Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 05/25/14 at 07:51 AM ET
The IIHF is inducting a quintet of players into their Hall of Fame today in Minsk. Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Vycheslav Bykov, Andrei Khomutov and one other player will be inducted in the player category, and IIHF.com's Lukas Aykroyd notes that the fifth player is particularly special:
If there’s one true regret about the 2014 IIHF World Championship, it’s that Ruslan Salei won’t be able to attend his induction into the IIHF Hall of Fame.
Born in Minsk in 1974, the hard-working defenceman will be recognized for his long, productive career at a gala ceremony in his hometown today. He is part of an exceptional Hall of Fame class that also includes Russia’s Vyacheslav Bykov and Andrei Khomutov, Sweden’s Nicklas Lidstrom, and Canada’s Steve Yzerman and Murray Costello.
Salei tragically passed away in the 2011 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash, along with many other hockey greats. But his memory will live on.
He accomplished more as an NHLer and international hockey regular than almost anyone could have envisioned. He grew up far away from the NHL spotlight in Belarus. Life in this former Soviet republic of 10 million hasn’t always been easy. The country suffered during the Nazi invasion in World War II, and under Communism, its eastern regions received radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. When you see how beautiful, clean, and green Minsk is today, it’s a tribute to the resilience of the Belarusian people.
Salei took a positive outlook while reminiscing with IIHF correspondent Lucas Aykroyd in 2007: “It was pretty good by the standards that people were accustomed to in those days. You know, I grew up in a three-bedroom apartment. At some point in my teenage life, we had me and my parents, plus my brother’s family and my sister’s family with us. But that was normal for everybody back then. People didn’t expect anything more than what they had. I wasn’t uncomfortable as I would be today due to having experienced a better life. As a kid, playing hockey served all my interests in terms of who I wanted to be. I played soccer when I was six, but I got into hockey the winter I turned seven. Then all I thought about was getting through school and playing hockey.”
Unlike some players who are inspired by the example of family members, Salei was simply motivated by the joy of hockey: “I was the only athlete in my family. My older brother played some hockey and soccer as a teenager, but he’s 12 years older than me. When I was training for hockey, he’d already moved on with his life and started working in the construction business.”
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