Slava Kozlov remembers the famed “Russian 5”

This unit was a sight to behold.



Hockey was forever changed on October 27, 1995, during a tilt between the Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames.

It was the night that Red Wings head coach Scotty Bowman sent five former Soviet Red Army players onto the ice in Calgary, and into history. Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Vladimir Konstantinov, and Slava Kozlov all played together on the same line, and quickly became known by the legendary moniker of the "Russian Five". 

The style of play the Russians played was unlike most teams at the time, who employed a simple dump-and-chase strategy. The puck possession and quick passing mentality quickly became the Red Wings calling card, and helped to confuse opponents in the process.

For Kozlov, it was a style of play that may have never been really tried in the NHL before. 

“Probably, at that time we played hockey that others did not yet understand,” Kozlov said of the Russian Five.

“We immediately began to succeed – playing passing, opening, dumping,” he continued. “This is probably the best hockey I’ve ever played.

He also credited the arrivals of both Larionov and Fetisov to the Red Wings for when things really began to take off.

“It all started with the arrival of Slava Fetisov and Igor Larionov. I learned a lot thanks to them.”

But would an all-Russian line on the ice work today? Kozlov isn't so sure. 

“I don’t know how it would be now, but back then it was a new thing that worked,” Kozlov said.

Regardless, the Russian Five was one of the cooler factions of Red Wings history, and one that fans who experienced it first hand look back upon with fondness.

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