Top 10 Russian Hockey
In 2002, The Hockey News created an unofficial and somewhat controversial list of the top 10 greatest Russian hockey players of all time. Most of these players were ineligible for The Hockey News highly publicized Top 100 players of all time at the turn of the 21st century, as that list only considered NHL talent and not international players
The results were:
1. Viacheslav Fetisov - played from 1977 through 1998. He was the heart and soul of the great Soviet Union teams of the 1980s. He is a 6 time World Champion and 2 time Olympic champion. Fetisov was the driving force among players to gain freedom to play outside of Russia and specifically in the National Hockey League. As result he came to North America in 1989. Though his best days were behind him, he established himself as one of the steadiest defenders in the NHL for nearly a decade. He earned 2 Stanley Cups as a player. He is one of only two Russian players in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
2. Vladislav Tretiak - played from 1968 through 1984, all in Russia. The acrobatic goalie became a legend in both the Soviet Union and in Canada with his stunning "debut" in the 1972 Summit Series. He would go on to be Canada's number 1 nemesis over the years. Tretiak is a 10 time World Champion, 3 time Olympic champion and 1 time Canada Cup champion. He is the only modern-era non-NHL player in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and one of only two Russian players so honored.
3. Valery Kharlamov - played from 1967 through 1981. His career was cut short due a fatal car accident. Kharlamov dazzled audiences with is puck handling and skating skills. When he "debuted" before Canadian audiences in the 1972 Summit Series, he left fans with their jaws dropped. This 8 time World Champion and 2 time Olympic champion was described by one hockey expert as a combination of Mike Bossy and Pavel Bure.
4. Anatoly Firsov - played from 1958 through 1974. One of the Russians' earliest stars, he dominated with his puck skills as the Russians took over the international scene in the 1960s. An 8 time World Champion and three time Olympic champion, Firsov boycotted the 1972 Summit Series to show support for ousted national team coach Anatoli Tarasov. It has been said that Russians' loss of Firsov was the equivalent of Canada's inability to dress Bobby Hull.
5. Alexander Maltsev - Played from 1967 through 1983. An 8 time World Champion and 2 time Olympic champion and 1 time Canada Cup champion, Maltsev was the ultimate team player despite having individual skills that precious few others have ever possessed. A joy to watch.
6. Sergei Fedorov - played 1986 through present. Fedorov is the highest ranking "NHL Russian" - in other words he played the vast majority of his career in the NHL, not in international competition. This three time Stanley Cup champion became the first and only NHLer to be named as the league's MVP and best defensive player in the same year. In many ways he is a classic Russian centerman which prevents him from truly dominating the NHL offensively like he is capable of. Although highly respected, in many ways very underrated.
7. Valery Vasiliev - played 1967 through 1982. A 9 time World Champion and 2 time Olympic champion and 1 time Canada Cup champion, Vasiliev was the greatest defenseman in Russian hockey history prior to Fetisov. Very similar in style, perhaps Vasiliev would get the nod over Fetisov had Vasiliev had a broader North American audience like Fetisov benefited from.
8 Vsevolod Bobrov - Played from 1946 through 1957, later coached the Soviet national team including in the 1972 Summit Series. Bobrov, who was also a football (soccer) star, was the earliest Russian hockey hero. He more than any other player dominated the infancy years of Russian hockey. He is the original Russian Rocket as in his time he was compared to Canada's most prolific scorer - Rocket Richard. Bobrov was part of 2 World Championships and 1 Olympic gold.
9. Sergei Makarov - played from 1976 through 1998. Makarov was the explosive winger on the feared KLM Line with Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov with the Russian national teams throughout the 1980s. Makarov was part of 2 Olympic, 7 World and 1 Canada Cup championships. Makarov later joined the National Hockey League and subsequently was named as the NHL rookie of the year in 1990. He went on to score 134 goals and 384 points despite being in the twilight of his career.
10. Pavel Bure - played from 1986 to present. Nicknamed The Russian Rocket because of his incredible speed, Bure could be the most electrifying player of his era - regardless if he's Russian, Canadian or any other nationality. He has that rare ability to get people out of their seats simply by picking up the puck. When he's on his game he is an absolute joy to watch, but he is increasingly enigmatic. He is one of only 8 players in NHL history to score 60 or more goals twice.
Part of the fun of such lists like this is the controversy it creates. How can they include so and so and not include this other guy. I thought it would be appropriate to give some other Russian players their due, and create an honourable mention list:
Alexei Kasatonov - 5 World Championships, 2 Olympic championships, 1 Canada Cup championships, 14 years in the top Russian league, 7 seasons in the NHL
Vladimir Krutov - 5 World Champions, 2 Olympic championships and 1 Canada Cup championship, 1 NHL season.
Igor Larionov - 2 Olympic championships, 3 World championships, 1 Canada Cup championships, 3 Stanley Cup championships. 12 seasons in Russia, 12 (and counting) in the NHL
Boris Mikhailov - 8 time World champion, 2 time Olympic champion, long time captain is the highest scorer in Soviet hockey history with 427 goals in 572 games. Later became long time coach, including coaching Russia at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
Vladimir Petrov - 8 time World Champion, 2 time Olympic champion
Alexander Ragulin - 10 time World Champion, 3 time Olympic champion
Alexander Yakushev - 8 time World Champion, 2 time Olympic champion.