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At (nearly) 51, Nikolai Khabibulin comes out of retirement
For years, Jaromir Jagr has been making a name for himself by continuing to play professional hockey despite his advanced age. Now 51, he is still playing this season, having recently resumed his career with the Kladno Knights in the Czech Republic.

Remember that he is the team’s owner, and has stated that he must continue to play to attract advertising revenue and thus ensure the organization’s survival. It’s a bit of a shame at this level, but it’s still a venerable feat of arms to continue playing in spite of everything.

That said, for a skater, it’s one thing to play at such an age… but for a goalie, it’s quite another. We know how demanding the position is on the body, and it’s hard to play with age.

In the KHL, however, there was a rather unusual announcement today: good old Nikolai Khabibulin, who will be 51 in January, has just come out of retirement. He has signed a contract with Torpedo (KHL), the team for which he was goalkeeping coach.

Khabibulin hasn’t played professionally since the 2013-14 season, when he played just four short games with the Chicago Blackhawks. He then announced his retirement.

But to meet contextual needs within the organization, team GM Igor Larionov signed Khabibulin to a player’s contract. As it turned out, the club didn’t want to lose coach Nikolai Alexandrovich, Khabibulin’s successor as goalkeeping coach, and needed a third goalkeeper to replace Alexei Melnichuk.

So one wonders if this is just a paper transaction… but Larionov seems open to using Khabibulin in a real game.

So we’ll see if the former Stanley Cup champion will be playing in the KHL by the end of the season, but between you and me, the mere fact that a (soon-to-be) 51-year-old goalie has signed a player’s contract in a professional league like the KHL is pretty impressive.

And if he plays, it’ll be even more impressive.


With Khabibulin, Jagr, Ilya Kovalchuk and Donald Brashear all under contract this season, maybe the Habs could take a chance and contact Andrei Markov to bring him out of retirement, at “only” 45.

It’s a joke… but with these four players, there’s no telling what to expect in the hockey world in 2023-24.

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