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September 07, 2011

Igor Korolev

Hockey fans will always remember Russian Igor Korolev as a skillful, elegant player who, unlike some of his countrymen, earned a great reputation as a hard worker and coach's dream.

He always displayed a very solid work ethic and rarely took a shift off. He was solid in his own zone. He never really thrived in physical games, but he had a nice offensive touch around the net.

Looking back at Korolev's stats it is somewhat of a surprise that he did not put up bigger numbers in the NHL. He had the talent and a certain presence that was always admired. Or perhaps it was just how he embraced Canada when he played here, first with Winnipeg and then Toronto. The Russian was often noticed singing "O Canada" during the pre-game anthem. He became a Canadian citizen late in 2000.

Fans gained even more admiration for Korolev after reading Dave King's book King of Russia. The legendary coach had moved to Russia to coach the KHL team Magnitogorsk Metallurg. King raved about the professionalism of Korolev, a late addition to the team, and how much Korolev's presence helped him succeed in Russia. Korolev after all was well respected in Russia. He was a long time NHLer but also a notable star with Moscow Dynamo in the early 1990s.

That experience may have helped Korolev decide to become a coach himself. He retired in 2010 after playing with another KHL team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He became an assistant coach with the team, a position he held when all of the members of the team perished in a plane crash on September 7th, 2011.

Korolev left behind a widow, Vera, and two daughters.

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