Many will remember Evgeny Belosheikin's performance in the 1987 Canada Cup. It was the first time we got our first look at the goalie that Soviets were raving about. The 21 year old Evgeny Belosheikin had emerged as the heir to the great Vladislav Tretiak. The Soviets even had dubbed him "Evgeny the Great."
Belosheikin was actually tutored by Tretiak on several occasions. The youngster actually had a trait that Tretiak never had. He was a confident, almost cocky person. Tretiak always came across as nervous before games.
Born in the Sakhalin Islands, Belosheikin started playing hockey, as a defenseman, at the age of 4. When his family moved to Leningrad 6 years later, he donned the goal pads.
He made his debut with the Soviet National Team in the 1986 World Championships, helping the Soviets win the gold medal.
"Playing for the National Team is a dream come true for me," said Evgeny, who allowed only 8 goals in 5 games and was viewed as brilliant.
1987 Canada Cup
Heading into the 1987 Canada Cup, the Soviets had expected Belosheikin to be their number one goalie. He starred in the Elite League, capturing the division championship. He also was named the outstanding goaltender in the Calgary Cup, just months before the Canada Cup.
However by the time the Canada Cup rolled around, the Soviets opted to go with Sergei Mylnikov as their starting goalie. Evgeny wasn't playing well, with an 0-2-1 record and 4.00 GAA. Mylnikov on the other hand appeared in 6 games, going 5-1-0 with a 2.96 GAA.
In one of the more curious moves in hockey history, the Russians switched goalies during the Cup finals. Mylnikov won the opening game of the best of three showdown, but then Viktor Tikhonov switched to Belosheikin in game 2. Evgeny played really well, but lost in double overtime 6-5. The loss forced a game 3.
You know the rest of the story. Mylnikov returned to the nets for game 3. Canada won the incredible game 3 with the famous Gretzky to Lemieux goal with just over a minute left.
Tragic Life And Death
Belosheikin, who would uniquely fall to his knees and "rest" when the puck was at the opposite end of the rink, lived a very tragic life. He had constant battles with alcohol and had many run-ins with Viktor Tikhonov. His father was killed when Evgeny was young, and he had trouble with his mother.
One of the most tragic happenings in Belosheikin's life happened just a couple months after the 1987 Canada Cup. Belosheikin and national team defenseman Alexei Gusarov had been on a heavy drinking party during a break from the Soviet league. The two met up with some attractive women and took them to Gusarov's apartment. The following day they were both found unconscious, with not a single thing of value was left in the apartment. It's assumed that the women slipped something into their drinks and then "cleaned" the apartment.
The drug left Belosheikin suffering from serious liver problems, as well as color vision problems. The incident cost Belosheikin his career, and eventually his life. Belosheikin, who had reported to the Edmonton Oilers training camp in 1991, committed suicide by hanging himself in the late 1990s.
Special Thanks To Patrick Houda