Andrei Markov, one of the Montreal Canadiens’ all-time great defensemen announced his retirement from professional hockey last week at the age of 41. Being one of the best at your position for a team with a plethora of legendary players like the Canadiens is no easy feat, but the man they nicknamed “The General” has earned his place on that illustrious list.
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Markov spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Habs before playing three years in the KHL with Ak Bars Kazan and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl from 2017 until the end of this season. He also represented Russia at the Olympics, as well as both the World Junior and Senior Championships. In 2008, Markov captured gold at the World Championships in Canada (Halifax and Quebec City were the host cities).
A Montreal Canadien for Life
Markov was drafted 162nd overall by the Canadiens in 1998 and played his first of 990 games in a Habs uniform in 2000. In 16 years with the club, he scored 119 goals and 572 points. His first NHL goal came on Oct. 19, 2000, against the Philadelphia Flyers. His 990 games and 453 career assists put him sixth in Canadiens franchise history. Among Montreal defensemen, Markov sits tied for second in points with Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe and ranks third in goals behind Lapointe and fellow Hall of Famer Larry Robinson. Markov posted a career-high 64 points in 78 games during the 2008-09 season and made his first of two All-Star Game appearances that same year.
Significant injuries to Markov’s ankle and knee limited him to just 20 games during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns combined. These painful setbacks put his career in doubt, but Markov bounced back triumphantly with a return to action in March 2012 at the age of 33 following a 16-month absence to rehab from not one, but two knee surgeries. He went on to play at least 81 games in three of his final five seasons with the Habs. During his injury layoff, Markov further strengthened his ties to Montreal and Canada by becoming a Canadian citizen in July of 2010.
Markov’s outstanding career with the Canadiens came to an end following the 2016-17 season and the Russian blueliner is full of gratitude about his time in Montreal.
“Each and every day I realized how lucky I was to be part of such a great hockey organization. A lot of history was made here and just to be part of it was something special. I just want to say thank you to Mr. Molson and to the Montreal organization to give me the opportunity to play for the greatest hockey franchise in the history of the game. This city is special to me,” Markov said.
A General at the Point
Markov’s statistics speak for themselves; he was a special player and a man of very few words, except for some occasional glimpses at his incredibly dry sense of humor. Instead, he let his play do the talking. Fans knew they were in for a treat each time Markov stepped foot on the ice. His vision and remarkable hockey sense made him a pleasure to watch. On the power play, he put his abundant offensive creativity on full display all while being equally sound defensively.
Markov is one of those players who made his teammates better. Just ask his defence partners through the years like Sheldon Souray, Mike Komisarek, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mark Streit, Alexei Emelin, and P.K. Subban who enjoyed their best, most prolific moments in the NHL playing next to Markov and who were awarded lucrative contracts thanks to the numbers they put up.
“He’s been amazing, critical, you know, to my career and the success that I’ve had so far. He’s helped me so much. The way he sees the ice, the way he plays the game. I’ve never played with anybody like that. So, I know his talent and his ability is special,” Subban said of his former teammate.
A Jersey Retirement on the Horizon?
There is no doubt that Markov has earned a proper sendoff from the Canadiens. What that recognition will include remains to be seen, but team owner Geoff Molson has already promised a celebration for No. 79.
Markov is one of the best Canadiens defensemen ever, but at the same time, one of the most underrated players of his generation. Case and point, he was never even nominated for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman.
Unfortunately, Markov was unable to reach the prestigious 1,000-game plateau with the Canadiens, the same way Tomas Plekanec did a few years ago. Especially since he was just 10 games away from doing so. His impact on the franchise was significant and he has the accomplishments to back it up. Perhaps the Habs will entertain the idea of sending Markov’s number up to the rafters of the Bell Centre. They have strict criteria when it comes to bestowing the jersey retirement honor on their players, but maybe the organization will make an exception for him considering that the Stanley Cup has eluded them since 1993.
Markov has spent his whole career under the radar just the way he wanted, but now it’s time for him to finally step into the spotlight to reap the rewards he so richly deserves after a brilliant 16-year stint with the Canadiens.