| Makarov the
Former Shark great should be next to get the
10/23/08 - By Steve Flores
are funny! Interesting is probably a better word. Fans of sport in general
have, shall we say, their own way of looking at things. Each person's
perspective is always different as is the way each of us looks at life itself.
I'm not trying to get all existential here - actually nothing could be further
from the truth. My inspiration for this little column was the text-message poll
conducted by Comcast Sports Net on Wednesday night during the San Jose Sharks
The question-O-the day was as follows: "Which ex-Shark
should be the next player inducted into hockey's Hall of Fame? The nominees
were as follows: Sergei Makarov, Mike Vernon and the Sharks current G.M. Doug
First let me state that all three players have credentials
that warrant their insertion into the Mecca of eternal hockey greatness. The
results however made me giggle a bit as the fans chose Wilson with over 60% of
their texts. This doesn't surprise me as most Sharks fans are 'relatively
speaking' new to the hockey world and Wilson is key in the current
Sharkie-world. He also won a Norris Trophy, is a multiple time All-Star and is
a good, solid egg. He was a very good player.
Let me just say that the
text results were not that which inspired me to start tapping the keyboard; the
response of TV commentators Randy Hahn & Drew Remenda that chose Vernon as
the 'obvious' choice is what bothered me. They chose Vernon.
I have no
argument with Vernon's pedigree either. The guy won Stanley Cups and a Conn
Smythe Trophy in 1997. The guy was a great Goalie.
please!!!!!! Sergei Makarov is a living legend.
I have been a hockey
fan for almost 40 years now. Today's NHL has a far broader reach and scope than
when I was a kid. In the early 1970's the Bay Area had the Oakland/California
Golden Seals. Throughout their stay in the East Bay we had very little TV
coverage of the team. As a league there was never really much network coverage
and Cable TV was not the media beast that it is today. There were very few
satellite dishes planted in peoples yards and XM/Sirius radio was the
brainchild of no one. At that time in hockey history there was the Hockey News
and newspaper coverage. In a nutshell one really had to work to get their
information on the game itself and the lack of Television coverage left a lot
of open space for mystery.
The 70's and 80's were also the era of the
Cold War with Russia specifically and communism in general.
Hockey was played by amateurs not NHL stars. The exceptions to the Olympic rule
were the Russians. Yes, by definition they were amateurs but that's because
their players were simply not allowed to leave the motherland to collect a
In 1989 that all changed as the political climate began to
change and Russian players began their exodus to North America.
Makarov was one of those players. During the 1980's
Makarov played on the most famed international line of all-time. For those of
you hockey youngsters the KLM line was comprised of Makarov, (former Shark)
Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov. This trio was truly legendary. The Russians
were always clouded in mystery, intrigue and a near darkness that reflected the
Cold War itself. The players were rarely if ever allowed to speak publicly and
they were part of a regimen and an era of Russian hockey players that seemed
more militaristic than athlete in regard to their persona. Fear was something
that their coach legendary Victor Tikhonov wanted to instill in opponents and
mystique is that which was born.
Along with legendary defenders
Viacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov the Soviet Union was the standard
bearer of hockey excellence for many years. The Soviets won Gold Medals at the
Olympic Games and World Championships like it was their birthright. The
politics and draconian methods of coaching and system employed by the Soviets
can be debated somewhere else. My input here is simply stating that Makarov is
a true legend.
When people spoke of him prior to his NHL debut they
spoke of the man is if he were a phantom or legend of ancient lore. He was a
member of an elite crew that simply appeared at an arena and devastated all
opponents. His list of achievements is far too long for me to list in specific
detail in this column. Do a search and see for yourself. World Championships,
Gold Medals, Canada Cup titles etc etc. He was even on the famed 1980 Olympic
team that fell to the Americans in the greatest upset in hockey history.
In 1989, when he joined the NHL, he was awarded the Calder Trophy as
rookie of the year. He was 31 and mentally and physically, hardly a rookie. The
NHL changed the award so that no one over 26 could ever win the award
afterward; it is now referred to as 'The Makarov Rule'.
always came easy to him and he was 'old-school' in his approach to the game. He
wasn't a fan of coach-talk and simply wanted to play the game. He had natural
skills that he displayed with flare and results. When I was a teenager I viewed
him as a larger than life figure.
He was a living legend whom ended up
plying his wares in front of me for the Sharks. For me It was an honor to watch
one of the greatest players to ever lace em up. I have never been one to
worship athletes. I love Sport. I love hockey, but autographs and fawning over
performers is not my thing. There has only been a handful that I have looked at
with wide eyes and awe. Sergei Makarov is and always will be Paul Bunyan with a
hockey stick and no disrespect to Drew, Randy, Mike Vernon or Doug Wilson, but
they are all in the long shadow cast by the greatest Right Winger to ever hail
from the former Soviet Union.
Contact Steve at
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