Ruslan Salei becomes first Belarusian in the IIHF Hall of Fame

Ruslan Salei becomes first Belarusian in the IIHF Hall of Fame
By Yegor Glebov

Vyacheslav Bykov, Andrey Khomutov, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrцm — Ruslan Salei did not play with such partners, but now his name appears alongside them

For the first time in the existence of the IIHF Hall of Fame, a Belarusian hockey player was given the honour to receiving a place near the greatest hockey players. And the fact that Salei occupied own place amongst such a brilliant five, shows the reflexion of high justice. Against the background of his ‘partners’, the achievements of the Belarusian defender are quiet modest. He did not manage to become the most valuable player and owner of the Stanley Cup, as Nicklas Lidstrцm did. Unlike Valery Bykov and Andrey Khomutov, he did not have a collection of gold medals from the World Championships and the Olympic Games. And, of course, he cannot compete in popularity with a living legend of NHL and the long-standing captain of Detroit, Steve Yzerman. But at the same time, practically each of those who appeared on the congress hall platform of Minsk’s Victoria Olympus Hotel, necessarily recollected Ruslan Salei.

During the ceremony

“We did not play with him for long with the Red Wings, but that period of time was enough to understand who Ruslan was. I am happy that, today we all together have this honour, and I feel sorry that he cannot stand here with us.”

Having walked down the stage, where defender, Nicklas Lidstrцm, dressed in a Swedish national team’s T-shirt, told words of gratitude to participants of solemn ceremony of induction into the IIHF Hall of Fame, he also recollected the legendary Olympic quarterfinal of 2002. 12 years ago he called that day the biggest disappointment in his career and today he told about the role of Salei in that match. Vyacheslav Bykov also told about it. Without being personally familiar with Ruslan, the well-known forward of the national team of the USSR admitted that he always paid attention to the Belarusian defender during broadcasts, and noted the huge role which Salei continues to play even today.

“Induction into the IIHF Hall of Fame is not only recognition of the huge role which this or that hockey player or functionary played or plays in the development of world hockey. It is also a kind of ‘message’ for future generations. For each hockey country it is important to have their own representatives in the Hall of Fame. And not only because the names of these people will be forever immortalised in the history. It is more important that they become guides and the elite to which young children will aspire. After all, among these young hockey players, there are also those who in the future will fight for inclusion into the Hall of Fame. But today, appearing on ice, they should understand why they do this, and what ideals they should follow. History exists for this purpose.”

The name of Ruslan Salei, which sounded in the congress hall, attracted even those who already had time to be distracted for discussion of achievements and role of the top-five in the history, the five players who were officially ‘immortalised’ and those who kept their company — one of founders of the NHL, Murray Costello and the long-standing ‘head physician’, IIHF’s Mark Aubry. In newsreels, the victorious goals of Ruslan were replaced by a video recording address from his family, who remain in the USA. “Both in life and on the ice Ruslan was a leader, and it seemed that people could rally around him. The most different people.” All who were present in the hall could support the words of Bethann Salei, while Mikhail Zakharov explained simply why Ruslan Salei was chosen from Belarus for induction into the IIHF Hall of Fame.

“It is said that there are no irreplaceable people. While I assert that we have such people. And I, without hesitating, say to our leaders, brothers Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski, ‘Do not take offence, but you have to do more to reach Salei’s level, who was a great hockey player’. He was an example of professionalism in terms of playing, but he, for certain, would reach bigger heights, having become a trainer. All of us should aspire to such attitude to hockey and life.”
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