March 7, 2010
Alexei Ponikarovsky sat in his new locker room and unlaced his skates. His new team was victorious in their efforts against the Dallas Stars. He had scored a goal and earned the trust of the fans.
He would have done so sooner, but his work Visa had taken longer than expected to clear. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security always heavily scrutinizes immigration applications from those who were born in a former Soviet Republic. The TSA agent at the Pittsburgh airport looked at his passport intently.
“Ponikarovksy? That’s a good Pittsburgh name if I ever heard one,” he said as he ran a black light over the passport, checking its validity. “You’re a long way from the Ukraine though, brotha.”
“Yes. This is true,” the lumbering power forward replied.
The agent looked at him thoughtfully, “You speak pretty good English. What’s your business here in the United States?”
“I am here to play hockey for the Penguins.”
“Oh yeah! I heard about you,” the agent remembered. “Man, you’re a big dude! I thought for a minute you were some type of soldier or something. Like KGB stuff. Ha Ha!”
“Haha. Yes this is a good joke that you have told.” Alexei shuffled uncomfortably. After all his training he was still not capable of telling a convincing lie.
An NHL representative who accompanied Alexei made a mention to the agent that they were in a hurry because he had to play in today’s game. The agent did a cursory search of Alexei’s bags not noticing the secret compartment in his hockey duffle that was filled with Russian-crafted explosives.
“Alright buddy. Welcome to America,” the agent exclaimed. “You’ll love it here. Pittsburgher’s love hockey players. It’s like they can do no wrong in our eyes.”
“This is good to know,” the Ukrainian replied as he smiled and picked up his belongings. I will test this belief, he thought to himself. For if they knew my true purpose, they would surely kill me.
The reporters had all gone and the locker room was rapidly emptying. Ruslan Fedotenko, another Ukrainian, a civilian, asked him something.
“Хочете захопити пити?” the rosy-faced winger asked.
“No thank you. I’m fairly tired,” Ponikarovsky replied. “I’ll get a drink with you tomorrow.”
Alexei looked up at the ceiling of this new building. By this time next year, if his government-issued mission was successful, the Mellon Arena will be demolished and the people of Pittsburgh would never have a clue that he was behind it.