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The Russian Five is the name of two separate but related units of five Russian ice hockey players. Internationally and in other languages, those two units were alternatively known as Big Red Machine – not to be mixed up with Big Red Machine within baseball.
CSKA Moscow and Soviet National Team
The first, also known as the Green Unit was a unit of players for both the CSKA Moscow and the Soviet national hockey teams during the 1980s. It consisted of Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov on defense, Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov (also known as the KLM Line) at forwards. The five dominated national and international hockey for nearly a decade before being split up when heading to the NHL in the early 1990s.
Detroit Red Wings
The second unit, also known as the Red Army and "The Wizards of Ov", was a lineup for the Detroit Red Wings during the 1990s. The Russian Five—all hockey legends in their own right in their native Russia—emulated the style of the Soviet Red Army teams that dominated world and Olympic competition during the 1970s, '80s and early '90s with a combination of speed and puck control.
Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman put together the unit after finding out that many Soviet teams frequently put their forwards and defensemen together on five-man units. Reports of the time credited Larionov (nicknamed The Professor) with mentioning the idea to Bowman, and leading the Red Army line through a spectacular display of their prowess in which they played a two-minute shift at both ends of the ice, denying all attempts at defensive maneuvering. The five skater group included Larionov and Fetisov in their respective positions, but also included Sergei Fedorov at centre, Vyacheslav Kozlov at left wing and Vladimir Konstantinov on defense. All the forwards in the unit were natural centers — Kozlov played center in his home Voskresensk, Fedorov and Larionov used to play this role both before and after the "Russian five" period.
The Russian Five were often noted for their skill and ability on the ice together. Fedorov won the Hart and Selke Trophies in 1994, and the Selke again in 1996, while Konstantinov was runner-up for the Norris Trophy in 1997. The unit played an instrumental role during the Red Wings' success of that decade. During the 1997 playoffs, the Red Wings went 16–0 when any of the Russians scored a point and 0–4 when they did not, helping the team to win the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Russian Five would lose one of their members just days after the 1997 Stanley Cup championship, when Konstantinov became involved in a limousine accident, which ended his career and the career of team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov. Fetisov was also injured in the same accident but he recovered and returned in the subsequent 1997–1998 season. The team wore a special patch on their jerseys, which read "Believe," in both English and Russian. This motto helped inspire the team through the 1998 playoffs, resulting a second consecutive Wings' Stanley Cup win.
After the Red Wings acquired Russian defenceman Dmitri Mironov at the 1998 NHL Trade Deadline, a less-successful "Russian Five II" was briefly formed by Fedorov, Larionov, Kozlov, Fetisov and Mironov. Fedorov and Larionov also played key roles in Detroit's 2002 Stanley Cup championship.
As of the 2010–11 season[update], only Sergei Fedorov and Vyacheslav Kozlov were still active, playing for the Metallurg Magnitogorsk and CSKA Moscow respectively. Slava Fetisov was the Minister of Sport for Russia from 2002 to 2008.
- "Viktor Tikhonov, hockey coach of Soviet-era ‘Big Red Machine,’ dies at 84 Add to ...". theglobeandmail.com, 2014-11-24. Retrieved 25 November 2015.