Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The first jersey to be featured in "The Lockout Collection" is a gorgeous jersey from the Russian Superleague.
With no NHL season to compete in because of the 2004-05 lockout, many NHL players looked to Europe for competition and paychecks, and no team doled out the cash like Ak Bars Kazan of the Russian Superleague.
Ak Bars, which means "Snow Leopards" and is taken from the Tartarstan coat of arms, signed 11 NHL players, including Russians Alexi Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Darius Kasparitits, Nikolai Khabibulin, Alexi Morozov and Alexei Zhitnik, plus Canadians Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, both fresh off of winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the World Cup of Hockey with Canada, Dany Heatley and goaltender Fred Brathwaite in an attempt to win the championship to celebrate the city of Kazan's 1000th anniversary.
We highly recommend reading both of the following articles about Vincent Lecavalier and his adjustment to life in Russia during the lockout. The first is from the St. Petersburg Times titled "Rough Translation" and the second from Sports Illustrated called "Tampa Bay to Tatarstan".
Ak Bars would post a 37-17-5 record, good for fourth place in the RSL, one point behind Metallurg Magnitogorsk who fielded a team that included future NHL star Evgeni Malkin and current NHLers Peter Sykora, Sergei Gonchar, Patrik Elias and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
With the top eight clubs making the playoffs, Kazan drew fifth seeded Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who had finished nine points behind them in the regular season. The best-of-five series was decided in four games, as Lokomotiv took the first two games 2-1 and 4-3. Ak Bars won the third 1-0 before falling 2-1 in Game 4, ending the hopes of bringing the championship to Kazan during it's anniversary celebration.
Today's featured jersey is a Lutch 2004-05 Ak Bars Kazan Ilya Kovalchuk jersey, complete with his name on the back in Cyrillic. The jersey is beautiful dye-sublimated, the same as used by the players in Russia. This jersey features Kovalchuk's #71, as he commonly uses while playing for the Russian National Team, as well as during his time with Spartak Moscow prior to coming over to play in the NHL.
This is one of our favorite jerseys in the Third String Goalie collection with it's vibrant colors and bold striping along with the Cyrillic lettering, which never fails to attract attention.
Lutch jerseys are easily obtained from online shops, as well as ebay, in a variety of teams and players. Quality-wise, they are very nice jerseys, and we'd rate them a step down from CCM 550 replica jerseys and equal to the Tackla jerseys worn by international teams in the early 90's, as they are a bit lighter weight mesh than a CCM and do not have the names and numbers sewn on, but the printing quality is first rate and the jerseys are quite durable and make a fine, and unique, addition to any jersey collection sure to elicit comments whenever you wear one.
Here are some video clips of Ak Bars Kazan from the lockout season. The first one features Kovalchuk, while the second has both Kovalchuk and Lecavalier.
This next clip shows an outstanding tic-tac-toe passing play that is a joy to watch unfold.
This final one features just Vincent Lecavalier in a variety of action while playing for Ak Bars.