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Artemi Panarin's Path from Poverty to NHL Stardom

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The 8-year-old boy stood shaking and scared in the middle of a bus station in Chelyabinsk, Russia, tears gathering in his eyes and dripping off his cheeks. His panicked hands rifled through the same pockets over and over for the bus ticket he could not afford to lose.


At the previous stop, he?d reached into a secret pocket on the inside of his pants ? to the left of the zipper, just behind the waist ? to buy a snack for the 25-mile trip from Korkino to Chelyabinsk. The ticket must have been left at the counter when he reached for his money.


His grandmother didn?t just put the rubles in that pocket, she sewed that pocket into his jeans, too, hoping robbers wouldn?t find it when they patted him down. This was more than 900 miles east of Moscow and just eight years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Poverty was a permanent cloud in the Chelyabinsk region, and crime was rampant. Even kids weren?t safe.


The boy stood trembling at the world?s mercy. Most mistook him for a 5- or 6-year-old, a golden mop of hair on top of a frail 65-pounder, all ribs and elbows and knees.


Two men emerged from the swirl of legs and luggage. ?Where are your parents? Why are you crying? Are you lost??


They looked around the station for an adult accomplice, fearing a ruse. One gave the boy the money in exchange for a promise that he?d spend it on a bus ticket. Even kids couldn?t be trusted.


The tears dried. A natural smile returned. Deep breaths.


Artemi Panarin remembers this as one of the scariest days of his young life. He bought a new ticket and boarded a bus back home to Korkino, but his remarkable journey from isolation and poverty to NHL stardom and immense wealth was just getting started.


I know many of you don't subscribe to The Athletic, but for those of you who do....this was a phenomenal read.

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