In 1995, Larionov was struggling through the season in San Jose when then-Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman called him.
“I was in San Jose and Scotty called me at seven o’clock in the morning California time to tell me that he traded for me in Detroit,” Larionov said. “He told me he was going to put me in the middle of Sergei Fedorov and Slava Kozlov with Slava Fetisov and Vladdy (Konstantinov) on the back.”
The phone call made a huge difference for Larionov. It also helped mold history in Hockeytown.
Larionov’s move helped the Red Wings winning three Stanley Cups in eight seasons, which arguably led to his phone ringing Tuesday morning.
“I was doing my morning routine, my work out,” Larionov said. “I got kind of lucky, because all of the bikes were busy and I got a phone call from the Hall of Fame. I was really overwhelmed by the news. Obviously, it’s a big, big honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
A member of the Russian Five, Larionov, along with Fedorov, Fetisov, Kozlov and Konstantinov, helped bring the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown in 1997 -- and again in ’98 and 2002.
Once inducted, Larionov will join Fetisov in the hall of fame. Always at the top of most hockey lists, Larionov tops the head of the class of 2008, which includes longtime Edmonton Oilers forward Glenn Anderson and referee Ray Scapinello.
Still, the news of Larionov’s election, was bittersweet.
“A month ago my mother passed away, and it’s been an emotional time for me,” he said. “Now actually, I wish she were around. Today, it’s great news, so I called my dad.”
Breaking the Russian barrier, Larionov was one of the pioneers, who paved the path for European players, who continue to migrate to the NHL.
“It’s nice to see the European players come to North America and make the game more finesse and more exciting to watch,” Larionov said. “There are two styles, European style and North American style – and I think that’s what makes the National Hockey League the best hockey league in the world.
“To be inducted, right next to Slava, I believe and some of the other Russian fellas … it’s a huge honor.”
Larionov, 47, played 14 NHL seasons, which included stops in Vancouver, San Jose, Florida
|Larionov (middle) joins friend Slava Fetisov (R) in the hockey hall of fame. |
and New Jersey. In eight seasons with the Red Wings, he had 89 goals and 308 assists in 539 regular-season games.
Nicknamed the 'Professor', Larionov was already an established world-class player before he signed with the Canucks as a 29-year-old rookie in 1989.
On the international stage, Larionov centered the KLM line of Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makorov. With Larionov, the Soviets were victorious in the 1981 Canada Cup, won Olympic gold medals in 1984 and ’88 and was in on four IIHF world championships. He played in the 1984 and ’87 Canada Cup tournaments, and at age 41 captained Russia at the 2002 Olympics. He was a member of eight Soviet-champion Red Army teams.
But he gained just as much success with the Red Wings as he did back home in the Soviet Union.
“Obviously to me, with the national teams, that was success. That was fun,” Larionov said. “But to play the style that I was taught to play back in Russia, which was back control, puck-possession and skating, and the creativity that you saw, and more important, to have a coach and an organization that was driving to win the Stanley Cup … Those eight seasons with the Red Wings, I put in comparison with the eight seasons with the Red Army team and the national team. That was success. That was fun. It was unbelievable support from the fans. It was incredible.”
For Larionov, who retired after the 2003-04 season, it was a thrill to watch the Red Wings, especially fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk
win the Stanley Cup earlier this month.
“I spoke to Pavel a couple of days ago,” Larionov said. “I was so pleased and happy to see him be a huge part of that success. I was so happy to see him take another step as a leader of the team and play on a consistent level all season long and in the playoffs.
“I’m glad to see that he has absorbed all of the things that I tried to teach him in the first couple of years. Now he’s a complete superstar, and a guy that you can rely on. He’s going to be very, very successful.”
The Induction Weekend festivities will run from November 7-9, culminating with the Induction Celebration on Monday, Nov. 10. Special events will take place throughout the weekend to commemorate this year's inductees, including the annual Legends Classic Game, which features the 2008 Pre-Induction Ceremony & Honored Member Blazer presentation scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Air Canada Centre.
Former Red Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli was also up for induction, but did not receive enough votes to get in.