International Ice Hockey Federation

Hero of a hundred years

Hero of a hundred years

Sergei Makarov: a true Chelyabinsk legend

Published 15.08.2018 10:50 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Hero of a hundred years
CSKA Moscow Captain Sergei Makarov during the 1989 Super Series. Photo: Paul Bereswill / HHOF-Images
When Sergei Makarov was voted to the IIHF’s Centennial All-Star Team in 2008, it was a fitting tribute to the greatest player ever from Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Of course, this 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship host city has produced many top talents over the years, from Sergei Babinov and Vyacheslav Bykov to Sergei Gonchar and Yevgeni Kuznetsov.

Yet the electrifying Makarov stands alone as the dominant Russian winger of the 1980’s. He was the top scorer in the Soviet league every year in that decade (710 points in 519 career games), with the exception of 1983 (Helmut Balderis). While his fame came with CSKA Moscow, he began his career with Traktor Chelyabinsk.

Makarov’s exploits in the red-and-white CCCP jersey at the Olympics, IIHF World Championships, and Canada Cup tournaments are even more famous. This dark-haired puck wizard will forever be associated with the national team’s “Green Unit” with left wing Vladimir Krutov, centre Igor Larionov, and defencemen Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov.

He was just a little older than the U18 boys competing in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk this month when he won World Junior gold medals in 1977 and 1978. He later had 384 points in 424 career NHL games with the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, and Dallas Stars. Makarov, who turns 60 on 19 June, was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.

From skating to stickhandling to shooting, Makarov in many ways set the template for the small, slippery, super-skilled forwards of today. That includes not just KHL-trained stars like Nikita Gusev and Artemi Panarin, but also American snipers like Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of Makarov’s Centennial All-Star Team induction, we here reproduce Larionov’s speech for his old linemate at the Quebec City Convention Centre on 17 May 2008 during the IIHF World Championship. (The other team members, voted by 56 international hockey experts, were Vladislav Tretiak in net, Fetisov and Borje Salming on defence, and Valeri Kharlamov and Wayne Gretzky at forward.)

Sometimes, piling up career stats and accomplishments is simply not enough to describe a player’s greatness. Yes, you can say that this player won eight World Championship gold medals in the 11 years he represented his country in this event.

To this, he added two Olympic gold medals and one silver. He dressed for the national team on 315 occasions, and in 101 World Championship games he scored an amazing 118 points. He won the scoring crown in three consecutive World Championships, averaging nearly 1.6 points per game in the process.

But again, this player wasn’t about stats. It was how he played. His natural talent was so great that he made things look so easy – whether with grace he outskated his opponents or made an incredible outside-inside move that left the defenseman flatfooted.

He had the gift of making split-second decisions and this is a quality that you simply cannot acquire by practicing. He was an artist in the Valeri Kharlamov mold. What Kharlamov did in the 70’s, this winger did in the 80’s.

I was extremely fortunate to have the best seat in the house night in and night out to witness his magic.

I was his centre for almost a decade.

The chemistry that we eventually developed was magical. Those who say that we could find each other blindfolded are not correct – but almost. Very often players who are that gifted are somewhat bohemian in their on-ice conduct. It wasn’t the case with him. This player was a hard-working winger who also fulfilled his defensive assignments with pride.

Despite coming to the NHL as a 31-year-old, he made a smooth transition to the North American game. He wrote history and prompted a rule change by winning the NHL Rookie of the Year honors at the age of 32.

After being separated for our first four NHL seasons, destiny reunited us in 1993 in San Jose where we again could create some old-time magic in our post-Soviet careers.

Ladies and gentlemen, when someone asks me who was the best player I ever played with, the answer is easy. It is the second winger on the Centennial All Star Team: Sergei Makarov.


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