Thursday, October 14, 2010
Born on this date in 1959 in what was then known as Leningrad in the Soviet Union, Alexei Kasatononv played seven seasons in the NHL following a 15 year career in the Soviet Elite League.
His career began with SKA Leningrad in 1976-77 for two seasons after which the defenseman moved to CSKA Moscow, known more commonly to North American's as the Soviet Central Red Army Hockey Club, where all the finest players in the Soviet Union migrated towards.
Kasatonov played for CSKA Moscow from the 1978-79 season through 1989-90, winning 11 consecutive Soviet League Championships from 1979 to 1989 and 12 consecutive European Cups. While a member of Red Army, he scored a high of 18 goals in 1984-85 and a best 27 assists and 39 points in 1981-82 in a league where the season was between 40 and 50 games long.
Kasatonov with CSKA Moscow
As a member of CSKA Moscow, he was also a long-time member of the Soviet National Team, which naturally was primarily comprised of players from the most dominant club in the land. While playing for his country, Kasatonov won gold medals at the World Championships in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1989 and a silver medal in the 1980 and gold medals in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics as a member of the famed "Green Unit" with Slava Fetisov, Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov.
The "Green Unit"
Following the conclusion of the 1989-90 Soviet season, Kasatonov was allowed to join the New Jersey Devils of the NHL, where he would be reunited with former Red Army teammate Fetisov for the second half of the NHL sechedule. Kasatonov's first NHL season comprised 39 games in which he scored 6 goals and 21 points while acclimating to life in North America, which was often a difficult proposition for Soviet players in those days.
The NHL game agreed with Kasatonov though, and he scored 41 and 40 points the next two seasons while playing 78 and 76 games, with 14 additional playoff games added on, for a total of 168 over two seasons, when compared to the perhaps 120 he was accustomed to. He was limited to 64 games and saw his point total drop precipitously to just 17 in 1992-93, which saw the 34 year old left unprotected in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft and subsequently claimed by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Kasatonov played 55 games for the Mighty Ducks and appear in the 1994 NHL All-Star Game prior to being traded to the St. Louis Blues in late March of 1994 wher he would play just 8 games with the Blues.
He returned to CSKA Moscow for nine games during the work stoppage of 1994, and once the NHL season began, he began play with the Boston Bruins, with whom he had signed as a free agent. The following season Kasatonov played 19 games with Boston and 16 games with Providence of the AHL.
He returned to Russia for one last season with CSKA Moscow in 1996-97 before his retirement as a professional.
HIs final NHL totals were 38 goals and 122 assists for 160 points in 383 games, and combined, he scored 200 goals and 627 points in 1128 games.
Kasatonov was named a "Honored Master of Sport" in Russia and was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009.
Kasatonov's induction to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009
Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 CSKA Moscow Alexei Kasatonov jersey. This jersey is from Kasatonov's final season when he returned to Russia following the conclusion of his NHL career. Note the name on the back in Cyrillic lettering.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the government funding of the team disappeared and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL entered into a business partnership with the club, which was often referred to as "the Russian Penguins" during this time period as a penguin was integrated into the club's identity. The deal with Pittsburgh, who were to run the club's arena and hoped to benefit by having better access to new Russian talent, was short lived due to, among other things, interference by the Russian Mafia, who liked to attend games while sitting in the corporate sponsor's "super boxes" after kicking them out behind the authority of a sawed off shotgun!
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1993-94 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Alexei Kasatonov jersey as worn during the Mighty Ducks inaugural season in which Kasatonov played 55 games before being traded to the St. Louis Blues.
In today's video segment, a look at Kasatonov's career and his life after retiring from hockey, which includes coaching hockey in America.
Here, Kasatonov discusses the "Miracle on Ice" 25 years later.
Finally, while playing for the Soviet National Team, Kasatonov scores against Grant Fuhr and the NHL All-Stars during Rendez-Vous '87.