Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Born on this date in 1977, Alexei Morozov began his illustrious career playing for the Soviet Wings (Krylya Sovetov Moscow) in the 1993-94 season with ten games divided between the regular season and playoffs, failing to score even a single point.
He changed that in 1994-95 with 15 goals and 12 assists in 48 games, earning Rookie of the Year honors which led to him being a first round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins . His production dipped a bit in 1995-96 with 22 points, but he was name an All-Star of that season's World Junior Championship when he scored 5 goals and 8 points in 7 games on his way to a bronze medal to start his long international career.
He rebounded from his previous league season in 1996-97, placing second in the Russian Superleague with 21 goals. He also made is his second World Juniors appearance and again scored 5 goals and 8 points, only this time in just 6 games, as he won a second bronze medal and was named Best Forward of the tournament. Later that spring, he made his first appearance in the World Championships, scoring 6 points in 9 games playing with the seniors.
He began the 1997-98 season with 6 games for the Wings but soon made his NHL debut in spectacular fashion, scoring on his first shot during his first NHL shift. In 76 games with Pittsburgh he scored 13 goals and 26 points. In February of 1998 the NHL suspended it's season to allow it's players to compete in the Olympics for the first time, and Morozov was named as a member of the Russian Olympic Team where he scored 2 goals and 4 points on his way to a silver medal. Following the Penguins elimination from the NHL playoffs, Morozov also skated for Russia at the World Championships that spring.
Limited to 67 games in 1998-99, Morozov's production dropped to 19 points. While he only played 68 games the following season, his point production rose to 31 points. 2000-01 was a low point for Morozov, with just 5 goals in 66 games. He was able to contribute 3 goals and 6 points in the Penguins run to the conference finals during the postseason.
Once again he rebounded the following season, this time with an NHL career high 20 goals. Additionally he scored 29 assists for 49 points.
Morozov while scoring a career high 20 goals in 2001 for the Pittsburgh Penguins
His 2002-03 season was ruined by a broken wrist after 27 games while on pace for nearly a point per game with 9 goals and 16 assists at the time of his injury. He came back in 2003-04 with the best NHL season of his career, scoring 50 points, including 30 in his final 15 games.
With the 2004-05 season cancelled due to the NHL lockout, Morozov returned to Russia and signed to play with Ak Bars Kazan, whose team owner took full advantage of the availability of the NHL talent looking for playing time in an effort to bring a championship to Kazan on the occasion of the city's 100th anniversary. In addition to Morozov, the Ak Bars lineup included NHL stars Alexei Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Khabibulin, Vincent Lecavalier, Darius Kasparitis, Dany Heatley and Brad Richards as well as other NHLers Ruslan Salei, Denis Arkipov, Alexei Zhitnik, Slava Kozlov, and Nik Antropov. While the club failed to deliver the hoped for championship, it was a successful season for Morozov, who led the loaded roster in scoring with 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points in 58 games, placing 4th in the league in all three scoring categories.
Without the conflict of the NHL playoffs to contend with, Morozov returned to international competition at the 2004 World Championships for Russia.
Uncertain of the future of the NHL, Morozov chose to sign a contract with Ak Bars for 2005-06. The decision proved to be a good one for him, as he led the league in goals with 23 and his 49 points were second in the Superleague. In the postseason, Morozov caught fire and scored 13 goals and 13 assists in 13 games to capture the Playoff MVP award on his way to delivering the sought after championship to Kazan.
Morozov built on the success of his previous season with a record setting 2006-07. He led not only Kazan in scoring, but the entire league, setting a new scoring record in the process, as he became the first player in Soviet and Russian league history to top 80 points in a season with 83 points coming from 34 goals and 49 assists in 51 games on his way to a Russian Superleague MVP Award.
During the 2006-07 season, Ak Bars competed with five other championship clubs for the IIHF European Champions Cup in January. They defeated Farjestads BK from Sweden 6-4 and shutout HC Lugano of Switzerland 3-0 to advance to face HPK of Finland, who they blitzed 6-0 to win the cup. Morozov led all players in scoring with 10 points in 3 games and was named the MVP of the tournament.
Morozov with the Silver Stone Trophy as European Champions Cup winners
He then participated in the 2007 World Championships and brought his same inspired play, totaling 8 goals and 13 points in 7 games as Russia won the bronze medal and Morozov was named the Best Forward of the tournament.
The 2007-08 saw Morozov once again lead Ak Bars in scoring with 64 points, one shy of the league leader, which included a five goal game against Barys Astana. Following league play, Morozov was named team captain of the Russian squad for the World Championships, where they would go undefeated and win their first gold medal in 15 years following a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over Canada.
Morozov receives the World Championship trophy in 2008
2009 was another banner season for Morozov, as he led Kazan in scoring during the regular season with 70 points in 49 games. He then led the team in playoff scoring with 19 points in 21 games as Ak Bars captured the Gugarin Cup as inaugural Kontinental Hockey League champions with a 1-0 win in the decisive Game 7 as Morozov scored the only goal of the game. He was then named as the Playoff MVP for his efforts.
Morozov celebrates his championship winning goal in Game 7 of the 2009 KHL Finals
He was once again named as team captain for the World Championships. Russia rolled to the final where they would once again face the Canadians. After winning another exciting final 2-1, the Russians repeated as champions and now stood at 21-0 at the World Championships with Morozov as team captain.
Morozov hoists the World Championship trophy in 2009
Morozov celebrates Russia's second consecutive World Championship with Ilya Kovalchuk
In 2009-10 Morozov led Kazan in scoring for the 6th consecutive season. Ak Bars once again marched through the playoffs to reach the finals and defended their championship in a seven game series against HC MVD. Morozov scored 12 times in 18 games. He was also named as a member of the Russian Olympic Team for the Vancouver 2010 games where he had the honor of carrying the Russian flag in the opening ceremonies.
Morozov as Russia's flag bearer at the 2010 Winter Olympics
This season he remains with Ak Bars for the 7th consecutive season and as of this writing, is in his familiar place atop Kazan in scoring with 54 points in 51 games, 6th in the league.
Through the 2009-10 season, Morozov had scored 84 goals and 219 points in the NHL and 216 goals and 453 points while playing in the various incarnations of the top Russian leagues his teams have been members of, four in all. Morozov has also reached the 500 point mark in Russian hockey, an impressive feat considering the shorter season and seven seasons played in North America.
Internationally, Morozov has won three bronze medals, a silver and two gold medals. He has participated in two Olympic games, was named a Rookie of the Year and won a number of various MVP awards.
Today's featured jersey is a 2009-10 Ak Bars Kazan Alexei Morozov jersey. After years of wearing standard block numbers, Kazan changed to a new number font as well as changing to vertically arched names on the back of their jerseys.
This style of jersey was worn when Kazan repeated as champions of the KHL, giving them both titles in the short history of the KHL, and their third championship in five seasons.
Kazan is located 450 miles east of Moscow and their hockey club was founded in 1956 as Mashstroy Kazan. The club name has evolved to SC Uritskogo Kazan in 1958. When the Soviet Union broke apart, the club changed it's name to Itil Kazan in 1990 before finally adopting the name Ak Bars Kazan in 1995 when the Russian Hockey League, later the Russian Superleague, was formed.
"Ak Bars" means "Snow Leopards" and is the main element of the offical symbol of Tartarstan in which Kazan resides. The won their first championship in 1998 and then not again until 2006. The European Champions Cup followed in 2007 prior to their back-to-back Gagarin Cups as KHL champions in 2009 and 2010.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1997-98 Soviet Wings Alexei Morozov jersey from his final games in Russia before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. This jersey has Alexei's first initial on the back as his older brother Valentin had joined the Wings for 1997-98 after five seasons with CSKA Moscow.
The Wings were founded in 1947 and wore a patch commemorating their 50th anniversary in 1997-98.
"KC" logo on the front stands for "Krylya Sovetov" with Krylya meaning "Wings" and the "C" being Cyrillic for "S", which stood for "Soviet".
Second Bonus Jersey: Our second bonus jersey today is a 2000-01 Pittsburgh Penguins Alexei Morozov jersey as worn during his time in the NHL. The Penguins adopted this style of jersey, sometimes referred to as the "Robo Penguin" in 1992-93 following their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship.
This style remained in use through 2001-02 until the teams third jersey,which featured the skating penguin logo, was promoted to the primary and a new white jersey was created as a mate to the promoted black alternate jersey, which meant the end of this jersey after eight seasons.
Our first video selection today is a tribute to Alexei Morozov and features clips of him from Ak Bars Kazan and the Russian National Team followed by a second video from his time in the NHL with Pittsburgh.