Valeri Kharlamov

Valeri Borisovich Kharlamov (Russian: Вале́рий Бори́сович Харла́мов, IPA: [vɐˈlʲerʲɪj bɐˈrʲisəvʲɪtɕ xɐrˈɫaməf]; 14 January 1948 – 27 August 1981) was an ice hockey forward who played for CSKA Moscow in the Soviet League from 1967 until his death in 1981. Although small in stature, Kharlamov was speedy, intelligent and skilled and a dominant player, being named the Soviet Championship League most valuable player in 1972 and 1973. An offensive player, who was considered very creative and intelligent on the ice, he also led the league in scoring in 1972. He was also a gifted skater who was able to make plays at top speed. Kharlamov was considered one of the best players of his era, as well as one of the greatest players of all time.

Valeri Kharlamov
Hockey Hall of Fame, 2005
Kharlamov with CSKA Moscow
Born (1948-01-14)14 January 1948
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died 27 August 1981(1981-08-27) (aged 33)
near Solnechnogorsk, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight 165 lb (75 kg; 11 st 11 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shot Left
Played for CSKA Moscow
National team  Soviet Union
Playing career 19671981

In international play, Kharlamov represented the Soviet Union at 11 World Championships, winning 8 gold medals, 2 silvers and 1 bronze. He participated in three Olympics, 1972, 1976 and 1980, finishing with two gold medals and a silver, and participated in the 1972 Summit Series against Canada. He spent most of his career playing on a line with Vladimir Petrov and Boris Mikhailov, and this trio is considered one of the best in the history of hockey.

Kharlamov was killed in a car accident in 1981. After his death, Kharlamov was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Russian Hockey Hall of Fame and was selected as one of the forwards on the IIHF Centennial All-Star Team. The Kharlamov Trophy is presented annually to the best Russian hockey player in the NHL, as chosen by his peers. The Kharlamov Cup is presented to the champion of the Minor Hockey League playoffs, and the Kontinental Hockey League named one of their four divisions after him.

Early life

Kharlamov was born in Moscow to Boris and Begonita Kharlamov. Boris was a mechanic at a factory, Kommunar, while Begonita worked with Aeroflot.[1] Begoñita, who was born Carmen Orive Abad, was Basque and originally from Bilbao, Spain, but moved to the Soviet Union in 1937 as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War. Kharlamov's parents were factory workers from Moscow.[2] He was named after Valery Chkalov, a pioneering Soviet pilot. He also had a younger sister, Tatiana.[3] In 1956, when he was 8-years-old, Kharlamov moved to Spain with his mother, though they both returned to the Soviet Union after several months.[2] Due to his mother's heritage, Kharlamov would be nicknamed "The Spaniard" throughout his career.[4]

At age 5 Kharlamov first started to skate, fastening his father's blades onto his own shoes. He was trained by Boris, who had played hockey himself.[5] However Kharlamov, who enjoyed playing football as well, was quite sickly as a youth; in 1961 he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and doctors ordered him to cease any physical activity, and spent several months in hospital, though he ultimately recovered with no apparent cause nor lingering effects.[5][6]

Playing career

Soviet League

Kharlamov successfully tried-out for CSKA Moscow when he was 12, and joined their sports school.[7] He joined the senior team for the 1967–68 season, and made his debut with CSKA on 22 October 1967 against HC Sibir.[8] However Anatoli Tarasov, the coach of the team, felt Kharlamov was not good enough for the team so after 15 matches with CSKA sent Kharlamov to join Zvezda Chebarkul, who played in the third division. He would lead the team in scoring with 34 goals in 32 games.[9]

The following season Kharlamov was brought back to CSKA full-time. In 42 games he scored 37 goals and had 12 assists and finished third in the league in scoring with 49 points; it was during a match in October 1968 that he was first put on a line with Vladimir Petrov and Boris Mikhailov;[10] The three of them would play together for the next several years both with CSKA and internationally, forming one of the most famous lines in hockey history.[11] In the off-season he and his linemates Petrov and Mikhailov were awarded the title of Merited Master of Sport in recognition of winning an international tournament (which would become the Izvestia Cup.[12] Kharlamov scored a further 33 goals in 1969–70, and had placed fifth overall in points with 43, as CSKA won the league championship. He led the league in scoring for the first time in 1970–71 with 40 goals and finished second overall in scoring with 52, and CSKA repeated as champions.[13]

Although Kharlamov never played in North America, he was drafted by the Calgary Broncos of the World Hockey Association, along with Soviet teammates Petrov and Alexander Maltsev in early 1972.[14]

International play

Valeri Kharlamov
Medal record
Olympic Games
1972 Sapporo Team
1976 Innsbruck Team
1980 Lake Placid Team
World Championships
1969 Sweden Team
1970 Sweden Team
1971 Switzerland Team
1973 Soviet Union Team
1974 Finland Team
1975 West Germany Team
1978 Czechoslovakia Team
1979 Soviet Union Team
1972 Czechoslovakia Team
1976 Poland Team
1977 Austria Team

World Championships

Kharlamov's career in Soviet hockey was well established by the time he came to greater attention through his play in international hockey. His first tournament for the Soviet Union was the 1969 World Championship, where he helped the team capture the gold medal.[15] Kharlamov was a fixture on the Soviet national team roster for the next decade. He played in eleven World Championships in total, capturing 8 gold medals, 2 silvers and 1 bronze.[16] He was named to the tournament All-Star team four times (1971, 1972, 1973, and 1976).[16] He played a total of 105 games in the World Championships, scoring 74 goals and adding 82 assists (156 points).[16]

Summit Series

As World Championships were commonly played in Europe, and National Hockey League (NHL) players were not allowed to participate in the Olympics either, Kharlamov and his teammates were still a somewhat unknown quantity when the 1972 Summit Series was played. The eight game series, with four games played in Canada, and four in the Soviet Union was one of the first opportunities for the two countries to pit their best hockey players against each other. Most pundits thought Canada would win convincingly.[17]

In the first game of the series, the Soviet Union stunned Canada with a 7–3 victory. Kharlamov scored two goals on Ken Dryden during the second period, and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.[2][4] Fresh observers of Kharlamov's play were universally impressed. Summit Series defenceman Serge Savard ranked him as one of the top 5 players of all time.[4] Team Canada head coach Harry Sinden would later say of Kharlamov, "He had the skill and the ability of any player in the NHL at the time."[18]

In the sixth game of the series, Bobby Clarke slashed Kharlamov, fracturing a bone in his ankle. He would miss the seventh game of the series, and returned to the lineup for the final game of the series, but at much reduced effectiveness. At the time, many felt the slash was intentional. Assistant coach John Ferguson would later say "I called (Bobby) Clarke over to the bench, looked over at Kharlamov and said, 'I think he needs a tap on the ankle'."[19] As for Kharlamov himself, he had little doubt that an attempt had been made to limit his effectiveness, "I'm convinced that Bobby Clarke was given the job of taking me out of the game."[19] Kharlamov's injury, and his diminished play in the aftermath have been regarded as a turning point for the series in Canada's favour, who won the series in the eighth and final game.[19][20]

Two years later Kharlamov was in the Soviet lineup again during the 1974 Summit Series, playing against the best Canadian players from the World Hockey Association. The Soviets were victorious in this series, with four wins, one loss and three ties. Kharlamov scored two goals and added six assists in the series.[15]


Kharlamov helped the Soviet national men's ice hockey team to win gold medals at the 1972 and 1976 Winter Olympics. In five games during the 1972 tournament, Kharlamov scored nine goals and added seven assists.[15] He won his second gold medal with the Soviet Union in 1976, contributing three goals and six assists. Kharlamov was also part of the silver medal-winning Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympics, which was his last international tournamnet. Overall, Kharlamov won two gold medals and one silver at the Olympics, scoring 36 points in 22 career games.[16]

Kharlamov never played in a Canada Cup tournament. He missed the 1976 Canada Cup due to the injuries he sustained in his first major car accident, and was left off the roster for the 1981 Canada Cup just prior to his fatal car accident, as Tikhonov felt he was too old and not in good enough shape for the team.[21] According to his mother-in-law, Kharlamov had been planning to announce his retirement after playing in the 1981 tournament.[4]


Kharlamov was still active with CSKA when he was killed in a car accident on 27 August 1981.[18] Prior to the accident, Kharlamov had been informed that he would not be a member of the Soviet team playing in the 1981 Canada Cup.[22] Coach Viktor Tikhonov said that Kharlamov was left off the team over concerns about his conditioning.[4] Irina, Kharlamov's wife, was driving back to Moscow from the family's cottage when she lost control and crossed into opposing traffic, hitting a truck head-on.[2] Irina did not have a driver's licence at the time of the crash. When the bodies were recovered, Kharlamov was reaching over from his seat, holding onto the steering wheel.[4] Irina's cousin was also killed.[2] Fans lined the streets during his funeral procession in Moscow, and they filed past his casket which rested at centre ice of CSKA's arena.[4] Near the scene of the crash, a memorial stone in the shape of a hockey puck is inscribed, "The star of Russian hockey fell here."[18]


After his death, Kharlamov's teammates with CSKA decided that no one at any level of the organization would wear Kharlamov's #17 sweater, until his son Alexander was old enough to wear it.[4] Alexander wore #17 until he was a teenager, but later switched to #22, feeling that the expectations that went along with his father's sweater number were too great.[4] When he found himself playing for Tikhonov with the Central Red Army club in 1992, the decision was taken away from him, and he was issued the #17 sweater. After initially being reluctant, Alexander said "Now I am used to it. I felt an additional burden on my shoulders. But now I don't feel anything like that."[4] The #17 is not worn by any member of the Russian national team at senior international competitions.[23] Ilya Kovalchuk usually wears #17 in honour of Kharlamov, his father's favorite player.[24]

In his memory, Sovetsky Sport established the Kharlamov Trophy in 2002; it is awarded annually to the best Russian player in the National Hockey League, as selected by the Russian players in the league.[25] The annual winner of the playoffs in Russia's Junior Hockey League is awarded the Kharlamov Cup. The trophy features a figure modeled after Kharlamov at the top.[26] One of the divisions in the Eastern Conference of the Kontinental Hockey League is named in his honor as well.[27] In 2013, director Nikolay Lebedev released the biopic "Legend No 17", with Danila Kozlovsky portraying Kharlamov for most of the film.[23] "Legend No 17" was nominated for 11 Golden Eagle Awards in 2013, and captured 6 of them, including Best Screenplay.[28] The movie has been described as a personal favourite of Vladimir Putin.[29]

Kharlamov was posthumously inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame in 1998.[15] The Milestone Award is given by the IIHF Hall of Fame to teams that have made significant contributions to international hockey. In 2012, Kharlamov's 1972 Summit Series Soviet Union team was given this honor.[30] To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the IIHF in 2008, a panel of experts named Kharlamov to the Centennial All-Star Team, along with three other Soviet stars, Vladislav Tretiak, Viacheslav Fetisov and Sergei Makarov.[31] Kharlamov was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005. His induction was met with praise from one of the players who idolized him, Ilya Kovalchuk, who said "He should have been there many years ago. I think he was one of the best players in the world."[18] Kharlamov was the second Soviet trained player, after Tretiak, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Upon hearing the news of his father's induction, Alexander Kharlamov said "I want to say thank you for remembering my father."[11] In 2014, Kharlamov was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Russian Hockey Hall of Fame.[32]

Playing style

Small in stature (he was measured as 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) and 70 kilograms (150 lb) during the Summit Series) Kharlamov was a gifted offensive player.[33] During his prime, he was one of the dominant players in Soviet hockey, and he maintained this reputation during international tournaments. Kharlamov loved the creative opportunities his sport provided saying "I like to score beautiful goals."[34] Some compared Kharlamov's play to Wayne Gretzky, in the sense that their overall play was greater than their individual skills, such as skating or shooting would indicate.[18] He was very popular with his fans and teammates.[18]

Personal life

Kharlamov and Irina had two children, a son, Alexander, commonly known as "Sasha" and a daughter, Begonita. Valeri married Irina in 1975, after Alexander was born. At that time Kharlamov was unaware he had a son, until he received a phone call from Irina telling him he was the baby's father.[4] After their parents' death, the children went to live with their maternal grandmother in Moscow.[4][18] Alexander was only 5 years old when his father died, and does not remember him well, although he has seen recordings of his games.[18] Alexander would also become an ice hockey player, and was selected fifteenth overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, though he never played in the NHL, playing in the North American minor leagues where he made a significant contribution to the Hampton Roads Admirals winning the Kelly Cup, and back in Russia before retiring in 2004. Alexander's son is named Valeri, after his grandfather, although his sport of choice is soccer, rather than hockey.[18] After his death, Kharlamov was buried in the Kuntsevo Cemetery in the Kuntsevo District of Moscow.[35]

Career statistics

Regular season

Season Team League GPGAPtsPIM
1967–68 CSKA Moscow Soviet 152356
1968–69 CSKA Moscow Soviet 4237124924
1969–70 CSKA Moscow Soviet 3333104316
1970–71 CSKA Moscow Soviet 3440125218
1971–72 CSKA Moscow Soviet 3124164022
1972–73 CSKA Moscow Soviet 2719133222
1973–74 CSKA Moscow Soviet 2620103028
1974–75 CSKA Moscow Soviet 3115243935
1975–76 CSKA Moscow Soviet 341818366
1976–77 CSKA Moscow Soviet 211882616
1977–78 CSKA Moscow Soviet 2918244235
1978–79 CSKA Moscow Soviet 4122264836
1979–80 CSKA Moscow Soviet 4116223840
1980–81 CSKA Moscow Soviet 309162514
Soviet totals 438293214507318


Year Team Comp   GPGAPtsPIM
1969 Soviet Union WC 1067134
1970 Soviet Union WC 973104
1971 Soviet Union WC 10512172
1972 Soviet Union SS 734716
1972 Soviet Union OG 597162
1972 Soviet Union WC 9861410
1973 Soviet Union WC 109142331
1974 Soviet Union SS 82684
1974 Soviet Union WC 1055108
1975 Soviet Union WC 9106164
1976 Soviet Union OG 63696
1976 Soviet Union WC 10410144
1977 Soviet Union WC 1097164
1978 Soviet Union WC 104594
1979 Soviet Union WC 877144
1980 Soviet Union OG 738112
World Championship Totals 105748215679
Olympic Totals 1815213610

Awards and honours

Soviet Union and Russia

Award Year
Merited Master of Sport 1969
Soviet League Player of the Year 1971–72, 1972–73
Russian Hockey Hall of Fame 2014


Award Year
World Ice Hockey Championships All-Star Team 1972, 1973, 1976
IIHF Hall of Fame 1998
IIHF Centennial All-Star Team 2008
Hockey Hall of Fame 2005


  1. Martin, Lawrence (1990). The Red Machine: The Soviet Quest to Dominate Canada’s Game. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. p. 132.
  2. Mosko, Alexey (11 May 2013). "Film brings Soviet hockey legend to life". Russia: Beyond the Headlines. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  3. Kiselev, Aleksey; Laparnok, Leonid (2017). "Prominent Russians: Valery Kharlamov". Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  4. Staples, David (April 1995). Sasha and 17. Saturday Night. 110. pp. 65–67.
  5. Martin. The Red Machine. p. 132.
  6. Dvortsov, V.A.; Yurev, Z.Y. (1984). Форвард № 17 (Forward No. 17) (in Russian). Moscow: Sovetskaya Rossiya. pp. 20–21.
  7. Kulagin, B.P. (1984). "Он играл для людей (He played for the people)". In Levin, B.M. (ed.). Три скорости Валерия Харламова (Three Speeds of Valeri Kharlamov) (in Russian). Moscow: Fizikultura i Sport. pp. 40–41.
  8. Tarasov, A.V. (1984). "Три скорости Валерия Харламова (Three Speeds of Valeri Kharlamov)". In Levin, B.M. (ed.). Три скорости Валерия Харламова (Three Speeds of Valeri Kharlamov) (in Russian). Moscow: Fizikultura i Sport. p. 18.
  9. Martin. The Red Machine. pp. 132–133.
  10. Dvortsov; Yurev. Форвард № 17 (Forward No. 17) (in Russian). p. 60.
  11. Hockey Hall of Fame (2017). "Valeri Kharlamov Biography". Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  12. Dvortsov; Yurev. Форвард № 17 (Forward No. 17) (in Russian). p. 97.
  13. Shea, Kevin (27 February 2009). "One On One With Valeri Kharalmov". Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  14. Willes, Ed (2004). The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. p. 25.
  15. "Valeri Kharlamov". Elite Prospects. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  16. Podnieks, Andrew (ed.). 2014 IIHF Guide and Record Book. Toronto: Fenn/McClelland Stewart. p. 467.
  17. MacSkimming, Roy (1996). Cold War: The Amazing Canada-Soviet Hockey Series of 1972. Vancouver: Greystone Books. pp. 27, 57.
  18. Burnside, Scott (5 November 2005). "Kharlamov's life one of talent and tragedy". ESPN. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  19. Shea, Kevin. "Spotlight – Pinnacle". Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  20. Fisher, Red (24 September 2012). "Summit Series 40th anniversary: Clarke's Game 6 slash on Kharlamov was turning point for Team Canada". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  21. Martin. The Red Machine. p. 129.
  22. Gibbons, Denis (21 September 2012). "Summit Series: Nine members of great Soviet team no longer with us". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  23. Teh, Yvonne (13 June 2013). "Art House: ice hockey star Kharlamov is the stuff of 'Legend'". 48 Hours. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  24. Chere, Rich (20 July 2010). "For Devils left winger Ilya Kovalchuk, there is significance to #17". The Star Ledger. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  25. Chesnokov, Dmitry (9 June 2012). "Evgeni Malkin wins Kharlamov Trophy for Best Russian Player in the NHL". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  26. "Championship Winner Cup". Minor Hockey League. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  27. KHL (2017). "About the KHL: Divisions". Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  28. Kozlov, Vladimir (31 January 2014). "'Legend No. 17' Wins Golden Eagle as the Best Russian Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  29. Holdsworth, Nick (4 February 2014). "'Vampire Academy's' Danila Kozlovsky on Being a Russian in Hollywood: Cold War Is 'Still With Us' (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  30. Podnieks (ed.). 2014 IIHF Guide and Record Book. p. 8.
  31. IIHF (2008). "Centennial All-Star Team". Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  32. Podnieks, Andrew (18 February 2014). "Russians establish Hall of Fame". International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  33. MacSkimming, p. 51
  34. "Valery Kharlamov – One of the Greatest Players of All Time". The Voice of Russia. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  35. Martin. The Red Machine. p. 130.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Anatoli Firsov
Soviet MVP
1972, 1973
Succeeded by
Vladislav Tretiak
Preceded by
Alexander Maltsev
Soviet Scoring Champion
Succeeded by
Vladimir Petrov
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