While the Caps were welcoming back Olie Kolzig on Monday night, one of the giants in Russian hockey history was being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Igor Larionov, “The Professor,” became just the fifth Russian-born player to be enshrined to the Hockey Hall of Fame and only the second Russian-born and trained player with NHL experience in the Hall, joining Slava Fetisov. Larionov won three Stanley Cups with Detroit and had 169 goals and 644 points in the NHL, but he was an international superstar long before he crossed the pond.
He was a dominant player for CSKA Moscow in the U.S.S.R. and starred for the Soviet national team. Larionov is a legend in all hockey circles, but particularly for younger Russian players who have also made the move to the NHL.
“Of course – everybody in Russia knows him and he deserves to be there,” Alex Ovechkin said. “He was one of the great Russian players in history. I think he deserves it and I would [congratulate] him.”
Ovechkin had a unique opportunity when he was 15 years old. Larionov came and skated with Ovechkin’s Dynamo junior team for a day.
“He gave me good advice then. I was so excited to skate with him,” Ovechkin said. “He has won Stanley Cups, and he made a great career. At the time, he was one of my idols.”
Viktor Kozlov was a kid growing up in the old Soviet Union when Larionov helped to bring his country glory at the 1981 Canada Cup and the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Kozlov said every young hockey player in the country looked up to the great trio of Larionov, Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov.
Kozlov had the chance to play with one of his childhood idols in the NHL on multiple occasions. Larionov was with the San Jose Sharks when Kozlov broke into the league in the 1994-95 season, and then the two were together again for part of a season with the Florida Panthers.
Larionov is actually the first member of the HHOF to play for the Sharks or the Panthers organization.
“I am very excited for him,” Kozlov said. “He is most deserving of this. He is one of the best ever for sure.”