Legend No. 17

RIA Novosti / Yuriy Somov

If you were tasked with naming a Russian born hockey player wearing the number 17, most North Americans would respond with Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils, or perhaps Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins with the number backwards, 71. However, before both Kovalchuk and Malkin’s time, that number was made famous by Valeri Kharlamov. And both NHL players pay tribute to his number.

Kharlamov is the focus of the new film, Legend No. 17, set to release today overseas.

The film follows Kharlamov’s life, considered to be one the best players in the world during his time. He began playing hockey at the age of 14 at the Children and Youth Sports School in CSKA. There, he lived, studied, but spent most of his time perfecting the sport of hockey. Kharlamov later joined the Soviet Union’s National team at twenty. In 1971, he earned his recognition by winning the “Best Sniper Award” in the Soviet Union Elite League for CSKA Moscow, and was voted to the National All-Star Team.

One of Valeri’s highest achievement came in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan. He won a Gold Medal with the Soviet Union, leading all scorers by netting nine goals and adding six helpers for 15 points in five games. The Soviet Union ended 4-0-1 in the tournament, and had an impressive plus twenty goal differential; most teams had no more than five, if not a negative.

For Canadians, Kharlamov is known from the 1972 Summit Series; Canada versus the USSR in an eight-game hockey series. The first four games were played in Canada with the remaining four played in the Soviet Union. It is important to note that this was the first time the Soviet National Team played against Team Canada being selected from NHL players. Essentially, this was the best of both nations pitted against one another during the height of the Cold War.

Canadians, not lacking confidence in their hockey prowess, predicted Team Canada to win the series with relative ease. To their surprise, game one of the series in Candada, USSR won 7 – 3. The series was highly competitive, and reached a level of unsporting play. In game six of the series, Team Canada targeted Kharlamov by constantly slashing him.

“I called Clarke over to the bench, looked over at Kharlamov and said, ‘I think he needs a tap on the ankle.’ I didn’t think twice about it. It was Us versus Them. And Kharlamov was killing us. I mean, somebody had to do it.” John Ferguson, Sr., an Assistant Coach with Team Canada. Canadian Bobby Clarke slashed Kharlamov on his left ankle, resulting in a fracture and Kharlamov to miss the final two games.

Kharlamov later played in the 1976 Winter Olympics, winning a Gold Medal, as well as partaking in the North American Tour, a series pitting the Soviet National Team against teams in the NHL. In a matchup between the Soviet team and the Philadelphia Flyers, Valeri was again the target of his opposing team, as Ed Van Impe knocked him out of the game with a blindside hit, resulting in the Soviet team leaving the ice in protest. He also lost to the Miracle on Ice team in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Not wanting to spoil too much of the story, Kharlamov died at the age of 33 in an automobile accident, that also ended the life of his wife Irina. The trailer can be seen below, and from the looks of it, it looks to be a hockey movie worth watching once it makes its way to North America.


3 responses to “Legend No. 17”

  1. Artems Avatar

    Русские фильмы у же и американцы смотреть начали…. О_о

    1. S Avatar

      There was no anymore who was better than him. Never.

  2. terje Avatar

    We need more russian legends in nhl 17…………fetisov/kasatonov/krutov/larionov/makarov would have been sooooooooo coooooool

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