Including the results of the Unified Team at Albertville in 1992, the UNION of SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS entered ten competitions for ice hockey at the Winter Olympic Games and ended eight of those as tournament champions.
With that legacy left to serve as some sort of measuring stick, the newly re-born nation of RUSSIA sent its first-ever official Oympic ice hockey team to Norway for the 1994 Winter Games.
At Lillehammer in Norway, Russia’s national team coach, VIKTOR TIKHONOV, had remained the same as the old Soviet Union, but the quality of the national side itself had not. For decades, the USSR had been able to access its best players all the time. However, the en masse stampede of the former Soviet skaters to sign lucrative professional contracts in the West, preferably, the National Hockey League, at the start of the 1990s had extracted too much of a toll on the talent pool available for the national team.
The results were evident immediately.
Although the Russians took care of the host nation 5-1 in their first outing, Tikhonov’s troops were left red-faced shortly thereafter. The USSR and the Unified Team had played a combined 70 games over the course of 36 years without failing to score at least one goal in an ice hockey match at the Winter Games. Russia, in just their second Olympic contest ever, were summarily shutout 5-0 by their Nordic neighbors from Finland.
Later, in their fourth Group A round-robin game, Russia were defeated 4-2 by Germany. Sporting the record of sixty-seven wins and one tie, the old Soviet Union had never lost to West Germany in any match whatsoever including ’friendly’ exhibitions. For the record, the USSR never lost to East Germany, either, having won thirty-five games with one draw.
At the Lillehammer Games in 1994, the winds of change were certainly blowing and right in the Russians face, as well.