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25 мая. 2002 года.
UNDERCOVER FAN: The Larionov story: You could look it up. - Detroit Free Press

I have been unable to watch my favorite Red Wing, Igor Larionov, because he has been out of the lineup with a sprained right knee.

So I did the next best thing. I scored a copy of his extremely hard-to-find autobiography, "Larionov."

The book was published in 1990 by a small Canadian company, Codner Books, but is out of print. It circulates among hard-core hockey fans like the clandestine samizdat literature that went from hand-to-hand in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Even casual fans know that Larionov is the Red Wings' oldest, classiest and most interesting player. Some middle-aged women I know think Larionov is extremely intriguing and even cute, and they would love the photo in the book of him wearing an apron and washing dishes while he looks longingly at his wife.

At 41, Larionov has a baby face, and when he is out of uniform and wearing his wire-rimmed glasses, he looks more like a professor (his nickname) than someone who has excelled for 25 years at the highest levels of his macho sport.

The autobiography is stiffly written, perhaps because it was translated from Russian. But it still manages to convey Larionov's fascinating history, which includes his dangerous rebellion against coach Viktor Tikhonov and other Soviet authorities, his unique way of thinking about how he plays and his avant-garde ideas about diet and training.

There is a reason they call him the Professor. He's smart.

Once his Soviet masters tried to discredit him by making false allegations that he had had an affair with a Canadian woman. Larionov compares that episode of his life to a scene from a novel by the French writer Guy de Maupassant.

Tie Domi he ain't.

Discussing his concept of playing "dispatcher," which is what they call centers in Russian, Larionov writes: "Let my club slaughter all opposition, one after the other, let my line be considered one of the best, but if I myself played with no unpredictability, without cleverness or improvisation, I was not emotionally satisfied."

In 1988, a fractured ankle healed much earlier than normal, he writes, because he followed the advice of a specialist in eastern medicine and fasted for three weeks, consuming only water laced with honey, dates, figs and persimmon from central Asia.

After games, when teammates would rush to pig out, Larionov would graze. "I unhurriedly chewed on a small carrot, greens, an apple and a small orange," he writes.

Larionov grew up in the Russian factory town of Voskresensk, where he lived with his parents and brother in a one-bedroom apartment in a nine-story building.

He started his career playing street hockey. He writes: "We didn't wait for winter. When they sent us to a collective farm to harvest potatoes, we would grab a few nets and make goals out of them and use a tennis ball for a puck, sprinkling the pavement with sand in order to reduce friction."

As a teenager in 1977, he began playing for his hometown Khimik team in the top Soviet league, against such foes as Dynamo Riga, Torpedo Gorky and the legendary Central Red Army club.

Four years later, Larionov was recruited against his will for Central Red Army, on which he centered the famous KLM line of Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov. One of his defensive partners was Slava Fetisov, a fellow rebel who later would join the Wings.

As a player for Red Army and the Soviet national team, Larionov confronted the absurdities of Communist hockey. He was forced to become a soldier, and eventually rose in rank to captain despite having never fired a gun.He also had to take part in the nine-month training regime at a camp in Archangel, Russia, where he was told what to do from morning to night.

He chafed at the isolation. "We continually stewed in our own juices, in boring surroundings where the evening leisure time was spent in front of television, or playing cards, or shooting pool. . . . How could there be any aesthetic development, any cultivation of the personality?"

Not surprisingly, Larionov fought the power. He denounced Tikhonov in the popular magazine OGONYOK. The power fought back. At one point, Tikhonov claimed he had information on Larionov and Fetisov that could put them in prison for eight years. The players denounced what they called his Stalinist tactics.

Reading about Larionov is fun, but it's a distant second to watching him quarterback the Red Wings' power play.

Igor, get well soon.

For more information on Igor Larionov, go to www.pbfc.org/ilas/ The Web site also contains excerpts from "Larionov."

Страничка Игоря Ларионова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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