Through eight seasons in Detroit (1995-00 & 2000-03), Larionov won three Stanley Cup championships.
“I was doing my morning routine, my work out,” Igor Larionov said. “I got kind of lucky, because all of the bikes were busy and I got a phone call from the Hall of Fame. I was really overwhelmed by the news. Obviously, it’s a big, big honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Igor Larionov, part of the "Russian Five" aka. "The Professor" will now be inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame along with Glenn Anderson of the Edmonton Oilers. Also being inducted in the Class of 2008 are former Western Hockey League Commissioner Ed Chynoweth and former NHL linesman Ray Scapinello.
A hard pill to swallow...
Like Detroit Red Wing Captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, Larionov, 47, was a gentleman on and off the ice. He entered the NHL in 1989 with the Vancouver Canucks.
In 1993, he was acquired by the San Jose Sharks and then joined the Wings in 1995. Larionov spent eight total seasons with the Wings, as well as short stints with the Florida Panthers (2000-1) and the New Jersey Devils (2003-4).
Joining the Wings, though, was a turning point for the Larionov and Hockeytown. Over the next seven seasons with Detroit, his name was inscribed on Lord Stanley's Cup three times (1996-97, 1997-98 and 2001-2).
The news of his induction into the 2008 Hall of Fame was tinged with sadness, though.
“A month ago my mother passed away, and it’s been an emotional time for me,” he said. “Now actually, I wish she were around. Today, it’s great news, so I called my dad.”
The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming...
When Larionov was with Detroit, he was part of the "Russian Five" which consisted of Slava Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov on the wings, Larionov at center and Vladimir Konstantinov and Slava Fetisov on defense.
After the Wings won the Cup in '97, Konstantinov was seriously injured in a limousine accident and that was the end of the "Five."
“I was in San Jose and Scotty (Bowman) called me at seven o’clock in the morning California time to tell me that he traded for me in Detroit,” Larionov said. “He told me he was going to put me in the middle of Fedorov and Kozlov with Fetisov and Vladdy (Konstantinov) on the back.”
After Konstantinov's injury, Dmitri Mironov replaced him making up the "Russian Five II," but that was short lived, and the "Russian Five" was no more.
“It’s nice to see the European players come to North America and make the game more finesse and more exciting to watch,” Larionov said. “There are two styles, European style and North American style—and I think that’s what makes the National Hockey League the best hockey league in the world."
Igor, throw the first switch...
Larionov was born December 3, 1960 in Voskresensk in the Soviet Union. He started playing hockey on several different Red Army teams in 1977 until he joined the NHL in 1989.
During this time, he won several Canada Cup Awards and was part of the 1984 and '88 USSR Olympic hockey teams. (A little known fact about Larionov will be revealed at the end of this article.)
Igor, throw the second switch...
In 1989, he and fellow teammate, Vladamier Krutov, left Russia and were drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. Larionov amassed 44 points that season, but his comrade found life in America difficult and retired at the end of the season.
Larionov spent three years in Vancouver and then was traded to San Jose where he was for the next three years before joining the Red Wings and the "Russian Five."
His intelligence on the ice put him at the top of many NHL scoring and points lists and gave him the nickname "The Professor" for his passing abilities.
Igor, throw the third switch...
After spending eight years in Detroit, he went to the New Jersey Devils and at the end of the 2003-4 season, he retired. In 921 games, he scored 169 goals and had 475 assists along with three Stanley Cup Championships.
Today, Larionov has his own wine club on the internet making wines under the labels "Hattrick" and "Triple Overtime." He is married to former figure skater Elena Botanova and has three children, Alyonka, Diana, and Igor II.
A little trivia for you...
Larionov and fellow Red Winger Slava Fetisov were part of the 1980 USSR Olympic hockey team that played the 1980 US team at Madison Square Gardens in New York (watch "Miracle").
After that game, Larionov was the last player cut from the team and never played in the Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, that year. Makes you wonder what might have happened if he had played on that Russian team.