Belarusian forward Alexander Kulakov, a mainstay of both the Minsk and national hockey scenes for over two decades, today announced his retirement from pro hockey at the age of 38.
A Minsk native, Kulakov came up in the Yunost Minsk junior system, making his senior debut in 2000 with Yunost. After a season each with Yunost, Keramin and Vitebsk, Kulakov joined Dinamo Minsk in 2003-04, where he would spend the next fourteen of fifteen seasons, both in the Belarusian League, as well as when Dinamo joined the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008. Kulakov had a brief stopover with Nizhny Novogrod in the 2013-14 season, and left Dinamo to rejoin Yunost in 2018, spending two seasons before playing his final pro season with Podhale Nowy Targ of the Polish League in 2020-21. Kulakov was a four-time Belarusian Champion, winning in 2002 (with Keramin), 2007 (with Dinamo), 2019 and 2020 (both with Yunost), and captured the 2009 Spengler Cup with Dinamo.
Debuting for the Bisons junior team at the 2000 Under-18 championships, Kulakov debuted at his first of three consecutive World Junior tournaments in 2001. Kulakov debuted for the senior team in 2005, making his World Championship debut in 2007, his first of nine appearances, helping the Bisons maintain their Top Division status for over a decade. Kulakov featured in 57 World Championship games, scoring six goals and 18 points over nine tournaments. Kulakov also competed at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and was part of the Olympic qualification squads in the lead-up to the 2014 and 2018 Games.
For a country that has only held the IHLC four times, Kulakov was part of two of those reigns, winning first at the Arosa Challenge in 2010, and then again at the 2011 Euro Hockey Challenge. We wish Alexander and his family the very best for his retirement and the things to come!