January 04, 2016
Igor Ulanov played 739 regular season NHL games over 15 NHL seasons. Those are pretty amazing feats of longevity for a defenseman who often seemed to be on the bubble.
That is because Igor Ulanov had two reputations.
When he was at his best, Ulanov was a real impact player. Literally. He was a punishing open ice hitter with a real nasty streak. When he played with Tampa Bay his head-to-head battles with Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers got down right vicious. Same with his battles with Vancouver's Trevor Linden when Ulanov was a rookie in Winnipeg. He was a great villain in that regard, one that infuriated opponents by carrying his stick pretty high.
But he also had a reputation as being very inconsistent with his physical play. In the same game that he would devastate an opponent with a thunderous hit he would let an attacker elude him because he failed to make a simple take out.
Ulanov had a craggy face with facial features that uncannily resembled Viacheslav Fetisov, the greatest Russian defender of them all. But, unfortunately, his game did not often enough resemble Fetisov's.
Ulanov was an agile skater and could handle the puck well. He actually loved to join the attack thanks to his first-step quickness. He also had good anticipation, breaking up a rush and turning the play around immediately. However he only had a modest shot and was never much of a finisher.
A Jets' draft choice (203rd overall in 1991), Ulanov's frustrating ways saw him become a vagabond NHLer who played with eight NHL teams. Had he been able to simplify his game and play with better positioning rather than going out of his way on search and destroy missions he likely would have found a little more stability in his career.
But there was always somebody looking for a defender who could hit the way he could.
Ulanov packed his bags and returned home in 2006 and continued to play in Russia for three more seasons. He later turned to coaching.