Yevgeny Mishakov

I only found out about this today, even though his death was on May 30th, 2007. Evgeny Mishakov, Soviet hockey star and 1972 Summit Series alumni, died at the age of 66.

Mishakov is not remembered as one of Russia's most elite hockey players, though he did help the national team win 4 world championships and 2 Olympic gold medals between 1968 and 1972. In that time he scored an impressive 29 goals in 35 contests, despite playing on a checking line with Yuri Moiseyev and Anatoli Ionov. He also played in 400 Soviet League games, scoring 183 times.

I will always remember Mishakov 30 years later, in 2002. I had just opened up 1972 Summit Series.com, brand spanking new just in time for the 30th anniversary of the great hockey event. Mishakov was the poster boy of a series of heart breaking stories of a number of the forgotten Soviet players who were left impoverished amidst the many political and economic changes seen in Russia since then. Living on a puny military pension that paid him about $3 a day, Mishakov couldn't afford the major surgery he desperately needed to both of his knees to keep him out of a wheel chair.

Efforts were under way to raise the necessary funds to bring him to Canada to have the surgery, though last I heard the money needed for post-surgery care was well short. Of course Mishakov's plight soon disappeared after the passing of the 1972 Summit Series' 30th anniversary. I have never been able to find out if Mr. Mishakov had the surgery he needed, or if these complications played any role in his death. All I know is Russian media reports suggest Mishakov "died suddenly."

Mishakov gained notoriety during the 1972 Summit Series for engaging in a fight, a true rarity in the Russian game. He and Rod Gilbert got in the tournament's only fight, which was something completely new to Soviet hockey.

While fighting was heavily frowned upon in Russia, Mishakov was never reprimanded. In fact Mishakov, who had little choice but to drop the gloves when the usually mild-mannered Rod Gilbert began pummelling him, was recognized for sending a message to Canada by fighting back.

"We always criticize our players for fighting," commented Russian sports writer Lev Lebedev of Pravda. "In this series we didn't do that. If our players didn't stand up to the Canadians, there wouldn't have been enough players to complete the game! After the fight between Mishakov and Gilbert, the professionals began to realize that Russians can fight too."

Mishakov was one Soviet player who played full out. He was an energetic and exuberant forward who showed unbridled spirit, often on the penalty kill.

"The playing fury and fighting spirit of this normally reserved person are really astounding," said Vladislav Tretiak of Mishakov, in the book Kings of the Ice. "In workouts he's possessed and in games he can, if need be, spend five and even 10 shifts on the ice without substitution. And when he is replaced by another player, he'll sit on the bench as if nothing has happened, wink at one guy, nudge another in the ribs as though he has just had a good rest."

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