Artemi Panarin, what were you doing?

Artemi Panarin, the New York Rangers Hart Trophy finalist, went for an aerial joyride with Alexei Kovalev

I don’t know about you, but I was just a little concerned when I saw that Artemi Panarin went up for a flight in a small plane piloted by Alexei Kovalev. With the New York Rangers about to embark on their first postseason excursion in three years, minimizing risk seems to be the operative theme these days, whether it be social distancing, mask wearing, or flying in small planes.

Panarin posted pictures in an Instagram story and he spoke about the flight when interviewed by nhl.com on his Hart finalist status.  You can see it here .

What Panarin said (through an interpreter) was scary. “He (Kovalev) is definitely a great pilot, but I brought a parachute just in case.  Thank God I didn’t need it.”  Okay, he was joking.

As a longtime New York sports fan with memories of Thurman Munson and Cory LIdle, not to mention Roy Halladay and Kobe Bryant, any time a player goes near a small aircraft I get the willies.

No reason to worry

In this case, under closer investigation, any concerns are unwarranted.  Alex Kovalev has been flying since the mid-nineties. In fact, he got his pilot’s license while playing with the New York Rangers after a flight over New York City that got him interested in aviation.  He has owned his own plane for years and logs over 90 hours of flying time annually.    He spoke about his love for flying in a 2008 interview that you can read here.

The 46 year old Kovalev has been a longtime favorite of New Yorkers as a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup champions and a free spirit who oozed talent during his two stints with the Rangers.

Kovalev was just named head coach of the Kunlun Red Star in the KHL.  The idea of Kovalev as a head coach is something most of us would have never believed, but it’s a fact.  The irony is, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kunlun will be playing all of their games in Russia instead of their home market of Beijing.  In another irony, guess who coached Kunlun for less than a season in 2017?  Mike Keenan.

As for Panarin, Sunday he travels with the entire Rangers team to the hub city in Toronto where they will enter the Coronavirus free “bubble” (we hope).  In that environment we can be sure that the Rangers’ star will be in as safe  place as there is in North America.   No parachutes needed.

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