When speaking of the best Russian players in NHL history, it would be unfair to place Alexei Kovalev anywhere near the top five. But if you’re talking about pure skill, it’s tough to argue against him.
When speaking to former teammates, they all say the same thing: Alexei Kovalev was the most gifted player they ever played with. He could do just about anything with the puck and create chances out of nowhere.
It’s not that he didn’t have a great NHL career; it’s just that Kovalev could’ve achieved so much more than he actually did. He didn’t have the greatest work ethic, and he had much on his mind besides hockey. Kovalev was an artist, on and off the ice, and there are so many stories about his shenanigans.
Kovalev played for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers. He scored 430 goals and won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers when his 21 playoff points were third in the team.
But he’s perhaps most known for doing crazy things off the ice, and on the ”Thats Hockey Talk” podcast, former NHLer Nick Kypreos shared an awesome story about when the Russian superstar tried to learn to play the sax.
”He was a pretty in tune guy. He was Patrick Kane, he was that guy that could pull it on a string,” Kypreos said.
”One of those guys that once he gets fixated on something like he got his pilot’s license, then he got into music. He would spend hours upon hours on stuff. One day he comes into practice, and his lips are like four times the size. I’m like, ’Alex, what happened to you, man!? Did you get punched out last night?’ And he goes, ’No, no, no. I’m learning to play the saxophone.’
”He was on his saxophone for seven hours. He looked like Daffy Duck.”