Igor Larionov II: Taking Strides For The Hockey World
Igor Larionov made a name for himself on the ice from the 1980s to 2000s, winning 3 Stanley Cups, 4 World Championship gold, and 2 Olympic gold medals. These accolades earned Larionov a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Today, it’s his son, Igor Larionov II who is causing people to talk, but it’s as much for his off ice contributions as his on ice skills.
Recently, Larionov II has been using his voice across social media, on podcasts, and in interviews to support marginalized groups, and to help make hockey more inclusive.
“I think it’s really important to use your platform for good,” said Larionov II. “I look at my social media and think that it’s a waste if i don’t use it for good and help people out.”
“Personally, I can’t stand when people are judged or treated unfairly so I want to use my voice and platform as a way to be inclusive, but also spread love and knowledge.”
Larionov, 22, is currently playing professionally in the KHL for the Kunlun Red Star.
While his game continues to move forward, he understands that the game of hockey itself still has strides to take.
“Hockey is a fantastic sport, but to get to the next level it has to be more inclusive,” he said. “There should be no fear to be yourself in the locker room. the locker room has to be a safe space for young players.”
In particular, through his Twitter account, Larionov has been speaking out in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I feel like hockey has had a history of homophobic slurs being used, so it’s almost part of the lingo. It’s getting better. Nowadays you won’t hear the stuff that was being said even 5 years ago, but that’s not enough, to be completely safe and inclusive for the LGBTQ+ you have to completely eradicate the use of that lingo. I personally feel that it’s important to be an ally because there aren’t many in the sport, and change is well overdue.”
Larionov II is right. Although many hockey players may passively support marginalized people, almost none are speaking as openly as he is in support of diverse groups.
His father was nicknamed “The Professor” for his cerebral play on the ice, but it seems like some of these lessons of compassion, and doing the right thing came directly from father to son.
“My family always taught me to stand up for what I believe in and this is something I believe in and want to support. So for me it was a no brainer. I personally can’t stand it when people are treated unfairly so I had to step up and say something.”
Unfortunately for Larionov II, he didn’t get to see other hockey players doing this, or see them speaking up for social change growing up. Hopefully for the next generation, he can be one example of an athlete who used his voice for good, and who leads by example.
“I can’t say I really had any hockey role models besides my dad growing up. My father taught me so many lessons growing up. He never really sat me down to talk about these things, but he lead by example and I think that’s the best way you can set the standard for the next generation.”
And what does Larionov II, who played in the QMJHL, OHL and USHL prior to heading to Russia, think young hockey players need to hear? Mostly, he believes that young players need role models. They need other players to be brave enough to speak, and show them there is another way to be.
“Most guys just want to fit in,” he said. “So they’ll continue using these terms so that they are part of the group, but if I were an older player or leader on a team I would pull aside a young guy if he said something offensive and would tell him to think before he speaks, because there are plenty of ways to make a point without being offensive.”
If all goes as planned for Igor Larionov II, he’ll someday be playing in the NHL, and be able to use his voice on the world’s biggest hockey stage. That’s his goal at least.
“My goal is to play in the NHL and I truly believe that I am on the right path. It’s been delayed due to a history of injury issues, but that is behind me. In terms of my activism, I will continue speaking my mind. I can’t stay quiet when I see issues and will always speak up.”
While he’s only 22, one can hope that more players follow the lead of young Igor Larionov II.
By Ian Kennedy