There is little statistical justification, advanced or otherwise, for having Igor Ulanov on this list of Top 100 Oilers, so those of you who lean heavily on such details can take a gulp of Sprite and roll your eyes. I’m putting him in the No. 93 slot because I don’t want him showing up at my door asking why I left him off. I’d be happy, however, to send him your way.
Outside former captain Jason Smith, Ulanov’s soulmate in the belief pain doesn’t actually hurt and there is no injury that can’t be overcome with a bag of ice and some intestinal fortitude, the big Russian blueliner is the toughest man I have seen don Oiler silks. Ulanov was a NHL version of Chigurh from the movie No Country For Old Men. Opposing forwards were the guys with the satchel full of money he wanted.
Igor Ulanov #55
|NUMBER:||55||BIRTHDATE:||October 1, 1969|
|HEIGHT:||6′ 3″||BIRTHPLACE:||Krasnokamsk, Russia|
|WEIGHT:||220||DRAFTED:||WIN / 1991 NHL Entry Draft|
|SHOOTS:||Left||ROUND:||10th (203rd overall)|
CAREER REGULAR SEASON STATISTICS
|1992-93||FORT WAYNE KOMETS-IHL||3||0||1||1||29|
|2001-02||HARTFORD WOLF PACK-AHL||6||1||1||2||2||2||0||0||0|
|2002-03||SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE-AHL||5||1||0||1||-2||4||0||0||0||10||10.0|
CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS
Ulanov, who did two stints with the Oilers, didn’t have an ounce of subtlety to his game. He wasn’t quick on his feet. He wasn’t skilled with the puck. His 23 points with the Oilers in 2000-01 was a career high. He made big hits. He made big mistakes. He’d block shots. He’d punch you in the mouth, or use his stick if a fist wouldn’t do. He spilled blood, much of it his own.
Like Javier Bardem’s character in NCFOM, Ulanov, who looked very much like a hitman when he’d roll around Edmonton in his Cadillac with pal Sergei Zholtok wearing a three-quarter length black leather jacket, was methodically relentless in the way he went about his business. He did whatever it took, inside and outside the rules, to get the job done against faster and more skilled opponents. Hook. Hold. Hack.
I doubt Ulanov, even in his best years, could play in the NHL with the rules as they are today. Then again, maybe I’m selling him short. The thing about Ulanov is he always gave you what he had, no matter the physical toll it took on him. Tough not to admire a balls-out player like that.
I’ve told this story before, but it captures the essence of Ulanov in a nutshell. We were on the road in Columbus in November 2000 when Ulanov took a slapshot in the throat. It knocked him out of the game. He was badly bruised, but it could have been much, much worse.
Two nights later at Madison Square Garden, after insisting he was able to play against the New York Rangers, Ulanov took a slapper in the face. Spurting blood, Ulanov insisted on staying on the bench because he wanted to wait until the intermission to get repairs. He was forced by officials to go to the medical room, where it took about 30 stitches to close him up.
Later on the plane, with his face having swelled to freakish proportions, I asked him what the hell he was thinking by resisting immediate treatment. Ulanov sneered: “What? It’s blood on my face. My leg is not broken.”
Tell Ulanov he doesn’t belong on the list? Not me.
This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.
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