Saturday, July 13, 2013

1990-91 Sokol Kiev Vasily Bobrovnikov Jersey

July by the Numbers crosses the Atlantic for jersey #13.

Sokol Kiev (Kiev Falcons) are the oldest and most successful team in Ukrainian hockey history.

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The club was founded as Dynamo Kiev in 1963 and began play in the second division in the Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was then a member. After a sixth place finish during their first season, Kiev won the second division in 1964-65, earning promotion to the top level, the Soviet Championship.

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The 1964-65 Dynamo Kiev team, which won promotion to the Soviet Championship

Kiev would remain in the top division through the 1969-70 season when a last place finish doomed them to relegation back to the second division.

Three seasons later on the occasion of the club's tenth anniversary, the team would change it's name to Sokol Kiev. It would take until 1978, when a second place finish would elevate Kiev back up to the top level. They would not only avoid relegation, but achieve the highest finish in team history with a third place in 1984-85 aided by Nikolai Narimanov's league leading 26 goals.

In 1986 the club became the first and only team from Ukraine invited to compete for the Spengler Cup, where they would reach the finals. It was also during this time period that the club would add future NHL players Dimitri Khristich, Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexander Godynyuk to their roster. Further international recognition would come with their victory in the 1989 Tampere Cup in Finland.

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Dimitri Khristich

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Los Angeles Kings would select defenseman Alexi Zhitnik 81st in the fourth round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, making him the highest drafted player from Sokol in team history.

Zhitnik Kings photo ZhitnikKings1.jpg
Alexi Zhitnik

Ramil Yuldashev led the league in goals in 1990 and points in 1991 while Valery Shiryaev would be named Best Defenseman both seasons. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, it threw the organization of hockey in the region into a state of flux, with the league changing names to the CIS Championship and then the International Hockey League from 1992-93 to 1995-96 while Kiev remained a member throughout all the changes.

When the Russian Superleague was formed in 1996-97, the only member clubs were Russian and the Ukrainian Kiev team joined the Eastern European Hockey League, which was comprised of teams from Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine, allowing Kiev to not only escape competing against the powerful clubs of Russia, but to become "a big fish in a small pond" themselves.

In the league's eight seasons, Kiev would finish with the best record four times and become champions twice, in both 1998 and 1999. The EEHL lasted until the 2003-04 season, and following it's demise, three clubs, two from Latvia and Sokol Kiev, joined the Belarusian Extraliga.

They competed in the Extraliga for three seasons and then once again changed leagues, this time joining the Vysshaya Liga, the second highest level of Russian hockey, for the 2007-08 season. Due to the higher costs of playing in the Russian league, including higher participation fees for non-Russian teams and travel costs they must cover for the visiting teams, which included not only travel, but lodgings and meals as well, Kiev returned to the Belarus Extraliga again in 2009-10, where they played as the only Ukrainian team through 2010-11.

For the just completed 2011-12 season, Kiev was once again on the move, joining the newly created Professional Hockey League of Ukraine where the grandfather of Ukrainian hockey teams struggles to survive amidst reports of financial difficulties.

To date the club has retired numbers for five players in it's 50 years, #13 for Zhitnik, #8 for Khristich, #14 for Shyriaiev #11 for both Anatoly Stepanischev and #22 Yuri Sundrov.

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Sokol Kiev's retired jerseys hang from their arena's rafters

Today's featured jersey is a 1990-91 Sokol Kiev Vasily Bobrovnikov jersey.

The white sections of this jersey are a type of material much like ultrafil, while the blue parts are lighter weight mesh. All the graphics are screened on, including the incredible player name on the back, which doesn't get any better than this for a classic example of the Cyrillic alphabet.

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Sokol Kiev 1989-90 jersey photo RussiaSokolKiev1989-90B.jpg

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