July 17, 2021

Russians Play Crucial Role in NHL Championship


Russians Play Crucial Role in NHL Championship
The star of the NHL this year, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky. Wikimedia Commons user Michael Miller

The Tampa Bay Lightning just won the NHL championship for the second year in a row. As always in the NHL, Russians were involved. In fact, the Stanley Cup championship-winning and playoff-MVP-trophy-winning goaltender is a guy from the Siberian city of Tyumen: Andrei Vasilevsky.

Only a year and a half ago, Vasilevsky was featured on the cover of The Hockey News as "the NHL's new crease king" – the crease being the blue semicircle in front of the net. His father of the same name was a goaltender in the Russian Superleague.

During these four-round playoffs, Vasilevsky was accused of having more-than-regulation goaltender padding in what the New York Post called "the NHL's dumbest controversy." The publication concluded that it was just a matter of the camera adding 10 pounds. Actually, it is a pretty hilarious photograph and Twitter conversation, here. Extra padding or not, Vasilevsky is recognized by many as the world's top goaltender at the moment.

Living in coastal Florida as they do, the championship-winning Lightning scheduled a celebration boat parade. During the parade, 26-year-old Vasilevsky put his playoff MVP trophy (the Conn Smythe) on his head, and one sports reporter called it the "lasting image of the 2021 NHL season," a season plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the parade video of the team's second-most famous Russian, Nikita Kucherov, or Kuch (pronounced "Cooch"), from Maykop. Kucherov said that the league's best goaltender trophy (the Vezina) was stolen from "Vasy" – a move that Kucherov called "Number One Bullshit." (How do you translate that into Russian?) At any rate, the phrase has already been turned into a meme-t-shirt, which "Vasy" wears along with the trophy on his head at the parade.

There is one more Russian on the winning team, Mikhail Sergachev from Nizhnekamsk.

Maybe all the memetic shenanigans being generated by the winning Russians will help put hockey on the map for American sports fans – many of whom know nothing about hockey.

Something else that happened at the boat parade: the 128-year-old Stanley Cup got majorly dented. As far as we know, the Russians had nothing to do with that.

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