Yak-15 : On January 2, 2022, one of the best players in the history of hockey, two-time Olympic champion and seven-time world and European champion Alexander Yakushev, celebrates his 75th birthday.
The first USSR ice hockey championship started on December 22, 1946. Eleven days later, in Balashikha near Moscow, Alexander Sergeevich Yakushev was born , who was destined to become a famous striker all over the world. “Yak-15”, as fans and journalists called it for the number on the sweater, under which Yakushev always went out on the ice, even Canadian professionals were afraid.
Yakushev started playing in Hammer and Sickle, from where he was invited to Spartak by Alexander Ivanovich Igumnov . As a result, Alexander Sergeevich devoted 18 years of his life to this team. At the age of 17, he already went on the ice in the same troika with the same legendary Evgeny Mayorov and Vyacheslav Starshinov , when Boris Mayorov fell ill . But Yakushev won his numerous champion titles in the national team and in Spartak with Vladimir Shadrin and Viktor Yaroslavtsev , with Evgeny Zimin .
Yakushev’s first championship season was in 1967, when, at the age of 20, he won the championship, the USSR Cup and the world title, although he had only two matches in that tournament in Vienna. In 1969 he again became the champion with “Spartak”, having scored 50 goals in the USSR championship, and with the national team.
Tall, under two meters in height, with long arms and an amazing wide stride, like those of skaters, Alexander Yakushev looked like an unstoppable giant on the court who could not be stopped. Only the diva could only be given how, with such powerful physical data, he combined irrepressibility and high technique of using the club, delicate game calculation, accuracy of gears, sweeping (in large amplitude) stroke, an extremely accurate and strong throw and irrepressibility in the attack, for which he as if it was created by nature.
In total, during his career, Yakushev twice became the Olympic champion, seven times the world and European champion, three times won the USSR championship and twice won the country’s Cup. At the 1975 World Championships, he was recognized as the best striker. He was a member of the symbolic team of the World Cup in 1974, 1975. At the Olympic Games, World and European Championships, he played 90 matches, scored 64 goals. In total, he scored 146 goals in the USSR national team. Three times became the best sniper of the USSR championship. He was included in the list of the best hockey players of the USSR in 1965, 1967-1971, 1973-1977, 1979.
Yakushev’s finest hour, without a doubt, was the famous series of matches with Canadian professionals in September 1972. In eight matches, Alexander Sergeevich scored seven goals and was recognized as great by the Canadians. Then the Canadian newspapers praised three Soviet players who simply shocked them: Vladislav Tretyak , Valery Kharlamov and Yakushev. One of the brightest hockey players in the history of world hockey, Bobby Hull , who holds the title of the best winger in the entire history of the NHL, called Yakushev the best winger in world history.
In 2003 Yakushev was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Ice Hockey Federation. And in 2018 he entered the Hockey Hall of Fame, becoming the first hockey player since 2005 who has never played in the NHL (the last such hockey player was Valery Kharlamov). In addition, Yakushev became the ninth domestic member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and eighth to be included as an athlete. In this capacity, Vladislav Tretyak, Vyacheslav Fetisov , Valery Kharlamov, Igor Larionov, Pavel Bure, Sergey Fedorov and Sergey Makarov got into the Hockey Hall of Fame . Anatoly Tarasov (1974) was included in the Hall of Fame as a trainer from among domestic specialists .
The ceremony was broadcast by the TSN TV channel. “Alexander Yakushev took part in the 1972 Super Series and, together with other Soviet hockey players, demonstrated tremendous skill,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during the ceremony .
Here is how Anatoly Tarasov spoke about Yakushev: “I must say, Alexander Yakushev skillfully embodied his ideas in practice and successfully fought against the most diverse – rough and technical, fast and slow, experienced, cold-blooded and gambling rivals.
Alexander was leading the puck in a peculiar and somehow elegant way, and at these moments the club in its long and strong arms was drawing intricate patterns on the ice with a hook, the purpose of which could only be understood by Yakushev himself. And what is interesting, his puck was constantly glued to the hook – is this not evidence of the highest technique of performing techniques ?!
When Alexander rushed forward with wide steps, his gaze was focused only on the opponent. And as soon as he succumbed to the false movement, Yakushev, changing speed and maneuver … beat almost anyone.
True, the striker Yakushev did not like to defend himself. However, no one, in my opinion, could take advantage of this weakness of him – everyone was mainly thinking about how to neutralize Alexander in the attack, but they did not think about more.
However, despite all the tricks of the opponents’ defense, he constantly scored. And, completing attacks in conditions of close tutelage, Alexander Yakushev from an exquisite, intelligent hockey player turned into a staunch fighter, ruthless to himself. “
Today Alexander Sergeevich continues to live in hockey, being the chairman of the Council of Legends of the Night Hockey League and heading the Hockey Legends club.
“MK” heartily congratulates Alexander Sergeevich on his anniversary and wishes him good health and long life!