It is 1988. | The Power of Perspective.
It is November, 1988.
We are in Moscow.
HERE'S WHAT I KNOW IN THIS MOMENT:
I am home. I love my Dad. But I might love my headband more. I like my hair. I like my tights. My feet are warm.
HERE'S WHAT I DON'T KNOW IN THIS MOMENT:
It is the month of November. I am 19 months old. I will wear headbands for a while. They will become my main accessory.
Russians love wallpaper. Especially during this era. They also love rugs and plastic coverings, most commonly found on remote controls.
Later in life, I will love my high school art class, and I will use a picture from this series of photographs as a prompt to illustrate my life. The theme is surrealism. I will use Salvador Dali as an inspiration and will draw myself and the wallpaper in a melted fashion, similar to his The Persistence of Memory painting. I will be quite pleased with my rendition.
My Dad is home because he is injured. Otherwise, he wouldn't be home. I am not aware that during these times, while playing for the Red Army Team under Coach Viktor Tikhonov's regime, players are not allowed to live at home with their families. They live at the Baza. I will later hear stories about the Baza from my Father and his teammate, Slava Fetisov.
I do not know that just a month prior to this photo, my Dad had written an open letter criticizing Coach Tikhonov and his regime in the newspaper 'Ogoniok'. It was published in October 1988. Later in life he will be celebrated for being so outspoken and for being one of the first Soviet players to leave the country and to play for the National Hockey League. Right now, Tikhonov is not pleased.
Here is an excerpt from the IIHF website recounting the article:
"In a 7,000-word letter which ran over three pages, Larionov harshly criticized coach Tikhonov and the Soviet system under which the players laboured, saying things no one had ever dared to say before. “I published the letter to the coach to open the society’s eyes to what really was being done in this system,” Larionov said several years later when asked about his motives. “I wasn’t doing it for myself - I was doing it for the whole team.”
The players literally ate, slept, and trained on his orders. The national team, as well as the club team CSKA Moscow (both coached by Tikhonov) practiced ten or eleven months a year, and team members were required to stay at the training camp (“baza”) for most of the time.
Larionov, 28 at that time, was fed up with this treatment. He wanted the world to know that while Soviet society was loosening its restrictions, the nation’s hockey heroes were treated according to old-style methods. Among Larionov’s criticisms were the endless hours away from home. “It’s a wonder our wives manage to give birth”, he wrote plainly in the letter. Realizing that his best years would soon be past him, Larionov also wanted one last chance to prove himself in the NHL."
In 2014, I will interview my Father for a SiriusXM 5-part series titled "Igor Larionov's Triple Overtime Radio".
We will talk about his days in the Soviet Union, his transition into the NHL, and his incredible career. We will talk about the very moments that defined him as a player and a person. I will spend countless hours diving into Russian history as it pertains to the evolution of hockey.
For the first time in my life, I will realize just how important he is to the sport. This will extremely humble me. Through this experience I will see him for more than just being a dad who was often not around because of his career. I will see him as a human being, who bravely fought for basic human rights and for freedom. I will learn to appreciate perspective. I will understand that oftentimes when actions are taken, they are not done so out of the freedom to exercise choice. They are obligations and if challenged, they will be met with repercussions.
With this knowledge, I will start my process of forgiveness: I will understand that he was away not by choice, but by obligation.