"He ended up being
    a taxi driver."

    Bobby Clarke

"If it weren't for us, and that series, Russians probably wouldn't be in such great demand in Canada nowadays. To some extent those youngsters are riding on our reputation and benefiting from the lessons we learned. "

    Alexander Ragulin



Victor Khatulev (02.17.1955 - 10.1994)
Career Highlights:
- Played as a Left Wing and Defenseman
for Dynamo Riga, Latvia/USSR
- World Junior Championship (WJC)
Gold in 1974 and 1975; 21 pts (9+12) in 9 games
- WJC Best Forward (1975)
- WJC All Stars (1975)
- Philadelphia Flyers 7th pick (9/160th overall) in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft
- Cleveland Crusaders pick (9/116th overall) in the 1975 WHA Amateur Draft.
- Played in the 1977-78 USSR vs. WHA Teams Series, 6 games, 2 pts (1+1)
- Played in the 1978-79 Krylia Sovetov vs. NHL Teams Series, 4 games, 2 pts (2+0)


Victor KHATULEV was arguably one of the most promising young Soviet hockey players in the 1970s. Talented players were present in the Soviet hockey long before and way after Khatulev's time in hockey. By many accounts, it was the 1972 Summit Series that showed the impressive hockey mastership of the Soviet players in their first ever face-to-face battle with the top NHL talents. Ironically, none of the heroes of the 1972 Team USSR got a chance neither to play for nor to be officially drafted by the NHL. It was Victor Khatulev's who became the first ever born and trained in the USSR elite player to be drafted by an NHL team (Philadelphia 1975).

 USSR Elite League Career Stats
Team (Place) Year GP G

Dynamo R (6)




Dynamo R (5)




Dynamo R (6)




Dynamo R (4)




Dynamo R (6)




Dynamo R (6)




Dynamo R (8)




Dynamo R (5)








Being a very gifted athlete, Khatulev began his career in junior hockey as a forward. His sensational world-class play at the WJC in Leningrad'74 and in Winnipeg'75 immediately impressed the NHL scouts. One can find it interesting that he was selected by the Flyers'75. As an eyewitness of the CSKA vs. Philadelphia game in 1976, I would rather say the Flyers seemed to be the least team to be interested in playing Soviet style hockey. Their aggressive and brutal style just didn't fit into the concept of finesse and slick passing perpetuated by the Russian hockey.

For a variety of reasons, Khatulev never played neither for Fred Shero nor for any other NHL coaches. However, he was probably the first in the Soviet League to play a truly Canadian style choosing the enforcer's role that was virtually non-existent prior to his time in Soviet hockey.

It was Khatulev who became the biggest and strongest Soviet player after Alexander Ragulin's retirement in 1973. He demonstrated his great speed and puck-handling skills and showed impressive scoring abilities playing for the legendary Victor Tikhonov in Dynamo Riga. However due to his unmatched physical strength and size, Khatulev was soon moved from the forwards to play defense. He became one of the top blueliners in Dynamo Riga.

Needless to say, few if not none were able to challenge Khatulev when it was time to show character in the hockey fights. His competitive spirit and frequent on and off the ice loss of emotional control seemed absolutely frightening. In 1979, 25-year old Khatulev was banned from sports for one year after a fight in a game against the mighty CSKA. When the suspension was lifted, Khatulev came back to play for the national team and took part in several top-notch tournaments against the NHL teams. In 1981, he got life suspension from hockey again.

One can only speculate what his career would have brought him in the 1970s Flyers where fighting and aggressive behavior were only welcomed. It's hard to predict what turn his career might have taken if he had accepted the offer to join the Red Army Club. In my opinion, Khatulev remains one of the most controversial figures in the Soviet hockey. By all means, his story is a story of big talent that wasn't realized quiet to the level of its potential.

Note: Special thanks to the Nash Hokkei fans for their contribution and opinions in preparation of this article and to David Mozeshtam, a lifelong fan and expert on history of Dynamo Riga.

P.S.: After publication of this mini-article, the Summit in 1972 received information on the last days of Victor Khatulev. According to the Nash Hokkei fans, the end of his life was tragic. He was employed as a warehouse worker and was known for frequent alcohol abuse.

In October 1994, the dead body of once the most promising Russian hockey players was found on the street. He was only 39.