Nowadays, Russian players are all over the NHL. Players like Ovechkin, Malkin, and Kaprizov are leaders of their teams and get some well-earned respect on the ice and from fans.
But during the early 90s, things were a lot different. Although the Russian players at the time were outstanding, they had a bad reputation, especially with the North American coaches. Mike Keenan was one, for example.
Nick Kypreos played for the Rangers in the 90s and was teammates with Russian players like Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov. Talking on the That’s Hockey Talk podcast, he revealed that Mike Keenan could be harsh on his teammates.
” Keenan had his mindgames, and he would pull in the Russians in the office, and I could here him like ripping on the Russians,’ You guys stink, you don’t care, and all you want to do is go back and win your world championship with your country.”
To scare the Russian players, Keenan even used Don Cherry’s name.
” Don Cherry says no team will ever win with Russians on the team. And Don Cherry says this and Don Cherry says this about the Russians.”
But Keenan had forgotten about one important thing. The Russians didn’t have a clue about who Don Cherry was.
” And then Zubov comes back out of his office, and he’s dressing beside me in his stall and he just looks at me and says,’ Who is this Don Cherry?”