Tsyplakov dead
by Andrew Podnieks|16 DEC 2019
Vladimir Tsyplakov finished his career as a player after the 2005 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: IIHF Archive
Vladimir Tsyplakov, one of the most accomplished hockey players from Belarus, died on Saturday, 14 December, at the age of 50. Cause of death is unknown, but hockey fans have lost a star player far too early with his passing.

Born in the northern mining town of Inta, in the Komi Region of what was then the Soviet Union, Tsyplakov moved to Yaroslavl as a teenager to begin his hockey career. After two years he moved to Minsk, in 1987, and it was during this time that he played on the Soviet Union’s gold-medal winning U20 team in 1989 in Alaska, a team that featured, among others, Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fyodorov, and Pavel Bure.

Five years later, Tsyplakov left for the United States to begin a pro career with the hopes one day of playing in the NHL.

He signed with the Detroit Falcons of the Colonial League for 1992/93, and a year later he moved up to the second tier of North American hockey in the IHL, first with Indianapolis and later Fort Wayne. He produced impressive numbers with the Komets, resulting in his being drafted by the LA Kings in 1995 at the age of 26.

Despite injuries, Tsyplakov played his first NHL games in 95/96 and by the following season was a full-time player with Wayne Gretzky and the Kings. Midway through the 1997/98 season, Tsyplakov joined the fledgling Belarus hockey team for the Olympics in Nagano and helping the team qualify for the final round where they finishing a very respectable 7th.

That 97/98 season was his finest in the NHL. He scored 18 goals and finished with 52 points. He was traded to Buffalo midway through the 1999/2000 season, and after a year and a half with the Sabres he returned to Europe to continue his career.

Internationally, Tsyplakov played in four World Championships in the top level and two more in Division I, but surely his finest moment came at the 2000 Worlds in St. Petersburg. Belarus defeated the home side, 1-0, and it was Tsyplakov, who scored the game’s only goal. To this day, that win remains the one victory Belarus can claim over Russia at any level of play.

His other shining moment came two years later, at the 2002 Olympics, his second and last, in the quarter-finals. That Belarus team stunned Sweden, 4-3, on a late goal, eliminating the heavily-favoured Tre Kronor and eventually giving Belarus a chance for a bronze medal (they finished fourth).

In more recent years, Tsyplakov turned to coaching, mostly as an assistant at various levels. He was head coach of the U18 men’s team in 2008 when Belarus placed 9th at the U18 World Championship.

Tysplakov’s legacy can be found in the careers of top Belarus players who followed him to the NHL, inspired by his successes, namely Mikhail Grabovsky and brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn. Without Tsyplakov’s efforts, the others might not have had the inspiration or belief to follow their dreams both to the NHL and to their national team.