to the public eye.


When I ask about the lack of selfies, he shrugs. “It was never habit to take pictures of myself. Other people take plenty of pictures of me, so I take pictures of other things.” Not even for an excellent outfit? “Well, if outfit is excellent, I take one picture to send to soulmate first. Everyone else sees it when I go outside. He cannot, so I send him message.” Alexei’s fashion is well-known for being the opposite of a professional athlete. “Everyone wear same thing.” He ticks off each item on his fingers as he says them. “Brown loafers, blue trousers, white button-down shirt. Is boring! Where is color? Flair? You have all this money and no style.” He introduces me to some of his go-to’s: trenchcoats in the winter, because nothing says style like walking around like a detective Alexei says, the flair of a short-sleeved flannel over a long-sleeved white top in spring and fall, and shirts with slightly oversized sleeves that he tucks into his pants for a “casual bisexual look.” He adds that Eric introduced him to that phrase.


Alexei isn’t quite sure where his future is headed now. “There are many unknowns. Falconers are certain for now, but much else is not. I hope one day, soon, soulmate and I will be public. For now, is only dream. As for dogs, maybe I get more one day. We will see.” As we exit the catacombs of the arena and return to the lobby, Alexei smiles peacefully. “Perhaps I make more effort to take pictures of myself, да?” He shakes my hand once more as we say goodbye, and lopes out the door, confident and at ease despite the struggles of the past month. The doors close behind him, one small blast of humidity pushing through before we’re once again wrapped in the chill of the air conditioning.



[Tweet transcript.]


Kent Parson @kvplva · Jul 19, 2019

every month is pride month when you’re gay af with your fiancé of 10 months

[Picture description: Alexei’s arms are wrapped around Kent as they stand together in front of a full-length mirror. They are both wearing suits, the light turquoise of Alexei’s suit matching effortlessly with the deep wine of Kent’s.]



[Text messages with Eric. 19.07.2019.]



Did Kent just come out on twitter

Don’t answer that

Bless his heart he’s in for a ride







Прости, я не разговариваю по-английски.



Dear Lord.

Think carefully Tater, your pie supply is on the line.




[Text messages with Kent. 19.07.2019.]



Keniechka I am very sorry.

Pie is more important.




you wouldn’t sell us out to the baker

patatino don’t do it



I am very sorry. (((




[Text messages with Eric. 19.07.2019.]



Kent proposed to me August 31st while we were in Iceland.

It was very romantic, he planned it to coincide with Northern Lights.

I cry very hard. I think people clap but I am too happy to notice.

Please do not stop pie supply.



Thank you for your service (⌒ω⌒)




[Tweet transcript.]


Alexei Mashkov @a91mashkov · Jul 19, 2019

I betray fiancé for pie, was worth it.

[Picture description: Alexei sitting at the Bittle-Zimmermann table and holding up a plate with a slice of blueberry pie on it.]



Kent Parson @kvplva · Jul 19, 2019

Replying to @a91mashkov

betrayed by my own man. i hate it here



[Article excerpt: From The Player’s Tribune. 14.08.2019.]


Off the Ice



If I sound more well-spoken in this than I do in interviews, it’s because my fiancé went back and fixed all the article issues. Kent isn’t a grammar guru, but he understands that stuff more than me and it makes him happy, so I let him.


I’m a blunt person, or so I’m told. English is weird–it needs a metaphor for everything, regardless of how metaphorical it actually is. Russian is very literal. I already knew English before I came to the NHL, but it was only the basics, and it was the English Russians need to learn. Which meant I was completely lost when I arrived at my first practice and listened to the rest of the team speaking rapidly about… who knows what, since I couldn’t comprehend it.


I kept my head down and played my best hockey, learned as quickly as possible to keep up with the veterans, and many of them say I played that year like I had something to prove. It’s a little funny now. I did have something to prove. I had to prove I deserved to be the 2nd overall pick. I had to prove that my skating style wouldn’t be a detriment to the team. I had to prove that I was better in the NHL than I would ever be in the KHL. I had to prove that I belonged because I would never belong in Russia.

I don’t talk about my childhood very often. It was mostly plagued by death and sadness, and it was the worst time for me to find my first soulmate. When my sister was murdered, I stopped figure skating, which was my first love because of her. I didn’t know this at the time, but I suffered from PTSD and depression after that. In the heavily pressurized environment I was in–famous father, playing in the VHL, mental illnesses no one bothered to diagnose–it was perhaps inevitable what came next. Players never vocally discuss their struggles with mental illness, but we’ve already seen it overcome us many times. I made a serious attempt on my life, and the only reason I’m here is because my soulmate was a stubborn one.


At least I escaped the army.


Kent and I became soulmates years after we met at the draft. That’s one of the things you don’t remember often about soulmates: that if you aren’t ready for each other, the auras won’t appear. I think I’m thankful we had to wait so long. We would’ve torn each other apart. Soulmates are not a science, but they are an art.

I’m not going to keep justifying myself. Frankly, it’s exhausting to keep telling people that my sexuality isn’t going to change a thing. It doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been the face of my franchise for seven years, or that I’ve won two Stanley Cups, or that I’m a four-time Norris Trophy winner. It doesn’t change the fact that my fiancé is likely the most successful hockey player of the century. (From Kent: You flatter me.) Our teams have never treated us differently for it, and they’ve known for far longer than you.


So if you would, quit asking if this is going to affect our teams in the future. The only thing it’s going to do is give us more reason to drop gloves. We’ll keep playing hockey like we always have, even against each other. Getting married won’t change that. (From Kent: Damn right it won’t.)


As Kent is so fond of saying, haters gonna hate hate hate. As I’m so fond of saying, ya by vas paslal, da vizhu vy ottuda.



[Text messages with Yekaterina. 21.08.2019.]



Are you happy, Lyosha?






Good. I have always wanted you to be happy, oomnitsa.

Do not worry about me. I will weather the storm.



… Thank you Mama.




[Tweet transcript.]


Kent Parson @kvplva · Aug 31, 2019

since i know you guys (bitty) are absolutely dying to know how it went down a year ago: here’s a lovely video from one of the other tourists with us, ames. thank you so much for agreeing to send us a copy :)

[Video transcript: The Aurora Borealis stretches across the sky, bands of green, white, and hints of yellow rippling gently in the sky. A sudden flurry of gasps are caught in the audio and the camera swings down to two figures, one of them kneeling on the ground and holding a ring box in his outstretched hand. Kent says something, expression fond, but the audio is indecipherable. Alexei is shocked and still until he starts laughing, the hand in his pocket pulling out yet another ring box. Kent bursts into laughter and says something else. The two embrace, the crowd of tourists cheers, and the video ends.]



Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease · Aug 31, 2019

Replying to @kvplva

That is quite possibly the most adorable proposal ever and now I’m crying.


Jack Zimmermann @jzimm · Aug 31, 2019

Replying to @kvplva and @omgcheckplease

He actually is. His tears are getting in his jam.


Kent Parson @kvplva · Aug 31, 2019

Replying to @omgcheckplease and @jzimm

… is the jam okay tho


Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease · Aug 31, 2019

Replying to @kvplva and @jzimm

It’s fine everything is fine y’all. Aunt Judy would never forgive me if I ruined the sacred art.



Alexei Mashkov @a91mashkov · Aug 31, 2019

Replying to @kvplva

Now I am crying in locker room.


Dustin Snow @snowy24 · Aug 31, 2019

Replying to @a91mashkov and @kvplva

im fining him 10 dollars a min and i have 70 dollars



[Tweet transcript.]


Kent Parson @kvplva · Sep 1, 2019

enjoying the last day of our honeymoon with my husband before i kick his ass this season

[Picture description: Alexei is dressed in an unbuttoned aloha shirt and cargo shorts and stands on a rock on the beach shore, facing the ocean. The sun is rising, casting an orange shine on everything in sight. Alexei is looking over his shoulder toward Kent, and there’s a partially visible smile on his face.]

[Picture description: Two hands are intertwined, their matching wedding rings glinting in the sunlight. One is blue with a band of silver jewels in the center, while the other is silver with a band of blue jewels.]