Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin have long been linked in their hockey careers. Now, the Russian goalies are poised to add an interesting chapter to the bitter Islanders-Rangers’ rivalry.
“We talked a lot on the phone, we’re friends,” said Shesterkin, the Rangers’ No. 1 goalie, of Sorokin, who finally headed to join his new Islanders’ teammates on Tuesday. “And I knew how many thoughts were going through his mind at that time, making this difficult decision [of leaving Russia for North America]. Thank god he chose this path. I will always support my friends and will greet him with a red carpet.”
Sorokin grew up in Novokuznetsk, Russia, about a 50-hour drive from Shesterkin’s native Moscow. Sorokin starred for CSKA Moscow while Shesterkin started for rival SKA St. Petersburg.
Both goalies are 24-years-old and have been friends since they were 17.
“Igor and Ilya’s fates have been intertwined for years,” said KHL reporter and author Gillian Kemmerer. “The pair have fueled one another since the day they met at Team Russian camp in Novogorsk. Moscow-St. Petersburg has a vibe akin to New York-Los Angeles. It’s a city rivalry as much as a hockey rivalry. The pair will relish the opportunity to go head-to-head again as much as they’ll look forward to shaking hands and joking around after the game. Sorokin acknowledges that they make each other better.”
If so, it will only add to the heated history between the New York clubs.
“Goaltending has been such a big factor in the Rangers-Islanders’ rivalry,” longtime Rangers’ broadcaster Kenny Albert said. “Eddie Giacomin, with Billy Smith and Chico Resch on the other side. John Davidson in ’79, that was the pinnacle of JD’s career. Of course, the Islanders of 1980-83, Billy Smith, that was certainly the highlight of his career. I remember some great Henrik Lundqvist-Rick DiPietro battles.
“I called the game on Fox when Dan Cloutier and Tommy Salo fought,” Albert added. “That’s pretty popular on YouTube.”