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55 Days Until The Season Begins

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Cam Lewis
10 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 55, we have one of the players who best embodies the gritty, lunch-pail Oilers from the late 90s and early 2000s, Igor Ulanov.
Ulanov was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the 10th round of the 1991 draft and jumped into the NHL immediately as a 22-year-old. The big Russian quickly earned a reputation as a tough-as-nails defender who would throw big hits, sometimes clean and sometimes not, and drop the gloves.
After trading away Boris Mironov the previous season, the 1999-00 Oilers found themselves badly in need of a rugged defensive defender. Ulanov, who was playing for the Montreal Canadiens by then, had requested a trade because the Habs weren’t playing him enough. Edmonton sent one of the players from the Mironov trade and a previous first-round pick to Montreal in exchange for Ulanov to shore up their blueline.

Edmonton Journal Newspaper Clipping From March 10, 2000.

PLAYER COUNTDOWN PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Known as “The Mangler,” Ulanov quickly became a fan favourite in Edmonton. He didn’t have good speed or much skill but Ulanov would always leave it all out on the ice. There wasn’t a hit Ulanov wouldn’t throw or a shot he wouldn’t block and Edmonton always has a soft spot for players like that.
Ulanov finished off the 1999-00 season on the team’s third pairing but put together the best season of his career in 2000-01 playing in a larger role. He logged 23:01 per night alongside either Tom Poti or Roman Hamrlik in Edmonton’s top-four and scored a career-high of 23 points while also posting a plus-15 rating, which was tied with Eric Brewer for the best on the team.

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Ulanov left the Oilers to sign with the Rangers the following off-season and was moved to the Florida Panthers a few years later in the deal that sent Pavel Bure to New York. He did a second tour of duty with the Oilers, playing in 42 games in 2003-04 and 37 games in 2005-06, before leaving to finish off his career in Russia.
Robin Brownlee placed Ulanov at No. 93 on his Top 100 Edmonton Oilers list back in 2015 and had an excellent justification for the ranking.
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.
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.

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