SUN Hockey Pool

Korolev finally hangs up blades

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 PM ET

North American fans might think Igor Korolev’s hockey career ended seven years ago, when he played his last game for the Chicago Blackhawks.

But the Moscow-born centre, a member of the last Winnipeg Jets team in 1995-96, spent six more seasons in Russia’s top league, the KHL, before finally retiring this year.

“I’m not used to it, yet,” Korolev said from his home in Toronto. “But you have to retire. Not many guys who can play at 40.”

Korolev put up 22 goals and 51 points his second season in Winnipeg, one of two times he hit the 20-goal plateau in a 12-year NHL career.

Playing in his home country while his wife and two kids lived in Toronto the last several years wasn’t easy, so Korolev finally decided enough was enough.

“I’ll take a break for a little bit and figure out what to do,” he said. “I have a couple offers to coach back in Russia. Here, if something opens up I will do it because everybody lives here. To go to Russia to be a coach, I’m not ready for that.”

Among the former Jets teammates he keeps in touch with are goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who still plays in Edmonton, and Alexei Zhamnov.

Korolev says Zhamnov is the GM of a team in the KHL, one that tries to play a rough-and-tumble, Canadian style, employing former NHL tough guys like Chris Simon.

Korolev’s fond memories of Winnipeg include the weather.

“People love hockey. I like it there,” he said. “It’s only cold, but so what? Hockey is supposed to be played where it’s cold. That was a great time. I came from St. Louis. I didn’t have a good time there. Here there was more Russians, I had more ice time.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos