Thursday, June 13, 2013

1999-00 Grand Rapids Griffins Vyacheslav Butsayev Jersey

Vyacheslav Butsayev, born on this date in 1970, began his career with Torpedo Tolyatti in the second division of hockey in the Soviet Union in 1986 at the age of 16. A center, Butsayev played well and caught the attention of the mighty Central Red Army Club (CSKA) in Moscow.

His first season in the Soviet capital came in 1989-90, which included making his international debut for the Soviet Union at the World Junior Championships, where he came home with a silver medal. Butsayev's timing was both fortunate and unfortunate, as the Soviet Union was in it's last days and the dominance of CSKA was at and end.

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Butsayev early in his career with Red Army

While Butsayev arrived during the very season CSKA had their 13 year long run of championships come to an end, the Soviet Union would dissolve after his second season with the club, which resulted in many players now making their way to North America for the riches offered by the NHL clubs eager to add the experienced and highly skilled players trained in the Soviet system.

1990-91 would see Butsayev play for both Red Army and then make his World Championship debut where he earned a bronze medal after scoring 4 goals in 10 games. His third season with CSKA was highlighted by making his only Olympics a successful one, as the team dubbed the Unified Team would win the gold medal. Later that spring he could compete in his second World Championships under the banner of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Butsayev would play five games of the 1992-93 season with CSKA before leaving for the Philadelphia Flyers organization. Once in North America, he would play 24 games with the Hersey Bears of the American Hockey League and 52 with the Flyers, where he scored 2 goals and 16 points.

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Butsayev with the Flyers during his rookie season in the NHL

Following the season he would play for the Russian National Team at the 1993 World Championships which brought home the first gold medal for Russia and the second of Butsayev's career to go with his Olympic gold.

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Butsayev as a member of the Russia National Team in 1993

He would begin the 1993-94 season with the Flyers, including scoring a hat trick on December 3rd against the Vancouver Canucks, but a trade in February saw him head west to the San Jose Sharks. WIth the start of the following NHL season delayed by labor issues, Butsayev headed home to Russia and played 9 games with Lada Togliatti. He returned to North America later that season, but was limited to 13 games with the Kansas City Blades of the International Hockey League and just 6 games with the Sharks.

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Butsayev during his tenure with the San Jose Sharks

For 1995-96, Butsayev signed on as a free agent with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but spent the vast majority of the season with the short-lived Baltimore Bandits of the AHL. It was there that he set a new personal best with 23 goals and 65 points in 62 games. In 7 games with the Mighty Ducks, he would tally 1 goal.

Adding some new stamps to his passport, Butsayev played in Sweden's Elitserien during the 1996-97 season, splitting time between Södertälje SK (16 games) and Färjestads BK (24 games). Freed from the long regular season schedule of the NHL, Butsayev would return to the World Championships with Russia for the first time in four years.

He would return to North America in 1997-98, playing the entire season with the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL, where he had a fine season to get back on the radar of the NHL clubs, leading the team in scoring with 36 goals and 87 points in 76 games.

He was signed by the Florida Panthers, but could not crack their lineup however, and spent another season in Fort Wayne, scoring 72 points in 71 games to again lead the Komets in scoring. He did appear in one game with the Panthers, who then traded him to the Ottawa Senators in March of 1999, where he played in 2 games.

1999-98 was more of the same for Butsayev. He was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Waiver Draft in September of 1999 and played in just 2 games for Tampa Bay before being reclaimed by the Senators off of waivers at the end of October. He would play in 3 games for the Senators, but eventually spent the bulk of his season back in the IHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins, scoring 63 points in 68 games and then adding another 16 points in 17 playoff games as the Griffins would make it to the Tuner Cup Finals.

Butsayev played the entire 2000-01 season with Grand Rapids, posting the second 30 goal season of his career with 33 on his way to 68 points in 75 games.

For the 2001-02 season, Butsayev would return to Russia where he joined Yaroslavl Lokomotiv for the first of three seasons, which included back to back championship titles in 2002 and again in 2003, which included leading the league in playoff scoring that season. 2002 would also see Butsayev take home a silver medal at the World Championships. Following his final season with Lokomotiv of 2003-04, he would make his sixth and final World Championship appearance.

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Butsayev celebrating his first championship with Lokomotiv in 2002

He would split the 2004-05 season between Severstal Cherpovets (31 games) and his former club, CSKA Moscow (24 games). His career would wind down by playing the 2005-06 season with HC MVD and 2006-07 with HC Dmitrov of the Russian second division, the 19th team of his career.

Since the conclusion of his playing days, Butsayev has gone into coaching and now is now the head coach of CSKA Moscow in the KHL.

Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 Grand Rapids Griffins Vyacheslav Butsayev jersey as worn during the season the Griffins made it to the Turner Cup Finals. The Griffins were formed in 1996 as members of the IHL and became affiliated with the Senators in 1999-00 and joined the AHL in 2001-02 following the demise of the IHL. Since the 2002-03 season, the Griffins have been affiliated with fellow Michigan residents, the Detroit Red Wings, located just three hours east.

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Grand Rapids Griffins 99-00 jersey photo GrandRapidsGriffins99-00Bjersey.jpg

Our video section today begins with the final game of the 1992 Olympics, where Butsayev and the Unified Team won the gold medal. Note the stripes across the chest of the Unified Team sweaters, but no cresting, as things were changing so rapidly with the demise of the Soviet Union, that the team wore old CCCP crested jerseys with the letters removed, but the striping still intact, including the notch where it hugged the shape of the "P"! Bonus points go to anyone who can spot #22 Butsayev.

More hockey greatness, as Butsayev and CSKA Moscow take on their rivals Dynamo Moscow from November of 1990.

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