In the illustrious history of the Calgary Flames, they’ve had some legends play for their club well after they’d already been established as legends of the sport. Remember when Jaromir Jagr was briefly a Flame? That was fun.
But Sergei Makarov is an exception: he was likely already a Hall of Famer before he arrived in North America, but his performances wearing the Flaming C erased any doubts about his excellence. He’s #31 on our countdown.
A product of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Makarov came up through his local minor hockey system and joined Russia’s famed CSKA Moscow (Red Army) system in 1978. He earned accolades in international hockey for his strong role on the legendary KLM line, alongside Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov.
By 1983, the Flames had begun looking into unique places for players. Makarov was an attractive prospect, with five World Championship gold medals and an Olympic silver medal on his resume. But it wasn’t clear if or when he would be able (or willing) to come to North America. So the Flames took a calculated risk, selecting Makarov in the 12th round of the 1983 NHL Draft as a 25-year-old.
It wasn’t until 1989 – two more World Championship golds and two Olympic golds later – that Makarov was lured to the new challenges in North America and joined the Flames. Two things happened in Makarov’s first season in the NHL, 1989-90: he was excellent, and he was several years older than the other first-year players. Makarov erupted for 86 points as a 31-year-old, beating out 19-year-old Mike Modano in the Calder Trophy race. The win by an established hockey icon for the rookie award on a technicality led to an age cap for the award, affectionately referred to as “the Makarov rule,” capping Calder candidates as younger than 26.
Makarov played four seasons in Calgary. In his first three, he produced at over a point-per-game pace. He dropped fairly significantly in his 35-year-old season, and so the Flames swapped him to Hartford for future considerations – which ended up being a fourth-round pick they used to select Jason Smith in the 1993 NHL Draft. Makarov played a few more seasons in San Jose and Dallas before fully retiring.
Indicted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016, Makarov was probably a Hall of Fame player before he set foot on North American ice. He was that good for the Red Army. But there were persistent doubts on this side of the Atlantic about just how good Russian hockey players actually were. Those doubts were erased by the efforts of players like Makarov, and even in his early 30s Makarov was superb for the Flames.
A strong late-career run from a legendary player lands him on this list.
Top 50 Flames of All Time
Honourable mentions | #50 Brad Treliving | #49 Sonia Scurfield | #48 Curtis Glencross | #47 Colin Patterson | #46 Jiri Hudler | #45 Jim Peplinski | #44 Jim “Bearcat” Murray | #43 Nelson Skalbania | #42 Dion Phaneuf | #41 Reggie Lemelin | #40 Joel Otto | #39 Dan Bouchard | #38 Paul Reinhart | #37 Tom Lysiak | #36 Eric Vail | #35 Tim Hunter | #34 Al Coates | #33 Harvey the Hound | #32 Martin Gelinas | #31 Sergei Makarov