1994 Cup Winner Sergei Zubov Elected To Hall of Fame
When the New York Rangers selected defenseman Sergei Zubov in the fifth round of the 1990 NHL Draft, the Iron Curtain had yet to fall. Perestroika and Glasnost had yet to take full effect. Neil Smith, who was the team’s general manager at the time, took a calculated risk drafting the talented Moscow native since Russian players coming over to North America was still a bit of a novelty and an abstract anomaly to say the least. Little did Smith, or even the most glass-half-full member of the Garden Faithful, know that Zubov would come over to the NHL and begin what has now officially become a Hall of Fame career.
Zubov’s first taste of North American hockey came in the 1992-93 season at the Rangers AHL affiliate in Binghamton where he notched an impressive 36 points in 30 regular season contests and added ten points in eleven playoff tussles. Zubov made a cameo on Broadway in the Rangers’ futile, frustrating and playoff-less season of 1992-93 and was a rare bright spot on that meandering, underachieving squad, collecting 31 points in 49 games.
In 1993-94, Zubov, along with fellow Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, combined to be the NHL’s most dynamic power-play two-some. Zubov led the Stanley Cup championship team in scoring during the regular year, tallying 89 points in 78 games. Zubov added 19 points in that memorable playoff run, including his now legendary assist on the first goal in Game 7 of the Finals, when he set up none other than his blue-line buddy Brian Leetch for that uber-important first goal. Zubov would join Alex Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov and the late Alexander Karpovtsev as the first Russians to have their names etched on Lord Stanley’s chalice.
Zubov enjoyed another fantastic season in the lockout shortened year that followed the Blueshirts magical and inspiring championship run. In 1995, the right-handed defenseman ranked third for the defending champs in both regular season and playoff scoring. The Rangers were steamrolled by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 1995 playoffs, which led to the Ranger brain trust’s belief that they needed to get bigger and stronger to compete with the “Broad Street Bullies” and others of that elk.
Zubov’s skill and finesse were no longer deemed necessary and, in September 1995, much to the chagrin of most and the shock of some, Zubov was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with fellow European “softie” Petr Nedved in exchange for veteran sniper Luc Robitaille and more importantly, the viscous, incendiary Ulf Samuelsson.
Zubov would continue his stellar career with the Dallas Stars after leaving the Keystone State, and would win another Stanley Cup in 1999 when Brett Hull’s controversial game winning goal gave the state of Texas it’s first ever cup winner. Zubov’s NHL career ended following the 2009 season, when he returned home to his native Russia to finish his hockey playing career in the KHL. Even though Sergei Zubov donned the Broadway Blue for parts of just three seasons, his contributions to the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship team will never be forgotten. His impact on future Russians crossing the pond to play NHL hockey will always be remembered.
Sergei Zubov went from an obscure fifth-round draft pick to lead a cup winning team in scoring to now, officially, a Hockey Hall of Famer. Congratulations, Sergei. The honor is well deserved.