ISSN 2330-717X

How Ice Hockey Thawed Out “Cold War” – OpEd


By Olga Bugrova

The veteran ice hockey teams of Russia and Canada will meet in Moscow on February 25 in a match commemorating the 40th anniversary of the legendary USSR-Canada Superseries. Before the match, the vets will give master classes for young hockey players on the Red Square ice rink.

1972 was a special year for ice hockey. For the first time in the sport’s history and despite the “Cold War”, an eight-game series between the Soviet national team and a team of Canada’s best professional players was organized. The first four matches took place in Canada and the other four – in Russia. A Superseries vet, two-time Olympic champion Boris Mikhailov, recalls how, before flying to Canada, the team was warned to look out for and ignore possible provocations on the part of Soviet emigrants.

“Yes, we heard some ill-wishers of our country shout things at us, but we paid no attention. There were hardcore ill-wishers and ordinary people who did not shout nasty things. And those who did shout targeted the Soviet Union, which we represented, and not us personally. But the true fans treated us with respect, especially after we won the first superseries match.”

Few would expect such mastership from “Russian amateurs” as many used to scornfully dub the Soviet hockey players. And of course no one could foresee Canada’s humiliating 3:7 defeat in the very first game. The following morning, Soviet player Valery Kharlamov, who particularly excelled in that match, received a $1-million offer to join the NHL. The Canada superseries ended in Russia’s favor.

But during the return games in Moscow the Canadians were a bit luckier than the Russians. It was a tough fight indeed. The Luzhniki stadium roared. In the final game, the Canadians netted the final goal 34 seconds before the siren.

Later the 1972 Series, in Canada known as Summit Series, were called superseries to emphasize a political meaning of the event. After the games, Canadian journalists ranked players Valery Kharlamov, Vladislav Tretyak and Alexander Yakushev as ‘legends’.

The participants of those historical matches are expected to join the 40th anniversary celebrations in Moscow. On February 25 the Megasport arena is hosting a match between the USSR-Russia team and the international team of hockey players. Alexander Yakushev comments:

“The world team will hardly comprise any of the veterans who played in the 1972 games. Nevertheless, the match is going to be exciting. I do not think this will be a truly competitive game but just a match of hockey stars.”

A day prior to the game at Megasport arena, young hockey players are welcome to attend master-classes conducted by Yakushev, Kozhevnikov, Fetisov and Kasatonov at the ice rink on Red Square. Entrance is free.

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VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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