Who was the first Russian born player in the history of the National Hockey League? Here's a hint: it is not one of more modern Soviet players.
A lot of people believe the answer to be Chicago's Johnny Gottselig, who was born in Odessa, Russia but raised in Canada. Gottselig starred in the NHL from 1928 through 1945.
But the correct answer is another Chicago defenseman named Val Hoffinger. Hoffinger was born in Seltz, Russia but also raised in Canada. He only played in 28 games in the NHL, but he debuted in the 1927-28 season, beating Gottselig by just a smidge.
Born in Russia on New Year's day in 1903, he grew up in Salvador, Saskatchewan
Val Hoffinger will always be known as one of the most colourful athletes to come from Saskatchewan. Born on January 1, 1903, Hoffinger grew up in Salvador, Saskatchewan. He starred for the Saskatoon Sheiks before turning pro.
Unfortunately for Hoffinger, circumstances kept him in various minor hockey leagues and cities rather than the NHL. He did appear in 28 NHL contests, scoring just 1 lonely assist.
After retiring as a player in 1935 Hoffinger accepted a high paying offer to coach the German Olympic hockey team for the 1936 Olympics. He enjoyed coaching in Germany, but never intended on staying, especially given the circumstances developing at that time.
The problem for Hoffinger was he was not allowed to take any of his earnings out of the country. So he decided he would leave with an education. He studied chiropody, better known today as podiatry, and became a foot doctor.
When Hoffinger returned to Canada in 1939 he open his practice in Toronto. Hoffinger became a foot doctor of the stars, so to speak, as he was the personal foot doctor to several movie stars including someone named Danny Kaye.
More interesting than that Hoffinger later married Bernice Scholls, daughter of the famous Dr. Scholls, and together they inherited the entire Scholls company.