Vladimir Konstantinov

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Vladimir Konstantinov
Born (1967-03-19) March 19, 1967 (age 47)
Murmansk, Russian SFSR, URS
Height 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Weight 176 lb (80 kg; 12 st 8 lb)
Position Defense
Shot Right
Played for NHL
 Detroit Red Wings
USSR
 HC CSKA Moscow
National team  Soviet Union
NHL Draft 221st overall, 1989
Detroit Red Wings
Playing career 1984–1997

Vladimir Nikolaevich Konstantinov (Russian: Владимир Николаевич Константинов; born March 19, 1967) is a Russian-American retired professional ice hockey player who played his entire National Hockey League (NHL) career with the Detroit Red Wings. Previously, he had played for Soviet club CSKA Moscow. His career was ended in a tragic limousine accident just six days after the Red Wings 1997 Stanley Cup victory.

Playing career[edit]

Vladimir Konstantinov, known also as "Vladdie" and "Vlad the Impaler" (for his vicious hits), was drafted 221st overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, after impressing a Red Wings scout at the 1987 World Junior Championships, where a brawl broke out in the USSR/Canada game. Scout Neil Smith remembers, "He was the only one of the Russians who fought back." Probably the most notable aspect of his hockey career was his aggressive style, specializing in getting opponents off their game. "For my game," he explained, "I don’t need to score the goal. I need someone to start thinking about me and forgetting about scoring goals." Konstantinov's aggressive style of play also earned him the nickname "Vladinator".

In the 1993-94 NHL regular season, he scored three short-handed goals to tie Raymond Bourque, Jyrki Lumme and Richard Smehlik for the league lead among defensemen.[1]

He was also part of the unit known as "The Russian Five," which consisted of him and fellow defensemen Viacheslav Fetisov, and forwards Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, and Vyacheslav Kozlov.

Konstantinov earned the NHL Plus/Minus Award in 1995–96, with a plus/minus difference of +60. The +60 has been the highest rating a player has finished with in the past 20 seasons, since Wayne Gretzky finished with a +70 in the 1986–87 NHL season.

In 1996–97, Konstantinov helped his team to win the Stanley Cup against the Philadelphia Flyers. Flyers coach Terry Murray expected that his top line of center Eric Lindros, left winger John LeClair and right winger Mikael Renberg, known as the "Legion of Doom" for its scoring and toughness, would be facing Konstantinov. However Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman surprised the Flyers by instead opting for the finesse-oriented defense pairing of Nicklas Lidstrom and Larry Murphy to neutralize the Lindros line's forechecking.[2] In that same year, Konstantinov was runner-up to Brian Leetch for the Norris Trophy, given to the league's best defenseman. This would turn out to be Konstantinov's final season.

Limousine accident[edit]

1998 Patch

Following a private party on June 13, 1997, celebrating the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup triumph, Konstantinov, along with Russian hockey legend Viacheslav Fetisov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov, hired a limousine to drive them home. The driver, Richard Gnida, whose license was suspended at the time for drunk driving, lost control of the limousine and hit a tree on the median of Woodward Avenue, in Birmingham, Michigan. Konstantinov spent several weeks in a coma before finally pulling through. He also suffered from serious head injuries and paralysis while Fetisov escaped with relatively minor injuries and was able to play the following season. Mnatsakanov sustained heavy head injuries and also spent some time in a coma; he has had a considerably more difficult recovery.

After the Red Wings successfully retained the Stanley Cup in 1998, Konstantinov was wheeled onto the ice, surrounded by his teammates, to celebrate the win. Throughout the playoffs the Red Wings' catchphrase was the single word, "Believe," and throughout the 1997–98 season the Red Wings wore a patch, with the initials of Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov featured prominently, with the word "Believe" written in both English and Russian.

Although Vladimir was never able to play hockey again due to the car crash, the Detroit Red Wings still recognized him as part of their team. The Red Wings sought and received special dispensation from the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup after they won the 1998 title. During the celebration ceremonies after winning the Stanley Cup Vladimir was pushed around the ice in his wheelchair with the Cup on his lap.

Retirement[edit]

Konstantinov's jersey #16 has not been officially retired by the Red Wings; however, out of respect for Konstantinov, no player has been given the number since. In 1999, newly acquired Pat Verbeek, who had worn #16 for much of his career, switched to #15. A similar situation occurred in 2001 when the Red Wings signed Brett Hull, who had worn #16 for the bulk of his career with the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars; Hull switched to #17.

Konstantinov's condition has improved considerably since his accident. While he still has trouble speaking and walking, he is seen several times a season watching Red Wings games from a private box at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings keep his locker set up for him, although he will never be capable of playing hockey again. The locker is also equipped with a rock that says "Believe".

Konstantinov returned to the ice at Joe Louis Arena, helped by a walker, for the pre-game number retirement ceremony for Steve Yzerman on January 2, 2007.

At the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, Konstantinov was helped onto the ice for a rare Russian Five reunion with his former teammates, Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Igor Larionov.[3]

On March 6, 2014 he was in attendance at the retirement of former teammate Nicklas Lidstrom's number.

International play[edit]

Medal record
Competitor for Soviet Union Soviet Union
Men's ice hockey
World Championships
Gold 1986 Soviet Union
Gold 1989 Sweden
Gold 1990 Switzerland
Bronze 1991 Finland
World Junior Championships
Gold 1986 Canada

Konstantinov has participated in six international tournaments for the Soviet Union:

During the final game of the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships between Canada and the Soviet Union, a bench-clearing brawl known as the Punch-up in Piestany took place. The fight is famous for officials having turned off the arena lights in a desperate attempt at ending the 20 minute melee. During the fight Konstantinov leveled a head-butt that broke Greg Hawgood's nose. As a result of the brawl, both teams were disqualified from the tournament.

Personal life[edit]

Konstantinov lives in the Detroit area. His wife, Irina, now lives in West Orange, New Jersey with their daughter, Anastasia Konstantinova.[citation needed]

Awards and achievements[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1984–85 CSKA Moscow USSR 40 1 4 5 10
1985–86 CSKA Moscow USSR 26 4 3 7 12
1986–87 CSKA Moscow USSR 35 2 2 4 19
1987–88 CSKA Moscow USSR 50 3 6 9 32
1988–89 CSKA Moscow USSR 37 7 8 15 20
1989–90 CSKA Moscow USSR 47 14 13 27 44
1990–91 CSKA Moscow USSR 45 5 12 17 42
1991–92 Detroit Red Wings NHL 79 8 25 33 172 11 0 1 1 16
1992–93 Detroit Red Wings NHL 82 5 17 22 137 7 0 1 1 8
1993–94 Detroit Red Wings NHL 80 12 21 33 138 7 0 2 2 4
1994–95 ESC Wedemark GER-2 15 17 13 30 51
1994–95 Detroit Red Wings NHL 47 3 11 14 101 18 1 1 2 22
1995–96 Detroit Red Wings NHL 81 14 20 34 139 19 4 5 9 28
1996–97 Detroit Red Wings NHL 77 5 33 38 151 20 0 4 4 29
USSR totals 280 36 48 84 179
NHL totals 446 47 127 174 838 82 5 14 19 107

International[edit]

Year Team Event Result   GP G A Pts PIM
1986 Soviet Union WJC 7 2 4 6 4
1986 Soviet Union WC 10 1 1 2 8
1987 Soviet Union WJC DQ 6 1 4 5 8
1989 Soviet Union WC 8 2 1 3 2
1990 Soviet Union WC 10 2 2 4 12
1991 Soviet Union WC 10 0 2 2 37
Junior totals 13 3 8 11 12
Senior totals 38 5 6 11 59

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ron Francis
Winner of the NHL Plus/Minus Award
1996
Succeeded by
John LeClair