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Geno's Russian Posse: A Primer

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Sergei Gonchar

I don’t know for sure when Geno and Gonch first met, but it was probably when Gonch played for Metallurg during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. They were also teammates for the Turin Olympics, during which Geno peppered Gonch with questions about the Penguins. When Geno arrived in Pittsburgh in fall 2006, he moved in with Gonch, his wife, Ksenia, and their daughter Natalie, and stayed for two and a half years.

[A side note about Natalie: articles give wildly different ages for her at the time Geno moved in, but based on this interview with Ksenia, she was 4 in fall 2006. Note that the younger daughter, Victoria, wasn’t born until spring 2009, i.e. shortly after Geno moved out.]

Geno seems to think of the Gonchars as family. They were all in attendance for the 2017 Cup win:

That’s Ksenia and Gonch on the left, with Victoria in the hat at bottom left and Natalie in the gray shirt. Also featuring Max, Greg, and several members of Malkin Team, all of whom I’ll address below. (source)


Gonch, Ksenia, and Natalie attended Geno’s 2017 Cup celebration in Moscow:


Gonch is currently based in Pittsburgh working as an assistant coach for the Pens and he and Geno hang out all the time:



Gennady Ushakov

Geno’s Russian agent/minder/surrogate father since Geno was a teenager. He was in attendance at the infamous late-night Metallurg contract signing. He’s the guy Alex Ovechkin allegedly punched in a nightclub, sparking (?) Geno and Ovi’s feud. (I’m dying to know the full story about that feud.) Most of my information about Gennady comes from this article by Rob Rossi (CW: Rob Rossi). Short version: Gonch is the good son; Geno is the bad son. Gennady is also featured quite a bit in the Russian Penguin documentary. He works for CAA, the same agency that employs Geno’s American agent, JP Barry. I know nothing about his personal life and can’t figure out how much time he spends in Pittsburgh vs Russia.



Maxim Ivanov

Geno’s longtime friend and former roommate. (That article claims he’s a “childhood friend” but it seems more likely that they met in Geno’s early 20s via Max’s coaching work.) Max worked as a power skating coach for the Penguins for a while and may still be doing that, although these days he largely seems to be teaching skating clinics around the world. He and his wife, Kate, and daughter, Milana, spend a lot of time with Geno and Anna. Max and Anna sometimes go to games together and Anna and Kate have taken the kids to games. Here’s Kate and Max having dinner with Geno and Anna:



Milana is Geno’s goddaughter:

This was taken at a Russian Orthodox church in Pittsburgh, I’m assuming at Milana’s christening. (source)


Max is also friendly with Sid via his work with the Penguins:

Hanging out at Geno’s house at the end of the 2017-2018 season. (source)


Max’s Instagram account is a treasure trove featuring many gems like this delight of Geno wearing his 87 shirt:

Featuring Kate and Max, and the guy in front in the Penguins shirt is a friend from Russia named Konstantin Veshkurtsev. I don’t know who the two women in the back are. Or Santa Claus. (source)


George Birman

George is a Ukrainian guy who works in ticket sales for the Penguins. He served as Geno’s interpreter when Geno first joined the team, and they’re still friendly and socialize quite a bit. Here’s George in action translating for Geno in 2006. I don’t know much else about him but he crops up in pictures from time to time.

An older pic of mama Malkin, papa Malkin, George, and George’s son Arthur. (source)


Gonch, George, George’s wife (Valentina), baby Birman whose name I don’t know, Arthur, Geno, and Anna. (source)


Besa Tsintsadze

A Georgian power skating coach and former figure skater. (Georgia as in the country, not the state.) He was a skating instructor at the Penguins’ training camp in 2006 and was Geno’s roommate and unofficial translator for the duration. Here’s a nice article about him. He and Geno are still friends (are we noticing a theme here?):

March 2018 dinner with Gonch, Nikolay Kulemin (who of course grew up with Geno), and Besa. (source)




Greg Gringruz

A Miami friend. He’s a real estate agent and sold Geno his condo, and he and his wife socialize with Geno and Anna:



That’s all I know about him! He was in the pic with Salt Bae, and he also posted possibly my favorite photo of Geno of all time:

Also featuring Ilya Kovalchuk and a woman I don’t know. (source)


Speaking of Ilya Kovalchuk!


Ilya Kovalchuk & Alex Radulov

Geno has known these guys forever via Team Russia stuff; Kovy famously forced Geno and Ovi to make amends at the 2009 All Star Game. But they seem to have gotten closer in the last couple of years and spent the entirety of summer 2018 hanging out. Geno started training with Pavel Markidan in summer 2017, who Rads also trains with. Rads and Geno also live in the same building in Moscow. Geno seems to have folded Rads into his existing social life:

Like here’s Rads hanging out with Alexey, Anatoly, and Olesya (Anatoly’s wife) of MALKIN TEAM fame (see below). (source)


Here we have Max, Kovy, and a bunch of people I don’t recognize (Geno’s Miami crew?) having a banya day in Miami, so maybe Geno got to know Kovy better from spending time with him in Miami. Kovy and the aforementioned Greg seem to know each other… It’s a tangled web. (source)


Nice work with the bunny ears, Rads. (source)



Geno’s friends from Russia. I’m calling them MALKIN TEAM because, well:



Some of them have Instagram accounts and helpfully post pictures, which is my sole source of info about these dudes. It’s hard for me to figure out what they do or how Geno knows them. Some of them seem to work in hockey and/or for Metallurg; Alexey works for CSKA, a soccer team in Moscow. But they come visit Geno in the US a fair amount, especially around the holidays and playoffs, and he’s got Instagram pictures of these guys going back years, so they are obviously close. A lot of them seem to be old friends from Magnitogorsk.

Since all I have to go on here is Instagram, here’s a photo roster:

From left: Alexey Ubeyvolk (the soccer team one), Philipp Nikitin, Rads, Anatoly Oder, and Max. This was at Geno’s 2018 birthday party. (source)


Some of them flew over for the 2017 Cup final. From left: Andrei Zaitcev, Anatoly, Geno, Dmitry Leonov, and Alexey. I think their presence in Pittsburgh is why Geno skipped things like the Pirates game. (source)

[Side note: I’m pretty sure this Andrei is the same guy mentioned in this article: “"Malkin was hungry," says Andrei Zaitsev, a Magnitogorsk restaurateur and club owner who befriended Evgeni around that time.” So if I’m right, they’ve been friends since Geno was still with Metallurg.]


Andrei, Alexey, and Anatoly on Geno’s truck at the 2017 parade. (source)


A bunch of them came to visit for New Year’s 2015. From left: Philipp, Sid, Alexey, Geno, and Anatoly, and that’s Philipp’s son holding Geno’s hand. (source)


This guy is Aleksey. He seems to have dropped off the radar in the last year or two so I’m not sure he and Geno are still close friends, but he’s in a lot of Geno’s older Instagram pics. (source)


A summer 2017 dinner with many of the usual suspects. From left: Ksenia, Gonch, papa Malkin, mama Malkin, Anna, Geno, Gennady, Alexey, Anatoly, Olesya, and a man I don’t recognize. (source)

These aren’t the only people who show up in Geno’s pictures regularly. Some of them aren’t on Instagram and I can’t figure out who they are. The bottom line is that he’s got a big tight crew of friends and seems to have a very busy and active social life.