August 10, 2015

Andrei Lomakin

Andrei Lomakin was a skilled forward from the Soviet hockey system who had trouble adjusting to the National Hockey League.

Lomakin was from Voskresensk and played for the famed Khimik hockey team as a junior before joining Moscow Dynamo in 1986. With the national team he would win an Olympic gold medal in 1988, though he may better remembered by North American hockey fans for being assaulted by USA's Gary Suter at the 1987 Canada Cup. Suter's two-handed slash to Lomakin's face resulted in 20 stitches and a suspension for Suter that not only ended his tournament but would continue on into the NHL season.

Lomakin recovered and secured his release from Russia in 1992 in time to join the Philadelphia Flyers for the season. He was the very first Soviet trained player to play for the Flyers, a team not known for embracing Eastern European players too much.

Lomakin was blessed with sneaky speed and a surprising laser of a shot which he did not use it nearly enough. He had strong give-and-go passing instincts but really did not find a partner who understood him and his Soviet thinking. Even when the Flyers tried teaming him with countryman Viacheslav Butsayev it did not help.

Lomakin, like a lot of the Soviet trained forwards, had real trouble adjusting to the NHL game in terms of positioning. At that time the NHL game dictated wingers patrolled their own wing, predictably and reliably up and down the same wall. While NHL centers roamed all over, Soviet wingers were far more likely to roam the ice. Trusting his training that made him an Olympic gold medalist in 1988, he continued to try to do that in the NHL, but he ended up looking lost and uncomfortable.

After two quiet and injury plagued seasons, the Flyers left him unprotected in the NHL expansion draft of 1993. The Florida Panthers - with long time Flyers legend Bobby Clarke as their first general manager - selected him for their inaugural season.

Lomakin had a promising year in Florida. With 19 goals on the season - 16 at even strength - he was second behind only Scott Mellanby in team goal scoring. He committed to playing a more disciplined NHL game in terms of his positioning and it paid off. He was lauded for his effort level at both ends of the ice, and his natural talent levels really seemed to be emerging.

Disaster struck in the 1994-95 season. Of course that season was bad for everyone in hockey thanks to the labour dispute limiting the NHL to a 48 game schedule. Lomakin would only get in 31 games that year for the Panthers, scoring just one goal and six assists.

Lomakin disappeared from the NHL scene after that dismal season. He ended up extending his career with a couple more seasons in Germany.

Sadly, Andrei Lomakin died in 2006 at the early age of 42. He was seeking medical treatment for an unconfirmed cancer in Detroit, Michigan when he passed.

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