April 15, 2006

Boris Mikhailov

Boris Mikhailov is one of the most famed hockey players ever to come out of the former Soviet Union. From 1966 until 1981 he was a player of extraordinary magnitude and continues to be a force in Russian hockey today.

Mikhailov, famous for wearing the dreaded #13, combined with Valeri Kharlamov and Vladimir Petrov to form perhaps the greatest Russian unit of all time. This is supported by the trio's play in the 1973 World Championships when they finished 1-2-3 in the scoring race as the trio average just under nine points a game! In 15 World and Olympic Championship tournaments, they scored a combined 275 goals and 537 points!!

#13 personally scored 108 of those goals in the 120 games. He also added 77 assists and 60 penalty minutes.

His long list of accomplishments in International Hockey include:
During Soviet League play, he played in 572 games scoring a record 427 goals along with 224 assists for a record 651 points. The 8-time Russian All Star led the league in scoring three times and was named MVP twice.

* 2 Olympic Gold Medals (1972 & 1976)
* 8 World Championships (1969-71, 1973-75, 1978-79) (voted top forward in 73 and 79)
* 9 Izvestija Championships
* 10 European Cups

Mikhailov was surprisingly "Canadian" in his approach to hockey. The Soviets prided themselves on being the opposite of North American hockey, yet the ruthless Mikhailov is remembered as a guy who loved to mix it up and go to the corners, digging for loose pucks. He had a knack for scoring important and clinching goals, more often than not they were by banging for loose pucks and scoring "garbage goals."

Anything but elegant or graceful, he looked almost clumsy compared to his highly polished line mates. Yet his dedication to training won over national team head coach Anatoli Tarasov and all of his teammates. He was the natural leader of many great Soviet squads and always gave 100%.

In perhaps his finest moment, Mihailov was named as the Most Valuable Player in the 1979 Challenge Cup between the Soviet Red Army and the NHL All Stars.

Boris' last game with the Soviet National team Isvestija game. In front of 14000 people at the famous Luzhniki Ice Palace his teammates carried him around the rink on their shoulders to a thunderous ovation. It was the finest compliment and thank you for all his dedication and effort.

Canadians never came to like Mikhailov. In fact they singled him out as perhaps the one player they hated the most during Hockey's "Cold War." While Canadians were awed by Tretiak's goaltending and fascinated with the skill and passing of the likes Kharlamov and Petrov, Mikhailov sticks out in Canadian memories as the man who kicked out at Gary Bergman during the 1972 Summit Series. During the immense emotion of the tournament Mikhailov had broken from Soviet thinking and showed rare emotion by committing hockey's cardinal sin, kicking at another player. Bergman was cut badly.

That one incident is unfortunate since it was one of the few times Canadians saw Boris Mikhailov play. But that incident shouldn't take anything away from one of the true Legends of Hockey.

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