For those who have not yet read the piece, today Igor Larionov penned an incredible article at theplayerstribune.com titled “The Beautiful Game.” In it, he discusses his past as a member of the Russian Red Army team and the sacrifices they made to be great. (Side Note: I highly recommend the recent ESPN 30 for 30, Of Miracles and Men about the same team) However, the most interesting aspect of the article was his comments on the Russian style of play. Despite playing in the constrictive communist regime, the team played an incredibly beautiful style of hockey requiring the highest level of skill, creativity and chemistry. As he describes,
“If you watch video of us back then, it barely resembles the way the NHL is played today. It’s more similar to how Barcelona plays soccer. Our philosophy was about puck control, improvisation, and constant movement. Now, the game is all about “north-south,” chip-and-chase. We moved side-to-side and swooped around the ice looking for open spaces. A backward pass was just as good as a forward pass. You didn’t have to see your linemate. You could smell him. Honestly, we probably could have played blind.”
Despite NHL teams implementing some of these general principals, his assessment of the chip-and-chase game is accurate. However, what I found even more interesting were his reasons for this change and what I believe we, as fans, do to encourage this simplification.