Archive for USSR national team

Not Your Father’s Soviet Junior National Team


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As the UNITED STATES prepares to face-off against RUSSIA to open the quarterfinal round at the 2014 IIHF WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS, it is interesting to note some of the things that have changed radically since the former times of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

It was not all that long ago that the official mouthpiece TASS, the acronym for “Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union”, loudly accused the Buffalo Sabres of “piracy” immediately following the defection of ALEXANDER MOGILNY to the National Hockey League club at the conclusion of the 1989 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. Of course, the widely read SOVIETSKY SPORT ran that delightful piece entitled, “The Golden Calf And The Horse Thieves From Buffalo”, on the heels of the 20-year-old Mogilny bolting the U.S.S.R. senior national team in Scandinavia. But all that public acrimony and political jockeying for Cold War position is a thing of the past, to be sure.

Nowadays, the star offensive player on Russia junior national team head coach MIKHAIL VARNAKOV’s squad at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Sweden is none other than MIKHAIL GRIGORENKO, the 19-year-old center who has spent this entire season skating for the very same Buffalo Sabres in the vaunted National Hockey League.

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Soviet Union left wing MIKHAIL VARNAKOV (19) of Torpedo Gorky and Canada center BRENT SUTTER (27) of the New York Islanders meet during the 1986 IIHF World Championships held in Moscow. Varnakov appeared at four major international tournaments (26 ga, 13 go, 20 pts) for the U.S.S.R. over the course of his playing career, which ended in 1993 after a season spent with German club SC Riessersee. Small but speedy, which was very typical for Soviet forwards of his era, Varnakov formed an effective troika for Torpedo Gorky with center Vladimir Kovin and right wing Alexander Skvortsov — a unit which did well for the U.S.S.R. national team against the National Hockey League All-Stars in the 1979 Challenge Cup series that was held at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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And the standout defenseman on Varnakov’s Russian side at the IIHF Junior World Championships in Scandinavia just so happens to be the mammoth NIKITA ZADOROV (6’5″ 227 lbs), the 18-year-old blueliner who made seven appearances and netted one goal for the Buffalo Sabres at the start of the 2013/14 NHL season before being assigned to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in the Canadian junior system.

No doubt, the results on the scoreboard are not quite what they used to be since the Soviet Union formally dissolved at precisely the same time that the 1992 IIHF World Junior Championships were being conducted in Germany. Including the final victory (a 5-0 shutout) for the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States over the Americans at Kaufbeuren that winter, the old U.S.S.R. won twelve of thirteen matches with the U.S.A. at the annual tournament for the world’s premier players under 20 years of age. Nikita Khrushchev can bang his shoe on the table at the United Nations in heaven as much as he likes but this sort of complete domination has, very much like the sovereign state last led by Mikhail Gorbachev, ceased to exist.

The series between Russia and the United States at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships has been remarkably even ever since these two nations first met in the Swedish city of Gavle on January 2, 1993. The Americans triumphed 4-2 on that occasion in Scandinavia and, altogether, boast five victories from the eleven WJC contests to date. As further evidence of the competitiveness that now exists in the games between the two countries at this junior international level, more than half of the Russia versus United States engagements (six out of the eleven) have been settled by one goal or less.

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As former Buffalo Sabres scoring star Alexander Mogilny did for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics once upon a time, Russia center MIKHAIL GRIGORENKO (25) is making his third appearance at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships this winter. The 19-year-old native of Khabarovsk, who has skated in 18 NHL games (2 go, 3 pts) for the Buffalo Sabres so far this season, has totaled seven goals and 17 points in 17 career contests for Russia at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships. Mogilny, who was also born in the far eastern Russian city of Khabaraovsk, amassed 18 goals and 35 points in 20 career WJC matches during the late 1980s.

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76 OG : Soviet Union Hammers Host Nation Austria


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Soviet Union center and two-time Olympic gold medalist VLADIMIR SHADRIN (19) of Spartak Moscow, who was later permitted by officials to skate several seasons abroad in Japan, scored 45 goals in 71 games for the U.S.S.R. national team while appearing at ten major international tournaments in his career.
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And so, one final qualification match for the ice hockey tournament at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games was yet to be contested at the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck. The mighty, three-time defending Olympic champion champion of the UNION of SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS were scheduled to meet host nation AUSTRIA, who had been under the direction of a one-time Soviet Olympian for the past few seasons now. Despite this factor in addition to the home ice advantage, however, Austrian prospects for a shocking result were, realistically, non-existant.

Once upon a time, Austria fielded a competitive national team that claimed European titles in both 1927 and 1931. The Austrians also earned bronze medals at the annual IIHF World Championships in 1931 and again following the Second World War in 1947 but started to decline even before the Soviet Union began entering international ice hockey tournaments in the mid-1950s. Austria were already regular B Pool contestants by the start of the 1960s and were soundly defeated by Finland 8-2 on home ice at the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck during the qualification round of the 1964 Winter Games.

YURI BAULIN, who spent 10 seasons playing both center and defense for the powerhouse army club CSKA Moscow while earning a bronze medal with the U.S.S.R. squad at the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, had taken the reins of the Austria national team to begin the 1973/74 campaign. But at the B Pool of the 1974 IIHF World Championships in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, the Austrians ended up last in the standings and, thus, were demoted to the C Pool where they would only finish a disappointing third at Sofia in Bulgaria a year later. Nevertheless, Baulin was also brought on board by AC Klagenfurt to begin the 1974/75 season and succeeded in steering the club to the Bundesliga title in his second term there.

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Austria center FRANZ VOVES (16) of ATSE Graz, who appeared at seven World Championships in addition to the 1976 Winter Olympics while skating 75 contests with the national team of Oesterreich in his career, later went into politics and has been the Landeshauptmann der Steiermark (the Governor of the Austrian State of Styria) since 2005; Voves, along with Soviet player/coach Viktor Kungurtsev, claimed a Bundesliga title with ATSE Graz in 1975.
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As expected, the Soviets ended up steamrolling their hosts at the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck. Oddly enough, it was the Spartak Moscow forward line of left wing ALEXANDER YAKUSHEV, center VLADIMIR SHADRIN and right wing VIKTOR SHALIMOV who scored the first three goals less than ten minutes into the qualfication match against the Austrians. Baulin, of course, had been the trainer for the talented Spartak troika during the 1971/72 campaign in the Soviet Supreme League.

In fact, the Spartak combination would account for seven goals, alone, at the Olympiahalle with Shadrin leading the way with four tallies, himself. SERGEI KAPUSTIN, the soon-to-be 23-year-old from Soviet Wings, added to Austrian woes by recording the hat trick while Shalimov, the veteran Dyanmo Moscow right wing ALEXANDER MALTSEV and CSKA Moscow center VLADIMIR PETROV all scored two goals, apiece. Altogether, eight different Soviet skaters put their names on the scoresheet as the U.S.S.R. completely overwhelmed Austria 16-3 in Innsbruck.

Notice of serious intent to remain Olympic champion had been served.

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The Second Soviet Wave


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Soviet Union left wing SERGEI KAPUSTIN (8), the 1982 draft choice of the New York Rangers who scored six goals in as many contests at the 1976 Winter Games and registered 66 goals in a dozen appearances at major international tournaments for the U.S.S.R., and his former Spartak Moscow linemate Viktor Shalimov both returned to the same city in the Alps in which they won an Olympic gold medal a decade later when the aging pair each switched to EV Innsbruck of the Austrian Bundesliga.
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After a three-year moratorium, the Soviet Union once again, at the outset of the 1979/80 campaign, began the low-key transfer of a very limited number of select players to ice hockey clubs in the carefully chosen countries of Austria, Finland and Japan.

With the second wave of the so-called Cultural Exchange program, however, the Soviet ice hockey authorities started sending more of the nation’s top shelf, international star skaters abroad. Both YURI LIAPKIN and his Spartak Moscow teammate VLADIMIR SHADRIN, the top goal-getter at the 1976 Winter Olympics, had been integral members of the U.S.S.R.’s gold medal squad at the Innsbruck Games. Three other players from the team that won the Olympic title for the Soviet Union a record-tying fourth consecutive time were also later rewarded with the opportunity to play at Innsbruck’s Olympiahalle again via a season or so in the Austrian Bundesliga.

It is interesting to note that, by now, the U.S.S.R. had expanded the scope of their cultural exchanges to include West Germany. The Soviets had always been willing to allow re-unification so long as the West Germans de-camp the North American Treaty Organization and the new Deutschland join the Warsaw Pact immediately. In the meantime, 35-year-old veteran Torpedo Gorky winger ALEXEI MISHIN broke new ground with his transfer to 2.Bundesliga outfit EHC Hamburg.

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Long-time Soviet Wings forward YURI LEBEDEV (11) totaled 10 goals and 26 points in 47 games over the course of his eight appearances for the Soviet Union national team at major international tournaments in his career. The Moscow native who began his career with the famous army club CSKA did not make the Soviet squad for the 1976 Winter Olympics despite having been on the U.S.S.R. teams which had won the title at the last three prior IIHF World Championships. Lebedev, who would go on to appear at Lake Placid, missed out on the gold medal at the Innsbruck Games after being left behind by his club coach in the domestic league, Boris Kulagin.
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It is also significant to point out that, of all the Soviet legionnaires sent abroad throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, none had been transferred from the powerful CSKA Moscow club; such a move would have required, on top of the sanction from the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation, additional approval from the might Red Army, as well :

Vladimir SHADRIN – 31 ……… Oji Seishi Tomakomai (Japan) ……. 79/80, 3 yrs
Yuri LIAPKIN – 34 ……………. Oji Seishi Tomakomai (Japan) ……. 79/80, 3 yrs

Alexander YAKUSHEV – 33 …. EC Kapfenberg (Austria) …………. 80/81, 3 yrs
Alexander BARINEV – 28 ……. VEU Feldkirch (Austria) …………… 80/81, 4 yrs

Alexei MISHIN – 35 ……………. EHC Hamburg (West Germany) …. 81/82, 1 yr
Alexei KOSTYLEV – 33 ………. EC Kapfenberg (Austria) …………. 81/82, 3 yrs

Nikolai MAKAROV – 33 ………. Jokerit Helsinki (Finland) ………….. 82/83, 3 yrs
Yuri LEBEDEV – 32 …………… EHC Hamburg (West Germany) …. 82/83, 1 yr
Sergei KOROTKOV – 31 …….. EHC Hamburg (West Germany) …. 82/83, 1 yr
Valery BELOUSOV – 32 ……… Oji Seishi Tomakomai (Japan) …… 82/83, 2 yrs

Sergei KOTOV – 35 …………… EV Innsbruck (Austria) …………… 85/86, 1 yr
Viktor SHALIMOV – 34 ………… EV Innsbruck (Austria) …………… 85/86, 3 yrs
Anatoli DEMIN – 31 ……………. VEU Feldkirch (Austria) ………….. 85/86, 2 yrs

Sergei KAPUSTIN – 33 ……….. EV Innsbruck (Austria) …………… 86/87, 2 yrs
Oleg ISLAMOV – 33 …………… EHC Hamburg (West Germany) … 86/87, 1 yr

Vladimir LAVRENTIEV – 33 …… IF Mondal (Sweden) ……………… 87/88, 4 yrs
Fedor KANAREIKIN – 33 ………. Jokerit Helsinki (Finland) ………… 87/88, 1 yr

On the heels of three Soviet leaders passing away in as many years, the reform-minded MIKHAIL GORBACHEV became Communist Party General Secretary upon election by the Politburo in March of 1985, just a short time before Czechoslovakia stopped the U.S.S.R.’s streak of five consecutive titles won at the IIHF World Championships. Gorbachev’s new policy of “Perestroika”, announced at the Party Congress in the spring of 1986, would have a dramatic impact on all aspects of life in the Soviet Union, ice hockey notwithstanding, soon enough. By the end of the decade, the trickle of talent heading West had evolved into an outright flood.

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Soviet Union left wing ALEXANDER YAKUSHEV (15) of Spartak Moscow, who racked up 64 goals over the course of twelve appearances for the U.S.S.R. at major international tournaments in his career, netted a pivotal goal for the Soviets in the de facto Gold Medal Match against Czechoslovakia on the final day of the ice hockey programme at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games hosted by Innsbruck, Austria.

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First Soviet Diplomats On Skates


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SERGEI PRIAKIN, the 25-year-old captain of the Moscow-based Soviet Wings club, made National Hockey League history when given permission by the proper authorities in the Soviet Union to join the powerful Calgary Flames, who went on that season to later lift the coveted Stanley Cup, in the spring of 1989.
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Soviet national team winger-to-be SERGEI PRIAKIN was but six going on seven years old at the time.

Communist Party General Secretary LEONID BREZHNEV was rather busy pursing a specific foreign policy known as “Razryadka”, which was better known in the West as “Detente”. In conjunction with this aim, the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation quietly began to allow a very limited number of veteran players the unique privilidge of a season or two of play in certain, carefully selected countries. And so, a lucky handful were chosen to become, in many respects, diplomats on skates.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had never been “slow to capitalize on international sporting success by using its outstanding sportsmen as ‘ambassadors of good-will’, not infrequently as a ‘try-out’ for political initiatives,” wrote author JAMES RIORDAN in his book, “SPORT IN SOVIET SOCIETY : DEVELOPMENT of SPORT AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN THE U.S.S.R.” (1977, Cambridge University Press).

And thus, although the transactions never did receive much, if any, publicity in the official Soviet press or, for that matter, anywhere else, these “Cultural Exchanges” with Western clubs approved by the government had, in fact, arrived long before the Calgary Flames even existed as a National Hockey League club.

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VLADIMIR YURZINOV
Dynamo Moscow and USSR
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It is interesting to note that the very first Soviet ‘legionnaire’, EVGENY MAYOROV, was sent not only to neighboring Finland, but, specifically, the TUL Vehmajsten Urhejliat club of Tampere, as well.

Of course, Finland and the Soviet Union had fought the Winter War (November 1939 thru March 1940), an event that resulted in the expulsion of the U.S.S.R. from the impotent and irrelevant League of Nations. This conflict was follwed by the further hostilities known as the “War of Continuation” (June 1941 thru September 1944). The net result of these two wars saw Finland, who were, as a Grand Duchy, part of the old Russian Empire from 1809 until 1917, cede significant-enough as well as strategic territory to the Soviets.

Throughout the long period known as the Cold War, the official foreign policy of Finland, the so-called “Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line”, was based on strict neutrality between East and West. With this as a backdrop, the very first Soviet to play in Finland arrived in Tampere for a single, unproductive 1968/69 campaign with TUL Vehmajsten Urhejliat. Mayorov, the 1964 Olympic gold medalist whose brother, Boris, was the captain of the U.S.S.R. national team in the late 1960s, would register just two goals (with no assists) in 16 games for VehU Tampere, who were relegated at the end of their one and only season ever in the top flight of Finnish hockey.

“Suomen Tyovaen Urheiluliito”, known by the accronym TUL, would be the Finnish Workers’ Sports Federation, which was founded in 1919 and has a very strong labor union background; the organization is also affiliated with the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjarjesto or SAK) as well as the Social Democratic Party of Finland (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue or SDP).

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The # 14 sweater worn by Soviet Union defenseman VALERY NIKITIN of Khimik Voskresensk during the 1970 IIHF World Championships as displayed at www.classicauctions.net; the game jersey had been acquired by a Swedish dignitary at the conclusion of the tournament won by the U.S.S.R. in Stockholm.
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The lions’ share of the first contingent of ice hockey players from the U.S.S.R. to be allowed to skate for clubs in the West went to Austria, a Central European nation that was well-known as a hub for spy activities of Soviet agents during the Cold War era :

Yuri MOROZOV – 32 ………… AT Stadlau Vienna (Austria) ….. 70/71, 2 yrs

Valery NIKITIN – 32 ………….. AT Stadlau Vienna (Austria) ….. 71/72, 2 yrs

Viktor TSYPLAKOV – 35 ……. AC Klagenfurt (Austria) ……….. 72/73, 2 yrs
Anatoli KOZLOV – 33 ……….. ATSE Graz (Austria) …………… 72/73, 4 yrs
Vladimir YURZINOV – 32 ……. Koo Vee Tampere (Finland) ….. 72/73, 2 yrs

Vladimir VASILIEV – 33 ……… AC Klagenfurt (Austria) ……….. 73/74, 2 yrs

Igor DIMITRIEV – 33 …………. AC Klagenfurt (Austria) ……….. 74/75, 1 yr
Viktor KUNGURTSEV – 33 ….. ATSE Graz (Austria) …………… 74/75, 1 yr

Valentin KOZIN – 35 …………. AT Stadlau Vienna (Austria) ….. 75/76, 2 yrs
Valery KUZMIN – 34 …………. Jokerit Helsinki (Finland) ………. 75/76, 1 yr
Vychslv STARSHINOV – 35 … Oji Seishi Tomokomai (Japan) … 75/76, 3 yrs

With the lone exception of VYACHESLAV STARSHINOV, the first wave of Soviet players were not of top international class. In addition to the two-time Olympic gold medalist Starshinov, only VALERY NIKITIN, VIKTOR TSYPLAKOV and VLADIMIR YURZINOV could claim IIHF World Championship medals won for the U.S.S.R. on their resume. Most of the pioneering players initially sent abroad would go on to become successful trainers in the Soviet system; both Yurzinov (Sarajevo ’84) and IGOR DIMITRIEV (Calgary ’88) were assistant coaches for title-winning squads at the Winter Games.

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VLADIMIR YURZINOV stands behind defenseman ZINETULA BILYALETDINOV (14) of Dynamo Moscow while assisting Soviet Union national team trainer VIKTOR TIKHONOV, who is standing in front of the bench to the right of standout young defenseman VYACHESLAV FETISOV (2) of CSKA Moscow, during an early 1980s Izvestia Cup match at the Palace of Sports of the Central Lenin Stadium in the capital city of Moscow.
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One productive benefit of the Cultural Exchange program for the Soviet Union was the immediate acquisition of much-valued Western hard currency. VLADIMIR VASILIEV, who had been a top goal-scorer for Khimik Voskresensk and later went on to serve as trainer of the 1987 U.S.S.R. junior national team involved in the infamous PIESTANY PUNCH-UP, reported in his book that his AC Klagenfurt employers paid the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation a fee of 35,000 Austrian schillings for his services. According to Vasiliev, however, authorities in the U.S.S.R. confiscated all but five thousand of this total sum.

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76 OG : Big Red Machine Continues To Roll


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The four-times consecutive Olympic champion squad from the UNION of SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS pose for a proper team photograph just after being awarded the coveted set of gold medals by I.O.C. big-wigs during the official ceremony for the 1976 Winter Games ice hockey competition at the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck, Austria.
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For the very first time ever at the Winter Olympics, the ice hockey team of the U.S.S.R. at the ’76 Innsbruck Games was not steered by ANATOLI TARASOV, the legendary “Father of Soviet Hockey” who had been replaced as trainer of the national team after the 1972 Winter Olympics in the wake of a dispute with the powers that be in the Soviet Sports Committee over cash bonuses.

It was, of course, BORIS KULAGIN of the Moscow-based Soviet Wings (Krylya Sovetov) club who had been in charge of the U.S.S.R. national side ever since his appointment ahead of the 1974 IIHF World Championships. But the listing for the above photograph is inaccurate, then, as the coach assisting Kulagin was actually KONSTANTIN LOKTEV of CSKA Moscow, who had taken over the powerhouse army club from Tarasov to start the 1974/75 hockey season. Both Kulagin and Loktev had taken their Soviet domestic clubs on the historic tour of North America to face professional National Hockey League teams just a couple of months prior to the 1976 Winter Olympics in Austria.

All of the gold medal-winning Soviet players at the ’76 Innsbruck Games had also participated in that landmark meeting with the NHL clubs.

’76 SOVIET UNION Olympic squad
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Vladimir PETROV – 28 – ctr …….. CSKA Moscow …….. 6 ga 6 go 3 as 9 pts
Boris MIKHAILOV – 31 – rw ……… CSKA Moscow …….. 5 ga 3 go 1 as 4 pts
Valery KHARLAMOV – 28 – lw ….. CSKA Moscow …….. 6 ga 3 go 6 as 9 pts

Vladimir SHADRIN – 27 – ctr …….. Spartak Moscow ….. 6 ga 10 go 4 as 14 pts
Viktor SHALIMOV – 24 – rw ……… Spartak Moscow ….. 6 ga 7 go 5 as 12 pts
Alexander YAKUSHEV – 29 – lw … Spartak Moscow ….. 6 ga 4 go 4 as 8 pts

Viktor ZHLUKTOV – 21 – ctr …….. CSKA Moscow …….. 6 ga 2 go 6 as 8 pts
Alexander MALTSEV – 26 – rw ….. Dynamo Moscow …. 6 ga 7 go 7 as 14 pts
Sergei KAPUSTIN – 22 – lw ……… Soviet Wings ………. 6 ga 6 go 1 as 7 pts

Boris ALEXANDROV – 20 – lw …… CSKA Moscow ……. 5 ga 2 go 3 as 5 pts

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Gold medalist BORIS ALEXANDROV (11) of CSKA Moscow was one of a only a very select few of all the Olympic ice hockey players from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who was not Russian. After the fall of the old U.S.S.R., the 20-year-old winger who had begun his senior career in the Soviet system with Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk was later appointed the national team trainer of his native Kazakhstan. Alexandrov was the only skater for the Soviet Union not to appear in the de facto Gold Medal Match with Czechoslovakia on the final day of ice hockey competition at the 1976 Winter Games at Innsbruck.
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Gennady TSYGANKOV – 28 – def …. CSKA Moscow ……. 6 ga 1 go 2 as 3 pts
Vladimir LUTCHENKO – 27 – def …… CSKA Moscow ……. 6 ga 0 go 2 as 2 pts
Alexander GUSEV – 29 – def ……….. CSKA Moscow ……. 6 ga 1 go 2 as 3 pts
Valery VASILIEV – 26 – def ………….. Dynamo Moscow … 6 ga 1 go 2 as 3 pts
Yuri LIAPKIN – 31 – def ………………. Spartak Moscow …. 6 ga 1 go 3 as 4 pts
Sergei BABINOV – 20 – def ………….. Soviet Wings …….. 6 ga 2 go 2 as 4 pts

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26-year-old defenseman VALERY VASILIEV (6) of Dynamo Moscow, who appeared at the Olympics for the Soviet Union three times in his distinguished career and before captaining the 1981 Canada Cup champion team, did much to solidy the U.S.S.R. blueline during the 1976 Winter Games hosted by Innsbruck, Austria.
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Vladislav TRETIAK – 23 – gk ………… CSKA Moscow … 4 ga 240 min 2.50 avg
Alexander SIDELNIKOV – 25 – gk …… Soviet Wings ….. 2 ga 120 min 2.00 avg

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Soviet Union goaltender VLADISLAV TRETIAK (20) of CSKA Moscow, one of nine returning players from the title-winning team at the 1972 Sapporo Games, scored the second of what would be a hat trick of Olympic gold medals over the course of his accomplished career with strong work between the pipes for the U.S.S.R. at the 1976 Winter Games hosted by Innsbruck, Austria.

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Occupy 1976 Innsbruck Olympics


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In order to help celebrate the legendary career of Germany’s Mister Eishockey, XAVER UNSINN, the blog is busy organzing a movement to effectively and thoroughly Occupy the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

Some groundwork has been previously posted here at this blog already, including detailed works on the dramatic GOLD MEDAL MATCH from the historic Olympiaeishalle featuring the mighty Eastern bloc rivals of CZECHOSLOVAKIA and the SOVIET UNION.

The memorable ice hockey tournament in the Austrian Alps also included a boycott from both Canada and Sweden in response to the continued ban against “professional” players, a failed drugs test by the team captain of Czechoslovakia as well as a three-team photo finish between Finland, the United States and West Germany for the 1976 Olympic bronze medal.

As always, no passports are required and all are invited en masse to share in the magical moments of international ice hockey history which are joyfully replayed continuously here.

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WEST GERMANY national team captain ALOIS SCHLODER of EV Landshut ascends to the top of the podium at the Olympiahalle to accept the bronze medal for ice hockey from I.O.C. officials during the 1976 Wiinter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria; the silver medalists from CZECHOSLOVAKIA (white sweaters, left) and the gold medal squad from the SOVIET UNION (red sweaters, center), led by captain BORIS MIKHAILOV (K, # 13) of CSKA Moscow, applaud having already received their respective rewards.
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While the U.S.S.R. won the gold medal at the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck for a record-tying fourth consecutive time, the set of bronze medals earned by the Bundesrepublik Deutschland in the Austrian Alps marked the first time in 44 years and only the second occasion, ever, that a German ice hockey squad had finished inside the top three at the prestigous Olympic tournament.

The proceedings in the Austrian Alps also played host to the so-called Elimination Game for the last time ever at an Olympic event. These once and done qualification matches, initially implemented by the I.O.C. at the Innsbruck Games of 1964, were meant to give countries that traditionally competed in the lower B Pool at the IIHF World Championships the opportunity to pull off a big upset and reach the final round at the Winter Games. What often (and predictably) resulted were lopsided blowouts.

Such as the 14-1 beating Czechoslovakia issued to Bulgaria at the Olympiahalle on February 2, 1976, or the 16-3 thrashing that the Soviet Union inflicted upon host nation Austria the very next day in Innsbruck … but that would be another Olympic story.

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West Germany’s flower-bearing Olympic bronze medal trainer XAVER UNSINN (left) and five of his 1976 Bundesliga champion squad SC Berlin — forwards ERNST KOEPF, FERENC VOZAR, LORENZ FUNK, MARTIN HINTERSTOCKER and goaltender ERICH WEISHAUPT — return triumphantly from the 1976 Winter Olympic Games hosted by Innsbruck in neighboring Austria.

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Russia : Restoration Required

Goaltender ILYA BRYZGALOV (30) of the Phoenix Coyotes as well as Salavat Yulayev Ufa defenseman DMITRI KALININ are two players Russian coach VYACHESLAV BYKOV will count on to help implement a Russian Restoration for ice hockey at the Winter Olympic Games.

Goaltender ILYA BRYZGALOV (30) of the Phoenix Coyotes as well as Salavat Yulayev Ufa defenseman DMITRI KALININ are two players Russian coach VYACHESLAV BYKOV will count on to help implement a Russian Restoration for ice hockey at the Winter Olympic Games.

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The national team of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, if one adds the so-called Unified Team of the 1992 Albertville Games, entered ten ice hockey competitions at the Winter Olympics and won eight of those tournaments.

From 1956 to 1992, the USSR contested 70 ice hockey matches at the Winter Games and won 62 with two draws. The Soviet Union also never failed to medal having collected one silver and one bronze in addition to the eight Olympic gold medals. Players such as goaltender VLADISLAV TRETIAK, defenseman ALEXANDER RAGULIN and forward ANATOLI FIRSOV piled up as many as three titles for a career at the Winter Games.

Russia, meanwhile, since their first appearance at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, have never won the Olympic ice hockey championship.

The Russians, who have failed to medal twice at the Olympics, can only show a solitary silver and bronze from their participation at the Winter Games thus far.

Russian coach VYACHESLAV BYKOV, himself a two-time Olympic champion from both the Calgary and Albertville Games, respectively, has certain expectations, however, as do the people of a nation with such a rich tradition of success.

The Russians’ 8-2 victory over Latvia in their Group B opener at Vancouver was a fine start, but there are miles to go before Bykov’s charges can sleep…

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Same Old Soviet Union

Soviet left wing VLADIMIR KRUTOV (9) fends off a West German check at the 1988 Winter Games. The USSR defeated West Germany 6-3 in Calgary. Krutov finished the Olympic tournament top scorer with 15 points (6 go 9 as) in eight games.

Soviet left wing VLADIMIR KRUTOV (9) fends off a West German check at the 1988 Winter Games. The USSR defeated West Germany 6-3 in Calgary. Krutov finished the Olympic tournament top scorer with 15 points (6 go 9 as) in eight games.

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There was a belief shared by many, particularly in Canada, that the Soviet machine was ready to have its plug pulled at the ice hockey tournament for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Calgary.

The Soviet Union, after all, had failed to win the 1987 IIHF World Championships in Vienna; this marked the second time in three years the USSR did not win the annual IIHF event. The USSR also later fell in the finals at the 1987 Canada Cup. Significantly, the Soviet Union then lost their annual Izvestia Cup, often referred to as the Olympic dress rehearsal, just before the Christmas holiday season to end the year, as well.

With the Winter Games now open to professionals and amateurs alike, there was much speculation that Calgary could spell the end of the line for Soviet domination of Olympic ice hockey.

A mere five goals in their opening game against traiditional minnows Norway seemed to lend credibility to theories detailing the decline of the USSR. The fact that the West Germans hung tough for fifty minutes and the Americans pulled back from 6-2 down to draw within a goal late did little to dispell such notions about the Soviet Union during the round-robin phase of the Calgary Games, either.

But then came the Soviets’ final round-robin match against their old Eastern-bloc arch-rivlas, the Czechoslovaks, and, with such, a return-to-normalcy appeared to arrive at the Olympic ice hockey competition.

The USSR comfortably skated past Czechoslovakia 6-1 and then moved into the medal round to face host nation Canada. With thirteen players on the roster bearing NHL experience, the Canadians were fostering hopes of a medal at the Olympics for the first time in twenty years. In part due to the 5-0 shutout defeat issued by the Soviets, Canada’s wait would continue.

The Soviets lost no games in Vienna but still finished second to Sweden, who actually lost three games at the 1987 Worlds. For the medal round match involving the two countries at Calgary, retribution was clearly on somebody’s mind as evidenced by the 7-1 scoreline favoring the USSR.

Although another game with Finland remained for the Soviet Union, the final standings were now academic — the USSR could not be caught in the race for the gold medal.

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Seventh Heaven For Soviets

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The world has still never seen anything like it and perhaps may very well never again.

If there was only one thing the UNION of SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS could always be counted for, it was most certainly a powerful contestant for the ice hockey tournament at the Winter Olympic Games.

When Soviet captain VYACHESLAV FETISOV and his teammates accepted the gold medals at the Calgary Games in 1988, it marked the seventh occasion in Olympic history that the USSR secured the championship; to contrast, the country that is credited with creating the sport of ice hockey, Canada, had collected six gold medals at the Olympics up to that point.

Although many in attendance at the Olympic Saddledome for the medal ceremonies may not have known at the time, the 1988 Calgary Games on the plains of western Canada would mark the final official appearance of the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics. The USSR had first sent a squad to compete for Olympic glory at the 1956 Cortina Games in the Italian Alps. In between, the Soviets skated at nine tournaments literally all over the world and, including ‘qualification’ games, won an astounding 55 games against just five losses with two draws.

The winds of change were already beginning to blow, however, and so the Calgary Games were the last Winter Olympics that saw the old CCCP sweater.

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Red Tape Cut For USSR Contingent

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Left : SERGEI MAKAROV (24) at Rendez-Vous ’87 in Quebec City

Right : The Tank, VLADIMIR KRUTOV (9)

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Roughly half of the Soviet ice hockey team appearing in Calgary for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games were skating in the National Hockey League within two years.

In the summer of 1989, all the different and necessary authorities in the USSR finally agreed to to permit veteran Soviet players to sign with professional National Hockey League clubs in the West. Six of the Soviet Union’s Calgary contingent were conspicuously and immediately involved :

  • 31 – F — Sergei MAKAROV — Calgary Flames
  • 31 – D — Vyacheslav FETISOV — New Jersey Devils 
  • 30 – D — Sergei STARIKOV — New Jersey Devils
  • 30 – G — Sergei MYLNIKOV — Quebec Nordiques
  • 29 – F — Vladimir KRUTOV — Vancouver Canucks
  • 28 – F — Igor LARIONOV — Vancouver Canucks

Midway through the 1989-90 season, 30-year-old defenseman ALEXEI KASATONOV left CSKA Moscow to reunite with his long-time blueline partner Fetisov in New Jersey. At the conclusion of the Soviet elite league that spring, 28-year-old center ANATOLI SEMENOV departed Dynamo Moscow to join the eventual Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers.

Previously, in the spring of 1989, after collecting his gold medal at the IIHF World Championships for the Soviet Union in Stockholm, 20-year-old star prospect ALEXANDER MOGILNY defected the USSR while in Sweden and wandered his way to the United States to offer his services to the Buffalo Sabres.

In all, fourteen of the Soviet Union’s gold medalists in ice hockey from the Calgary Games eventually ended up in the employment of NHL clubs.

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