Skip to main content

Akim Aliu



Professional hockey players tend to be well travelled. Akim Aliu took that to a whole other level.

Akim was born in Nigeria. His father, Taiwo, was from Nigeria, but left shortly after his son's birth to study geology in Ukraine (which at the time was part of the Soviet Union). There he met his wife, Larissa. Akim learned to skate in Ukraine, and always considered himself to be more Ukrainian or Russian than Nigerian.

The family, including older brother Edward, moved to the Toronto in the late 1990s and Akim, who spoke virtually no English at the time, finally started playing organized hockey in 1999.  By the time Aliu entered the Ontario Hockey League as a 16 year old in 2005, he was considered to be one of the top young prospects in all of Canada.  What made that all the more amazing is he had only taken up the game six years earlier.

"I didn't grow up in this game," he said. "For me, everything was trial and error. But as I got older, I started to understand the discipline of the game."

The Windsor Spitfires took Aliu with their first round pick (6th overall) in 2005, and, seemingly, welcomed him to the team.

It was only months later that Aliu spoke out but disturbing hazing practices Spitfires players were enacting on rookies like Aliu, while coaches and other adults turned a blind eye. The story made national headlines in Canada and throughout the hockey world.

Aliu would be traded to Sudbury to remove him from the situation, though he worried the fallout of the situation would be held against him. He worked hard on improving on the ice.

Akim idolized Eric Lindros and, being a big man himself, patterned his own game after him. His size and skating ability allowed him to continue to be an intriguing NHL prospect, as evidenced by Chicago's drafting him 56th overall in 2007.

Aliu would go on to a vagabond career throughout the minor leagues and eventually Europe. The instability may have harmed his development into a NHL player, as he played for an amazing nine teams and nine coaches in his first four years of pro hockey in North America.

"I didn't know how to deal with coaches," he said. "I wasn't good at taking criticism. I thought I was doing everything right and everyone else was wrong."

That included seven games with the Calgary Flames, split between two seasons. In his second career game he scored twice against Anaheim - his only goals of his NHL career.

But his good NHL showing was derailed by the need for wrist and ankle surgery in the following months. He would never get another shot at the NHL.

Refusing to give up on the dream, Akim Aliu continued his vagabond ways through the minors and Europe.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M