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Vladimir Konstantinov
Born March 19, 1967 (1967-03-19) (age 55)
Murmansk, Soviet Union
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 176 lb (80 kg; 12 st 8 lb)
Position Defense
Shoots Right
Played for NHL
 Detroit Red Wings
 HC CSKA Moscow
National team Template:Country data Soviet Union
NHL Draft 221st overall, 1989
Detroit Red Wings
Playing career 1984–1997

Vladimir Konstantinov (born Vladimir Nikolaevich Konstantinov on 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, Vladimir 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[]

Vladimir 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 Vladimir's 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."

Vladimir's aggressive style of play also earned him the nickname "Vladinator." In the 1993-94 NHL season, he scored three short-handed goals to tie Ray Bourque, Jyrki Lumme and Richard Smehlik for the league lead among defensemen.

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 & Vyacheslav Kozlov.

Vladimir 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, he 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.

In that same year, Vladimir was runner-up to Brian Leetch for the Norris Trophy, given to the league's best defenseman. This would turn out to be his final season.

Career Statistics[]

    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

Awards & Achievements[]

  • NHL All-Rookie Team: 1992
  • NHL Second All-Star Team: 1996
  • NHL Plus/Minus Award: 1996 (+60)
  • Two-time Presidents' Trophy Award Winner: 1995, 1996, both with the Detroit Red Wings
  • Two-time NHL Stanley Cup Champion: 1997, 1998 Detroit Red Wings

International Play[]

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

Personal Life[]

Vladimir resides in the Detroit area. His wife, Irina now resides in West Orange, New Jersey with their daughter, Anastasia Konstantinova.

Limousine Accident[]

On June 13, 1997 (following a private party celebrating the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup victory), Vladimir (along 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.

Vladimir 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. Hee has had a considerably more difficult recovery.

After the Red Wings successfully retained the Stanley Cup in 1998, Vladimir 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

Vladimir 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, he was pushed around the ice in his wheelchair with the Cup on his lap.

Vladimir's jersey #16 has not been officially retired by the Red Wings, however, out of respect for him, no player has been given the number since.

In 1999, newly acquired player 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.

Vladimir'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."

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