How Ilya Kovalchuk burned the Devils and fled to Russia


Many thought Ilya Kovalchuk would retire a New Jersey Devil after signing a 15-year, $100 million dollar deal in 2010. Well,he did retire from the NHL as a Devil. … but only after playing out three years of his contract. This shocked the hockey world as the 30-year-old was only one season removed from a heart-breaking Stanley Cup Final defeat.

Many labeled Kovalchuk’s decision to walk away from the NHL as a move by a sore loser after getting handled by the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. Kovalchuk will claim that he wanted to move his family back to Russia, but it’s widely speculated that he did so for monetary reasons as the tax implications in Russia were far more appealing than in the U.S at the time. The KHL team in St. Petersburg was offering him more money than his deal with the Devils so Kovalchuk abandoned the Devils and took off for Russia. Well as lady-luck would have it, the Russian ruble crashed in 2014 which would affect Kovy’s salary to the point where he would have made more money if he had stayed in the NHL. Round of applause for karma, everyone!

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The immediate effects of this sudden retirement were evident; the Devils lost their star player, got nothing back in return, and were left hanging financially as well due to the CBA, which ended up later being waived as the NHL let them off the hook. The fact is, Kovy walked out on the Devils with 12 years and $77 million left on his deal.

Soon after, another Devils’ star player Zach Parise left via free-agency and iconic net-minder Marty Brodeur retired from the sport after a brief stint in St.Louis. The Devils ended up losing their three biggest pieces of a Stanley Cup Final team in what seemed like an overnight home invasion. The team would go on to miss the playoffs each season after Kovalchuk announced his “retirement” in 2013 and they have not been the same after being forced into “rebuild mode.” Thanks Kovy for keeping it all together!

So what’s Kovy up to in Russia?

Now three years later, Kovalchuk is maintaining a point-per-game pace in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg (137 points in 135 games) and led his team to the the Gagarin Cup (the Russian Stanley Cup) just last season. When named playoff MVP, he refused to accept it and passed it on to his teammate, Evgenii Dadonov. That is about the classiest thing this guy has done in his career.

It still doesn’t excuse the International Ice Hockey Federation debacle in which Kovalchuk signaled Russian teammates to leave the ice early with him soon after receiving the silver medal following a loss to the Canadians.

It is tradition that both teams stay on the ice after receiving their medals for the national anthem of the winning team and the flag raising ceremony for all three medalist countries. Well, Kovy wasn’t having any of that. After studying the video evidence, the IIHF slapped the Russians with $85,000 USD fine. In case you were wondering, no country has ever done this before in the annual tournament. Cheers to Ovi and Malkin for not being like Kovalchuk.

The lack of character is evident and all hockey fans know it. The dude can play though and there’s no denying it. Check out how the lethal shot is doing in Russia.

It’s actually kind of nice to see his highlights, even though he robbed the NHL of another superstar. I do miss his goal-scoring prowess and it’s slightly refreshing to hear the play-by-play in a totally different language!

Holy Schmoly! What a shot!

OMG, he just snipped that rubber top cheddar baby!

Kovy seems to be having a good time winning in his native land and he clearly still has what earned him that massive NHL contract. He’s still a total d*ck though and completely squandered his opportunity to be a legend of the NHL. If that’s what he wants, then so be it.


About Author

Leave it to a Canadian to cover hockey. Turkatron is a sports fanatic and world-class Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey player who often fantasizes about Tom Brady on skates. Known to drop the gloves with his critics and sue the neighbors for stealing his hockey puck, the creator of “Zero Pucks Given” is one crazy Canuck whose opinions and views are sure to stir some pots.