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Vancouver Canucks set to honor Igor Larionov tonight


James O’Brien

While the Montreal Canadiens welcome back a player who skated for their team for 13 years, the Vancouver Canucks will honor someone who only played three seasons in their city.

Russian hockey legend Igor Larionov only played 210 regular season games over those three seasons (scoring 51 goals and 92 assists for 143 points in that span), but he made a significant overall impact on the game by leaving Russia to play in North America. The Canucks decided that they will acknowledge his contributions to the league and their team tonight.

It took Larionov eight years to break free from the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation to play in the NHL, but Greg Douglas of the Vancouver Sun reports that it only seemed to take him seconds to agree to the Canucks’ ceremony.

While the Canucks drafted him in 1985, it wasn’t until three years later when he broke the barrier that prevented Soviet players from joining NHL teams. Larionov performed his artistry for just three seasons in Vancouver but remains a fan favourite and the feeling is mutual. It took him eight seconds to accept the Canucks’ invitation for him and his wife Elena to be in the spotlight at tonight’s game against Calgary. Stephanie Willox of the Canucks’ 40th Anniversary Committee tracked Larionov down in Dearborn, Mich., where he’s a partner in a winery branded Triple Overtime. When Stephanie uncorked the question about his availability for a night in his honour, she could almost hear him toasting her through the telephone.

(H/T to George Malik.)