Star Habs defenceman Markov becomes Canadian citizen

MONTREAL – He’s now a true Montreal Canadian.

Habs star Andrei Markov took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Montreal on Friday.

The Russian-born defenceman was clutching a small Maple Leaf in his hands during the ceremony.

“I’m happy to be here and proud to be Canadian,” the soft-spoken star told reporters after he was sworn in.

Sporting a grey suit and a pink shirt, a tanned Markov took the oath with 31 other people from 13 different countries.

He was accompanied at the ceremony by Habs general manager Pierre Gauthier and team president Pierre Boivin.

Markov, who has been with the Habs for his entire 10-year career, said he hoped to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens “for a long time.”

But he hastened to add that he will retain his dual Russian citizenship and play for his home country at international tournaments. He gently shrugged off questions about whether he might play for Team Canada.

“I’ve been here (in Montreal for) 10 years and I like this city, I like this country and it’s important for me to be Canadian—but I’m still Russian anyway,” he said.

“I’m never going to play for the Canadians, sorry.”

Markov played for Russia at the 2010 Winter Olympic in Vancouver.

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Asked if there are any parts of Canada he’d like to visit, Markov said he would really like to see Niagara Falls because he hasn’t been there yet.

Markov has been among the Habs’ top-scoring players in recent years and is considered among the league’s best defencemen.

However, he has been plagued by injuries and has seen his last two seasons cut short while his team entered the playoffs. He missed the lion’s share of the Habs’ improbable playoff run last year.

He said he’d like to see the team repeat last year’s playoff exploit, when it reached the Stanley Cup semifinals.

“I feel good and I feel comfortable with my rehab and I hope I’m going to be back soon,” Markov said, adding that he still has not strapped on his skates.

But he had little to say when asked about the team’s decision to trade its biggest star in that playoff run—goalie Jaroslav Halak. He chalked it up to a management decision, and expressed confidence in the team’s new undisputed No. 1 goalie, Carey Price.

Markov, who is eligible for free agency after next season, got 34 points in 45 games last year.