A native of Moscow, Alexei Zhamnov embarked on the road to hockey stardom in 1988, joining Dynamo Moscow. His teammates included such future NHL stars as Darius Kasparaitis, Alexei Kovalev and Alexei Yashin. He played for the silver medal-winning Soviet team at the 1990 World Junior Championships and contributed to a bronze medal finish at the senior World Championships in 1991. He won gold with the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, and was with Russia when they won the silver medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan and bronze medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The talented russian also played in the 1996 and 2000 World Championships and at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996.
After Albertville, Zhamnov joined the Winnipeg Jets, with whom he played for four NHL seasons. He had been the Jets' fifth pick, 77th overall, in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. The lockout-shortened 1994-95 season was Zhamnov's best in the NHL so far. He finished with 30 goals and 65 points in 48 games, good enough for third in the league scoring race behind Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros. During the summer of 1996, the Jets relocated to Phoenix, where they became the Coyotes. In August the club sent Zhamnov to Chicago along with minor-leaguer Craig Mills and a first-round draft pick for high-scoring center Jeremy Roenick.
Since entering the NHL back 1992-93, Zhamnov has had eleven straight seasons with at least 45 points and during the 2001-02 season reached the 600 point plateau and in 2002-03 played in his 700th career game. After missing the majority of the first half of the 2003-04 season, Zhamnov went on to play 18 games with Hawks before being dealt to the Philadelhia Flyers shortly after the NHL's All-Star Game. However, his stay in Philly would be shortly lived, as the talented Russian was acquired by the Boston Bruins in the summer of 2005.