‘A great honor’: Alexander Yakushev on induction to Hockey Hall of Fame

‘A great honor’: Alexander Yakushev on induction to Hockey Hall of Fame Soviet hockey star Alexander Yakushev, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday, has said he was honored to be included in the shrine to the sport’s greatest players despite never playing in the NHL.

“It’s a great honor for me to be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player who never played in the NHL,” Yakushev said. “I’m immensely grateful to the Hall of Fame president Jeff Denomme, Chairman of the board Lanny McDonald for making me worthy of this honor.”

The 71-year-old Russian thanked his family, former Spartak teammates and coaches for helping him to evolve into a top-class player who is privileged enough to now ne ranked among legends of the sport.

Yakushev emphasized that USSR coaches Arkady Chernyshev and Anatoli Tarasov, with whom he made his debut for the national team, played a key role in his development.

He also stressed that the legendary Tarasov had always wanted to see him at rival club CSKA, but that he had resisted his entreaties and remained at Spartak, where he spent almost his entire career.

Talking about the historic 1972 Summit Series in which Soviet players dispelled the myth about the “invincibility” of Canadian players, Yakushev noted that it was a “true hockey war” where nobody wanted to surrender.

“Now we are communicating well with Canadian players who participated in the 1972 Summit Series: Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer, Brad Park, Dennis Hull, Ken Dryden, the Mahovlich brothers,” Yakushev said.

“But in 1972 no friendship was possible, as it was a true hockey war. I can’t explain how happy we were to win the first match. There was a Canadian journalist who promised to eat his article in which he had predicted losses for the USSR in all eight matches. He fulfilled his promise despite our attempts to talk him out of doing that.

“It was an outstanding tournament where the winner was determined only in the eighth game, 36 seconds before the final whistle. And it was Canada. But there were no losers in the series because it was hockey which won,” the new Hall of Famer added.

Yakushev was the top points scorer in the Soviet team during the Summit Series, racking up seven goals and 11 points in total.

Together with the Soviet team he claimed two Olympic gold medals and won seven world championship titles during his lengthy career.