The Hockey Hall of Fame corrected one of the biggest omissions in 2005 when they announced deceased Soviet superstar Valeri Kharlamov would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Kharlamov joins Vladislav Tretiak as the only Soviets or modern era players of any nationality to be inducted despite never playing in the National Hockey League. Soviet hockey mastermind Anatoli Tarasov is also inducted, as is former Soviet standout Viacheslav Fetisov. Fetisov was able to enjoy a long tenure in the National Hockey League.
There is no denying Kharlamov's inclusion among the hockey immortal.
Kharlamov was one of the most decorated players in history. He had an outstanding 14- year career with CSKA Moscow (Central Red Army) in the Soviet league. He played in 436 regular season games, recording 293 goals and 214 assists while helping the Red Army team win 11 league championships. He participated in eleven consecutive IIHF World and European championships and helped the Soviet Union win gold on eight occasions. In other international play, he participated in three Olympic Games, winning gold in 1972 and 1976, and was a key member of one of the greatest lines in hockey history, partnering with Army teammates Boris Mikhailov and Vladimir Petrov.
He was also one of the most spectacular players ever. He wowed Canadian audiences, particularly during the 1972 Summit Series. He defined Soviet skill and grace and was hero to a a generation of hockey super stars that would be allowed to play in the National Hockey League, such as Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny.
"His talents were God-given and he could do practically everything — a smart play, a tricky pass, a precise shot," said Hall of Fame goaltender, Vladislav Tretiak. "Everything he did looked so easy, so elegant. His execution of hockey was aesthetic and he amazed millions."
Hopefully Kharlamov's inclusion will only open up the door to more Soviet and international players inclusion. Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Alexander Maltsev, Alexander Yakushev, Alexander Ragulin and Valeri Vasiliev are all 1972 participants who deserve serious consideration.
However fans probably shouldn't expect to see any soon. The upcoming draft classes will be flooded with incredible candidates. For example, the 2007 class will have to choose from Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Ron Francis and Mike Richter. All would likely be shoo-ins, but only Messier can count on 2007 as his induction year.
Also eligible that year will be Igor Larionov. He would likely be an automatic induction too, but he may have to wait a few years. It would be nice to see Sergei Makarov and Pavel Bure inducted as well.