After a fifteen year NHL career, mainly with the San Jose Sharks but including stops on Long Island and in Tampa Bay, Russian netminder Yevgeni Nabokov announced his retirement after being waived by the Lightning and traded back to San Jose, allowing him to retire as a Shark.
Nabokov, who was throttled into the starting position with the San Jose Sharks early in his career, capitalized on the opportunity to shine in net, beating out future star Miikka Kiprusoff to be the Sharks’ permanent starter. Nabokov won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 2001, played in two All-Star Games, and is one of only two goalies in history with three consecutive 40 win seasons. Nabokov helped the Sharks to the postseason in all but one of his seasons there, racking up 353 career wins with a 2.44 overall GAA. Nabokov racked up parts of two seasons with SKA Saint Petersburg and Metallurg Magnitogorsk in his native Russia.
Internationally, Nabokov represented a unique anomaly in IIHF history, as controversy arose prior to the 2002 Olympics, when Nabokov was refused the right to play for Russia, as he had played for Kazakhstan previously at the 1994 World Championships, thus violating the IIHF policy on playing for multiple nations. Nabokov, who was born in Kazakhstan while part of the Soviet Union but held Russian citizenship, was finally allowed to don the red, white and blue at the 2006 Turin Olympics, playing also at the 2010 Games, and the 2008 and 2011 World Championships, winning Gold at the 2008 Worlds in Canada.
In terms of the IHLC, Nabokov won his first and only title during the 2008 World Championships, where he played in six straight wins to help his undefeated Russian squad to Gold. Despite Russia winning the IHLC again at the 2011 Worlds, Nabokov was inactive in that game, and Russia did not win the IHLC at either the 2006 or 2010 Olympics. We wish Yevgeni and his family the very best for his retirement and the things to come!