Ak Bars Kazan
HC Ak Bars 1995–present
|Nickname(s)||"Barses (Snow Leopards), Cats"|
|Head coach||Valery Belov|
|Affiliates||Neftyanik Almetievsk (VHL)
Hockey Club Ak Bars (Russian: Ак Барс, Tatar Cyrillic: Ак Барс, Latin: Aq Bars, English: Snow Leopard), also known as Ak Bars Kazan, is a Russian professional ice hockey team based in Kazan, Tatarstan. They are a member of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Originally founded as Mashstroy Kazan in 1956, the name was later changed to SC Uritskogo Kazan when it entered the Soviet Class B league in 1958. It was promoted to Soviet Class A2, where it gained promotion to the top tier of Soviet hockey. Kazan's performance was respectable, starting the season by winning 6 out of 19 games against the best of the Soviet teams before falling away in the second half of the season and was demoted.
From this point onward, SC Uritskogo Kazan established a reputation as a consistently strong team in the second tier leagues of the USSR. Renowned as a high scoring team, Kazan averaged over four goals a game throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Twice they won the USSR League (lower tiers), being named Champion of Russia in 1962 and 1976.
SC Uritskogo Kazan's most successful period occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The team was led by Russia's Sergei Stolbun; scoring ace Gennady Maslov (current coach of Ak Bars-2 Kazan), who enjoyed a short stint with the Soviet Wings and set a club record of 140 points in 76 games in 1982–83; and Ravil Shavaleev, who was regarded as one of the finest defenseman to ever come out of Tatarstan. During this period, Kazan was consistently among the top teams in the league but failed year after year to gain promotion to the top flight of Soviet hockey.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Uritskogo Kazan became Itil Kazan in 1990 and participated in the IHL. Itil was only mildly successful, narrowly avoiding relegation to the Vysshaya Liga in 1991 and 1992.
It was following the establishment of the Russian Superleague (RSL) in 1996 that the golden age of hockey in Tatarstan began. Renamed Ak Bars Kazan after the traditional symbol of the Tatars, the snow leopard. Benefiting from the resources boom in the Urals, Ak Bars began its history in fine form, finishing first in their respective divisions in 1997 and 1998 along with winning the RSL in 1998. During this period, Kazan lacked the high scoring of their predecessors but regardless continued to be a dominant team in Russian hockey, finishing runners-up in 2000 and 2002. During this period, Kazan developed players such as Denis Arkhipov and Danis Zaripov.
In the 2004–05 season, Kazan signed 11 National Hockey League players, including Russian superstars Alexei Kovalev and Ilya Kovalchuk and Canadians Vincent Lecavalier and Dany Heatley, in an attempt to celebrate Kazan's 1000th anniversary with a championship. They did not succeed, however, as a lack of continuity and chemistry saw them finish in fourth place and were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Since then, Ak Bars Kazan dominated the RSL, winning the league in 2006 on the back of a brilliant performance from Aleksey Morozov. In 2007, Kazan paced the league with 35 wins and 214 goals in 54 games before falling at the final hurdle to Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
Ak Bars has been led in recent years by the dominant "ZZM" line of Sergei Zinovjev, Danis Zaripov, and Aleksey Morozov, who have established themselves as one of the most dominant lines in recent history. Combined with veterans such as Vitaly Proshkin and Vladimir Vorobiev, and imports, such as Ray Giroux, Petr Čajánek, and Jukka Hentunen, Kazan has remained one of the top teams in the league. However, they have been at times criticized for lacking consistency and relying too heavily on star players such as Morozov.
Gagarin Cup (2): 2009, 2010
Russian Super League (2): 1998, 2006
IIHF European Champions Cup (1): 2007
IIHF Continental Cup (1): 2008
Soviet Class A2 (3): 1962, 1985, 1989 (West)
Soviet Class B (1): 1976
Season-by-season KHL record
Note: GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; Pts = Points; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; P = Playoff
|2008–09||56||36||10||3||122||189||123||1st, Chernyshev||Aleksey Morozov (71 points: 32 G, 39 A; 49 GP)||Gagarin Cup Champions, 4–3 (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl)|
|2009–10||56||25||18||2||96||159||128||2nd, Kharlamov||Aleksey Morozov (49 points: 26 G, 23 A; 50 GP)||Gagarin Cup Champions, 3–4 (HC MVD)|
|2010–11||54||29||12||3||105||181||133||1st, Kharlamov||Aleksey Morozov (56 points: 21 G, 35 A; 53 GP)||Lost in Conference Semifinals, 1–4 (Salavat Yulaev Ufa)|
|2011–12||54||27||19||1||92||167||136||3rd, Kharlamov||Aleksey Morozov (50 points: 21 G, 29 A; 53 GP)||Lost in Conference Semifinals, 4-2 (Traktor Chelyabinsk)|
|2012–13||52||28||10||3||104||157||112||1st, Kharlamov||Aleksey Morozov (38 points: 15 G, 26 A; 51 GP)||Lost in Conference Finals, 3–4 (Traktor Chelyabinsk)|
Famous players who played for the club
- IHF Forums http://forums.internationalhockey.net/showthread.php?t=7374
- "HC «Ak Bars» Team Roster". www.ak-bars.ru. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- "Ak Bars Kazan team roster". www.khl.ru. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
- (English) Ak Bars Kazan official site
- Ak Bars Kazan on http://www.eliteprospects.com/
- Ak Bars Kazan on http://en.khl.ru/