Russia and the former Soviet Union have an incredibly rich hockey history only bettered by that of Canada. But who is the greatest Russian ever?
It's a question that is hard to answer because of the Cold War and the communists Iron Curtain politics. While many of today's fans will claim Sergei Fedorov or Pavel Bure or maybe Alexander Ovechkin is the greatest ever, it is almost impossible to determine Russia's greatest player from a Canadian's vantage point.
While the top Russian and eastern European stars are now allowed to come to North America and pursue a career in the NHL, this was not always so. Not until the late 1980's were the top older players given permission to leave. Prior to that point the only time we saw the Russians was in major tournaments such as the Canada Cup and the Olympics. What we did get to see of them left us in awe of the immense skill and team work.
While we have had a chance to watch such as Soviet superstars like Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov and Viacheslav Fetisov, their best years were all behind the Iron Curtain. Those three get much consideration when discussing the topic of the greatest Russian players. Vladislav Tretiak of course also gets high rankings. However very arguably the greatest Russian player was Valeri Kharlamov, and we were almost completely robbed of enjoying his immense package of skills.
Valeri Kharlamov played during the 1970's prior to the arrival of Larionov and Makarov and co. His skating was unequaled and his passing and shooting was simply uncanny. He perhaps had the greatest arsenal of skill of any player ever, maybe even more so than Gretzky or Lemieux, but we never had the chance to really determine that. One European hockey expert described Kharlamov as a combination of Mike Bossy and Pavel Bure.
Read the full Valeri Kharlamov biography, and watch the video below: