The old Soviet hockey teams wowed us with their intricate passing, innovative puck control game and their skating. Perhaps more than anything, it was their speed and agility on their skates that impressed audiences the most.
So which player was considered to be the best skater?
Lawrence Martin, in his epic book The Red Machine, described Sergei Svetlov as the best of the best.
"A splendid winger had arrived in the form of Sergei Svetlov, a concussion-prone gazelle from Moscow Dynamo. A tall forward, with legs that seemingly extended to his shoulders, Svetlov was the best pure skater in Soviet hockey."Svetlov is far from the best known Soviet player. He was drafted by New Jersey in 1988 (180th overall) but never came to North America. His only real exposure to NHL audiences was in the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups where had strong performances.
He was a part time player on the national team in the 1980s, winning gold medals at the World Championships in 1985 and 1986 and at the Olympics games in 1988 in Calgary. All said Svetlov had 10 goals and 16 points in World Championship play and 2 goals and 5 points in Olympic play.
Domestic statistics are always sketchy in this era of Soviet hockey history. The most consistent numbers I have found suggest he played in 305 Soviet league games - all with Dynamo Moscow - scoring 133 goals, 137 assists and 270 points.
When Soviet players were finally allowed to leave the country and pursue careers in the Western world, Svetlov headed to Germany. He played for five more seasons and then coached for more than a decade before returning home in 2009 to coach in the KHL.