Saturday, March 31, 2012

'DID YOU KNOW' - The Russians Are Coming!

Anyone up with hockey these days knows the names Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk......the list goes on.

Most of you know the names Fedorov, Larionov and Makarov.

But how many of you know the name Sergei Priakin? Or how about Victor Nechayev?

If you don't, stick with me and you'll get to know them.....and how important they are to the NHL.

DID YOU KNOW: Sergei Priakin was the first Russian player allowed by the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation to play in the NHL.

First of all.....yes, this is a first year Pro Set card.  And yes, you can learn interesting and valuable things from Pro Set.

It was 23 years ago today that NHL history was made. The Calgary Flames gave the 25 year old winger (drafted 252nd overall in 1988) the opportunity to play late in the season after his team (the Soviet Wings) completed their season.  It ushered in a new era of international player to the NHL scene.

In the late 80's, Soviet players were regarded as an outside force.  Russian-born players in the NHL up until Priakin's debut were almost non-existent (some played without permission).  The S.I.H.F. was in a transitional period as the 90's began (it wouldn't take long before more players came over to North America to test their skills in the NHL).  For Priakin, this was an opportunity to prove that not only did he belong ....but so did players of his nationality.

Because it was so late in the season (and the Flames at that time were a powerhouse team), Sergei's impact was not quite as powerful statistically on the ice.  He tallied just 2 penalty minutes (and nearly had an assist) in the pair of games he played in before the playoffs.  He suited up for one post-season tilt.

Remember, it was 1989....the year the Flames won the Stanley Cup.  And although Priakin didn't qualify to get his name engraved on the trophy, he did receive a Championship ring and posed for the official Stanley Cup team photo.

Not bad for a guy with that much pressure on on his shoulders.

In three more seasons with the Flames, Sergei Priakin played in just 46 regular season games scoring 3 goals and adding 8 assists.  And while many see his NHL career as just a blip on the radar, his impact on the league is still felt to this day.

Sergei had a pretty solid overall career (and he had some amazing hockey experiences).  He was a part of the 1982 World Juniors, the 1984 Olympics, won a gold medal in the 1986 World Championships, played in the 1987 Canada Cup and Rendez-Vous '87.  There are a lot pro hockey players that can't read off a resume like that.

He finished off his pro career in the late 90's with Swiss and Finnish teams (and even played a few games for a league in Japan).

Now I said that he was the first Soviet player to play in the NHL with permission from the S.I.H.F., and I mentioned that there have been players before him from Russia to play in the NHL.  So who was the first ever Soviet born player in the NHL?

That distinction goes to Victor Nechayev.

If you haven't heard of Sergei surely haven't heard of Victor Nechayev.

Victor was drafted in the 7th round (132nd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1982 Entry Draft.  NHL teams in those days would use their late round picks to draft Soviet players on the off chance that they would be able to get permission to play in North America.  A great example of this would be legendary Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak.  He was drafted in the 7th round by the Montreal Canadiens in 1983 and then GM Serge Savard travelled to Russia multiple times in an attempt to lure Tretiak over to the NHL (sadly with no success).

Anyways, back to Nechayev.  He was drafted in 1982 and made his debut in 1983 (he was not deemed an elite player in his homeland and as a result there was not a lot of resistance in his move to the Kings.  He played in just 3 games and managed to pop one goal.

It seemed so insignificant at the time, but that goal and his suiting up for the Kings started the trip down the path.  A path that would allow a number of amazing Russian players to play in the greatest league of them all.

Now you know.


  1. Victor Nechayev was technically the first Soviet trained player to play in the NHL--My November 30th post was about the first Russian born player to play in the NHL--Sweeney Schriner, born in Russia but came to Canada (Calgary) when he was a month old--Sorry to burst your bubble

    1. Fair enough. I'll call that one a technicality.

      Thanks for the info.

    2. Kazi... you are a dick. Nobody considers Schriner to be technically Russian. This is a good post