Alexander Uvarov

This is Alexander Uvarov, one of the earliest hockey stars in Russia.

Like most athletes new to hockey in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s, the 5'7" 160lbs Uvarov was a bandy star. Bandy was a similar game played on ice and skates, with a ball instead of a puck. Uvarov was a noted skating wonder in bandy, so once he mastered the art of handling the puck he became a top hockey player.

Though the game was only introduced when Uvarov was already in his 20s, he was noted as an exceptional player because "he had an outstanding ability to think on the ice. He controlled the game and orchestrated play by speeding up or slowing down the pace of the game when needed. In short, he was the pace-setter."

Uvarov may have been the very first dominant center in Russia, thus setting the standard for the classic Soviet pivot - masterminding the offense with playmaking rather than goal scoring. He would brilliantly set his Moscow Dynamo linemates Valentin Kuzin and Yuri Krylov free to score goals. Uvarov did not get much credit, but he often was the key reason for the goal.

On the national team, Uvarov's advanced understanding of the game was utilized in another fashion. He was the defensive expert used to shutdown the top lines of the Czechs, Swedes and Canadians. Because of his unselfish play he allowed the Russians to stay in games earlier in their involvement in hockey, and later helped them win. All again without necessarily scoring the big goal himself.

The hat-wearing Uvarov and his linemates often confused the opposition with many short passes rather than rushing the puck individually, and with criss-crossing positions. Neither tactic was common back then, and would become the foundation of Soviet hockey theory.

All thanks to the early example set by Alexander Uvarov. He was the ultimate team player, and was acknowledge as such by serving as team captain for Moscow Dynamo for 11 years.

Uvarov scored 202 goals in 259 Soviet league games, although Dynamo only won one USSR Championship (1954). He participated in 27 games with the national team, most famously with the 1956 Olympic team that shocked the world to win gold.

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