Russian Legends 
Impoverished, Need Help

In a bitter twist of irony, I read an interesting quote on the same day I heard a related and disturbing story.

The quote was by the much celebrated Paul Henderson and Phil Esposito. In Ken Dryden's book Home Game  Esposito was quoted as saying "When he scored it (the Series winning goal), I mean,  that's the closest I ever came to loving another guy.  I mean, I really loved him. I think if I'd had a million dollars, I'd have given it to him right there."

At a Team Canada reunion, Henderson reminded Espo of his quote of generosity and said "Well, you've got it (the million dollars) today," with a good laugh.

Laughing back Espo snapped "I don't love you that much any more!"

Ah yes, these are good times for most of the members of Team Canada 1972. They're not all millionaires as they played prior to the big buck era of the NHL, but most are comfortably set for the rest of their lives.

The same can not be said of many of their Russian counterparts. 

But Igor Larionov and his friends are trying to do something about it. And they are putting the Stanley Cup to work to do it while also honouring the many Russian greats who never had the opportunities to play in the NHL and make millions of dollars that he has had.

In a typically classy move by Larionov, he hosted 3 charity games it to work to raise money for impoverished Soviet hockey veterans, while at the same time inspiring the next generation of Russian hockey players. 

Larionov took the Cup to his home town of Voskresensk. Approximately 3,000 people attended the charity game in the local rink, between teams comprised mainly of old Soviet hockey veterans headed by Larionov and former Soviet and NHL star defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov. Larionov's team wore the jerseys of the local team Khimik - where Larionov started out - while Fetisov's wore old Soviet national team uniforms emblazoned with the logo CCCP. (No official score was kept).

Larionov also took the Cup to similar fund raising events in Odintsovo and Podolsk.

The cause Larionov, Fetisov and others are championing is a greatly needed and respect-filled gesture.

"Life of Russian hockey veterans is very hard," said Soviet hockey star Sergei Makarov. Makarov also enjoyed 7 years in the NHL "Most of them don't have enough to eat these days. These old players are Russian legends. It's important to them and the Russian fans that they are remembered. It doesn't happen very often."

Alexander Gusev, a Soviet veteran who participated in the legendary 1972 Summit Series, said Larionov's efforts are a huge boost to the retired players.

"We don't have jobs, we need money," said Gusev. "For me personally, this is not about money. I'm a Russian, I can play hockey for nothing. What I want is respect. What Larionov is doing will help us all immensely."

Larionov's wife Yelena, who is helping plan the events, said: "Many of these guys were wonderful hockey players, but they are in a terrible way now. We need to think about them."