Archive for 1972 OG Sapporo

Sapporo ’72 : Third Title For Soviet Father

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For the world-wide audience, it would have been difficult to know that the Sapporo Games would be the last for the man referred to as the Father of Soviet Hockey. But, alas, despite another successful run to the gold medal, the 1972 Winter Olympic Games marked the end of the line for a legend in the USSR. Not before, however, Soviet Union national team coach ANATOLI TARASOV had the chance to chalk up a third Olympic championship.

An integral part of hockey in the USSR since the country had been playing the sport seriously, Tarasov actually had led the Soviet elite league with 14 goals for air force club VVS MVO Moscow that inaugural 1946-47 season. The next winter, the 29-year-old forward transferred to CDKA (later CSKA) Moscow to become the player-coach of the army club. Tarasov, who ceased playing after the 1952-53 schedule, remained rooted behind the bench for CSKA until the conclusion of the 1974-75 campaign.

Tarasov, whose first Olympic adventure ended with a bronze medal for the Soviet Union at Squaw Valley in 1960, totaled 22 wins and two ties from 27 games at the Winter Olympic Games for the USSR.

A pay dispute led to Tarasov’s dismissal as the national team coach shortly following the 1972 Sapporo Games. Soviet hockey players received not only gold medals from International Olympic Committee officials, but cash bonuses from USSR authorities, as well. Tarasov felt that the time had come for coaches to collect a monetary reward, too.

The officials in the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation, if not those in the Politburo, as well, disagreed.

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Four Soviets, Three Golds

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Left : ALEXANDER RAGULIN, the battleship on the blue line

Right : ANATOLI FIRSOV, the highly-skilled scoring machine

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A 5-2 defeat of Eastern-bloc rival CZECHOSLOVAKIA at Sapporo in 1972 clinched a third successive Olympic title for the SOVIET UNION.

The triumph resulted in a fourth set of gold medals for the USSR national ice hockey team in only five trips to the Winter Games.

Whereas the 19-year-old USSR goaltender VLADISLAV TRETIAK pocketed his first-ever Olympic gold medal in Japan, three other veteran Soviet internationals became champions at the Winter Games for no less than a third time.

High-scoring CSKA Moscow left wing ANATOLI FIRSOV (30) in addition to CSKA Moscow defensemen ALEXANDER RAGULIN (30) and VIKTOR KUZKIN (31) as well as Dynamo Moscow rearguard VITALY DAVYDOV (32) accomplished that which no other ice hockey player has been able to surpass since.

The four skaters competed on three Soviet teams which compiled a record of 18 wins against but one loss and a single tie at the Winter Olympic Games from 1964 thru 1972.

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Finns And Swedes – Rivalry Ratched Up

LAURI MONONEN scored the goal for Finland that wrecked arch-rival Sweden's medal hopes at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Mononen later skated two seasons in the World Hockey Association for the Phoenix Roadrunners in the mid-1970s before signing to play with SC Bern in Switzerland.

LAURI MONONEN scored the goal for Finland that wrecked arch-rival Sweden's medal hopes at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Mononen later skated two seasons in the World Hockey Association for the Phoenix Roadrunners in the mid-1970s before signing to play with SC Bern in Switzerland.

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SWEDEN and FINLAND first met at a major international tournament for ice hockey in 1949 at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships held in Stockholm. The far-more experienced Swedes, skating on home ice, flattened the Finns 12-1. Thereafter, Swedish domination of their Scandinavian neighbor would continue for some time…

At the 1972 Sapporo Games in Japan, Sweden’s chances for the silver medal appeared to be rather promising as the Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament arrived at it’s conclusion :

  • 3-0-1 — 7 pts : + 17 — SOVIET UNION
  • 3-1-0 — 6 pts : + 16 — CZECHOSLOVAKIA
  • 2-1-1 — 5 pts :   + 5 — SWEDEN
  • 2-2-0 — 4 pts :    - 2 — UNITED STATES
  • 1-3-0 — 2 pts :  - 11 — FINLAND 
  • 0-4-0 — 0 pts :  - 25 — POLAND

Czechoslovakia were slated to meet their old adversaries from the Soviet Union in the very last match; the very same USSR who are the defending World / Olympic champion nine years running now. The United States would skate with the Poles, who were winless, to start the final day. In between, the Swedes would face their traditional rivals, the Finns.

Irrespective of the Americans’ result, the Swedes could secure the silver with a victory over Suomi coupled with a Soviet defeat of the Czechoslovaks.

For the Finns and Swedes, the engagement in Japan would mark the 24th meeting of the two nations at major international events. Sweden had won 18 of the first twenty-three matches and tied three others. The Finns were improving, though, and had finally registered a pair of victories at the World Championships within the past few years leading up to the Sapporo Games.

The next-door neighbors had met three times previously at the Winter Olympics — Sweden sweeping all three matches and outscoring Finland 21-3 with the average margin of victory at six goals per game.

Any Finnish disappointment left over from the loss to the United States in the previous game, however, dissipated immediately after HEIKKI JARN put his name on the scoresheet versus Sweden roughly three minutes into the Finns’ final match.

Backed by two goals from BJORN PALMQVIST, the Swedes staked a 3-2 lead after two periods. But more than halfway thru the third and final frame, disaster would strike Tre Kronor’s ship. Finland’s MATTI KEINONEN scored at 12:43 and was followed two minutes and fifteen seconds later by LAURI MONONEN.

When Sweden failed to put another puck past JORMA VALTONEN, Finland had pulled off an important if improbable upset at the Winter Olympics over the “dear enemy”.

The loss had drastic consequences for the Swedes. The United States had already defeated Poland as expected. After the Soviet Union, indeed, dumped Czechoslovakia 5-2, Sweden were shut out of the medals entirely.

The Finns, no doubt, were not upset with their neighbor’s misfortune.

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JUHANI TAMMINEN, who scored Finland’s second goal of the match, also later spent two seasons in the old World Hockey Association. Tamminen played for the Cleveland Crusaders during the 1975-76 season and was Mononen’s teammate in Phoenix the following year.

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Kharlamov Is Last Of Kind

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Soviet legend VALERY KHARLAMOV is the last player in the history at the Winter Olympic Games to average three points per game over the course of final-round competition.

With his debut at the 1972 Sapporo Games, Kharlamov announced his arrival on the Olympic stage by notching a hat trick on opening day opposite Finland.

The 23-year-old followed with a pair of lamp-lighters at the expense of Sweden and another hat trick against Poland. The CSKA Moscow left wing scored goals in four of five contests in Japan as the USSR breezed their way through to the gold medal. Altogether, Kharlamov amassed nine goals and added six assists in Japan.

Kharlamov easily finished as the leading scorer at Sapporo with 15 points for the Soviet Union. 

No other player from any team in the 1972 Olympic tournament so much as reached double-digits in the five-game final round-robin.

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Tretiak And His Birdcage

19-year-old Soviet puckstopper VLADISLAV TRETIAK stood out for several reasons at the 1972 Sapporo Games. Among those was the revolutionary "birdcage" facemask that was part of the USSR goalie's gear in Japan.

19-year-old Soviet puckstopper VLADISLAV TRETIAK stood out for several reasons at the 1972 Sapporo Games. Among those was the revolutionary "birdcage" facemask that was part of the USSR goalie's gear in Japan.

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VLADISLAV TRETIAK represented the Soviet Union an unmatched four times at the Winter Olympic Games.

Although Tretiak first tended the nets at a major international event for the USSR as a 17-year-old at the 1970 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, it was on his first Olympic appearance at the Sapporo Games in 1972 that the entire world got a real good look at the latest piece of goaltending technology — the birdcage facemask.

Two valuable features offered in the new equipment included better ventilation as well as an excellent field of vision.

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Sapporo ’72 : Curran Was Critical For Silver US

The United States attempts to move the puck out of the defensive zone as Soviet forecheckers give chase at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. The USSR, on their way to a third consecutive Olympic gold medal, defeated the USA 7-2. Guarding the net for the Americans against the Soviets is MIKE CURRAN (30).

The United States attempts to move the puck out of the defensive zone as Soviet forecheckers give chase at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. The USSR, on their way to a third consecutive Olympic gold medal, defeated the USA 7-2. Guarding the net for the Americans against the Soviets is MIKE CURRAN (30).

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Without question, the 1972 Sapporo Games produced a monumental single-game goaltending performance that rightly takes its place in Olympic history as one of, if not the, all-time best.

It is the second day of the six-team round-robin finals in Sapporo with Czechoslovakia scheduled to meet the United States.

The Czechoslovaks are the regining silver medalists from Grenoble 1968 and enter as runners-up to the USSR at the 1971 IIHF World Championships. The line-up is chock full of international class players such as forward VACLAV NEDOMANSKY, defenseman FRANTISEK POSPISIL and goalie JIRI HOLECEK. This is the one team in the tournament thought to be capable of seriously challenging the Soviet Union, whom Czechoslovakia defeated at Grenoble, for the Olympic title.

The United States, meanwhile, finished in last place at the 1971 IIHF WC and, thus, were relegated to the B pool for the 1972 edition. The U. S. only qualified for the final round-robin at Sapporo with a less-than-overwhelming 5-3 defeat of perennial B poolers Switzerland. A 5-1 loss to medal favorites Sweden did not exactly get the final round-robin off to a flying start for the Americans.

It should have come as no surprise, then, that the Czechoslovaks would lay absolute siege to the American goal with a total of 52 shots being fired on target. Harder to predict would have been that the diminutive MIKE CURRAN, the U. S. goaltender, would be able to adequately deal with fifty-one of those attempts. Taking advantage of both the fine work from the former University of North Dakota netminder and an off-day from Holecek in the Czechoslovak goal, the Americans skated off 5-1 winners.

Czechoslovakia and the United States would both finish the final round-robin with 3-2 records. After the Finns upset the Swedes on the final day, the United States, on the strength of their head-to-head result with the Czechoslovaks, moved into second place behind the unbeaten Soviet Union.

Curran’s goaltending had proved crucial.

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