Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Born on this date in 1969, Vladimir Tsyplakov made his debut in the Soviet Hockey League with Dynamo Minsk in the 1988-89 season at the age of 19. That same season he also appeared for the Soviet Union at the 1989 World Junior Championships. He would play three more seasons for Minsk in the Soviet League before moving to North America to continue his career.
Today's video highlight is Belarus' Miracle in Salt Lake upset over Sweden in the Quarterfinals of the 2002 Olympics.
His first stop in North America was with the Detroit Falcons of the Colonial Hockey League, who he led in scoring with 76 points in 44 games. He also played that same season with the Indianapolis Ice of the IHL in 11 games.
The 1993-94 season saw him move to the Fort Wayne Komets, still in the IHL. With the Komets, Tsyplakov averaged a point per game over 63 games. He maintained that average over 14 playoff games as the Komets made it to the Turner Cup Finals.
He returned to the Komets in 1994-95, leading the club in scoring with 38 goals and 78 points in 79 games, a performance which caught the eye of the Los Angeles Kings who drafted Tsyplakov in the 3rd round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft at the somewhat advanced age of 25.
The 1994-95 Ft. Wayne Komets
For the 1995-96 season, Tsyplakov would play 9 games with the Las Vegas Thunder and make his NHL debut with the Kings, appearing in 29 games, scoring his first 5 NHL goals and 10 points.
In his first full season with Los Angeles, Tsyplakov put up 39 points in 67 games before setting a career highs with 18 goals and 52 points in 73 games.
Also that same season, Tsyplakov made his debut with the Belarus National Team, which came into being only six years earlier in 1992 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Despite having played for the Soviet Union early in his career, players were given the opportunity to choose whether to play for Russia or the former Soviet satellite country of their heritage, and Tsyplakov chose to play for Belarus, who had to endure a long and arduous path to the Olympics, first winning a regional Pre-Qualification tournament by sweeping Latvia, Hungary, Estonia and Lithuania. They then earned a spot in the Olympics after participating in a Final Olympic Qualification tournament, where they tied Kazakhstan, beat hosts Austria and tied Norway to advance along with Kazakhstan.
Once at the Olympics in Japan, they continued their undefeated streak, now at 10, by beating France 4-0, Germany 8-2 and tied hosts Japan 2-2 to win Group B despite the fact the NHL had yet to take a break from it's schedule to allow NHL players from the smaller countries to appear in the the Preliminary Round. All of their success in winning Group B earned Belarus a berth in the First Round where they were placed in Group C with the likes of powerhouses Canada, Sweden and the United States, but at least they roster would now be fortified with the arrival of the Belorussian NHLers such as Tsyplakov.
After losing all three games in Group C, their opponent for the Quarterfinals was winners of Group D, Russia, who ended their tournament with a 4-1 defeat. In the five games Tsyplakov was able to play once the NHL began it's schedule break, he scored a goal and added an assist.
He was back with the Kings for the 1998-99 season, although his production would never reach the level it had the previous season, as he scored only 23 points in 69 games. Following the season, he made his World Championships debut for Belarus, scoring twice and totaling 4 points in 6 games.
After beginning the 1999-00 season with the Kings, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres after 29 games. Now with Buffalo, he scored 19 points in 34 games to give him a total of 32 for the season. After the Sabres exit from the playoffs, Tsyplakov again appeared in the World Championships, leading Belarus in scoring with 3 goals and 5 points in 5 games.
In October of 2000, he would suffer a severe knee injury, which would limit him to 36 games and 14 points. The Sabres would qualify for the postseason and Tsyplakov would score the only NHL playoff goal of his career.
Tsyplakov would return to Europe for the remainder of his career, joining Ak Bars Kazan of the Russian SuperLeague, a move which would allow him to play the entirety of the upcoming Olympics. He would contribute 19 points in 25 games as well as 6 more in 11 playoff games as Kazan would reach the league finals. During the Olympics, Belarus would first have to survive a preliminary round, where they advanced thanks to wins over Ukraine 1-0 and France 3-1 before a 2-1 loss to Switzerland.
Once in the First Round, lopsided losses to Russia, Finland and the United States pitted them against the winners of Group C in the Quarterfinals, which would see them deliver the shocking upset of Sweden thanks to Vladimir Kopat's 70 foot shot which bounced off the head of Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo with just 2:24 left in the game. It was immediately ranked as one of the three biggest upsets in Olympic hockey history, along with the United States 1980 "Miracle on Ice" defeat of the Soviet Union and Great Britian's 1936 defeat of Canada. Belarus could not pull another rabbit out of their hat, as the fell 7-1 to a determined Canada in the semifinals and finished fourth after dropping the Bronze Medal Game to Russia 7-2.
Belarus celebrates their shocking upset of Sweden
Later that spring, Tsyplakov once again laced up his skates for Belarus with a mission on his mind, as Belarus was seeking a return to the Top Division of the World Championships, having been relegated to Division I in 2001. In five games, a determined Belarus dominated Korea 12-1, pounded Croatia 9-0, hammered the Netherlands 15-4, outlasted Kazakhstan 6-4 and dropped France 3-1 to finish undefeated while Tsyplakov came second in team scoring with 9 goals and 18 points in 5 games and Belarus earned a promotion back to the Top Division for 2003.
Back with Ak Bars Kazan for 2002-03, he scored 18 goals and 24 points in 45 games before yet another World Championships, where he added 3 goals and 4 points to international career totals, only to see Belarus relegated back to Division I once again thanks to a rule which defended Japan's place in the Top Division as the Far Eastern Qualifier despite their finishing last once again, as they did in 2001.
The 2003-04 season was Tsyplakov's final one with Ak Bars, one in which he had his best season of his return to Russia with 15 goals and 25 points in 41 games. At that spring's World Championships, Belarus again dominated Division I, handily winning promotion after going 5-0 in Group A with wins over Norway, the Netherlands, Hungary, Great Britian and Belgium as Tsyplakov was third in team scoring with 5 goals and 7 points in 5 games.
His final season of play saw him move to CSKA Moscow and finish his career with one final appearance for Belarus at the 2005 World Championships, where Belarus avoided the relegation round entirely to ensure their continued participation in the Top Division for 2006.
Tsyplakov would finish his career with 69 goals and 170 NHL points and 24 goals and 48 points while playing internationally for Belarus, while also being named the Belarus Player of the Year in 1992, 200 and 2002.
Today's featured jersey is a 2002 Belarus National Team Vladimir Tsyplakov jersey as worn during Belarus' shocking upset of Sweden at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
This style of Belarus jersey debuted in 1997-98 season and remained unchanged for three years until the Belarus coat of arms patch was added to the chest in 2000-01. The next major change for this jersey came in the 2001-02 season when the upward angled "Belarus" cresting was replaced by a change to horizontal, yet italicized, Cyrillic lettering. This final variation of this jersey would remain in use through the change to the Nike Swift jerseys in 2006.