The Predecessor

Russians are known to have played a form of hockey already in the 19th century. Instead of a puck they used a ball and the ice surface was almost as big as a soccer field. The game was called “Russian hockey” and it evolved into what is more widely known as “Bandy”, which is still played today in different nations, like Russia, Sweden and the USA.The first recorded hockey game between Russians and foreigners took place on the frozen Neva River in St. Petersburg in 1899 between a local team and a group of resident Englishmen. Among those players were world champion figure skater Alexei Lebedev and speed-skating champion Alexander Pashin.

The Beginnings


The first demonstration of Canadian hockey took place in March 1932. The German olympic team played in Moscow and lost 3-0 against the Central Army and then they lost 6-0 and 8-0 against the Moscow Selects. In 1946 came the official order of the Committee of Physical Education and Sports to start developing what they called “Canadian Hockey”. In December 1946 they began to play the first USSR championship matches.

Dynamo Moscow 1946

The first Soviet hockey champion was  Dynamo Moscow followed by the Red Army team, which was led by a young playing coach named Anatoly Tarasov. This man was destined to become the father of Soviet hockey. An important landmark in the history of Soviet hockey was reached in March 1948 when the Czechoslovakian team LTC Prague, at that time the best European hockey club, arrived in Moscow. In order to play three unofficial matches against the LTC club, the first USSR team was organized. The order was simple: Victory!! 

The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did not admit to failure, including in sports. The country had just endured it’s most difficult war and it was taken for granted that nobody had a right to demean the country’s high post-war prestige. The results of these games were well known. The Soviets won the first game 6-3, lost the second 3-5 and played a 2-2 draw in the last match. Every game was visited by nearly 30 000 people. The first line of team USSR was built by Red Army players. Defensemen Vladimir Nikanorov and Alexandr Vinogradov and the forwards Evgeny Babich , Vsevolod Bobrov and the coach himself, Anatoly Tarasov, forming the first unit in Soviet hockey history. The first named goalie was the Latvian Harry Mellups, who played in all three games.

A Council of coaches including Anatoly Tarasov, Arkady Charnyshev, Vladimir Egorov and Alexander Igumnov started to get together more often to talk about hockey and to turn it into a popular game. During the next few years the Soviet team played some unofficial international matches against Finnish, Swedish, Polish and Czechoslovakian teams to gain experience and to improve strength.

The 1950’s

Tarasov, Bobrov and others

February 1953 was the first time the Soviet team faced official competitions. In Vienna, the Winter Games for student youth were held. The Soviets defeated all competitors. They were preparing to play their first world championship in Switzerland, but after an injury to their best player, Vsevolod Bobrov, the team was recalled to Moscow.   

One of the most important milestones was in March, 1954. Team USSR participated for their first time in the world championships that took place in Stockholm. They were the underdogs in this tournament but won the title with a sensational 7-2 win against Canada, represented by the Senior B Team, called the East York Lyndhursts. From that day on, the world knew there was an additional force in the ice rink. 

The Canadians took revenge in the following year, beating the Soviets 5-0 and once again became world champions. The third time these two nations played each other in an official tournament was at the Olympics in 1956, in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy. After a great performance by Soviet goalie Nickolai Puchkov and a great tactical achievement by coach Arkady Chernyshev, the Soviets won the decisive match 2-0 against Canada’s best amateur club, the Kitchener Waterloo Dutchmen, and earned the Gold Medal. 

In 1957, the Soviet Team was invited to Canada to play eight unofficial games against some amateur teams. Of course, Anatoly Tarasov and his guys didn’t want to miss the chance to visit the homeland of hockey. The roster for this trip: Goal: N. Puchkov, E. Erkin - Defense: I. Tregubov, D. Ukolov,
A. Kuchevsky, N. Sologubov, G. Sidorenkov, S. Petuhov, V. Solodov -
Forwards: V. Elizarov, Y. Pantjuhov, A. Churyshev, N. Hlystov, A. Cherepanov, V. Novozhilov, V. Bystov, V. Alkov, A. Alkov and the first named Soviet troika K. Loktev, A. Almetov and V. Alexandrov.
The first practice was held in maybe the holiest place in Canadian hockey.
The Montreal Forum!

Nikolai Puchkov
from left: Loktev, Almetov, Alexandrov

The 1960’s

The Soviet Team made a very good impression on the Canadian audience by winning five games, losing two and one tie. That was a good opportunity to see the differences between Soviet and Canadian hockey. The Soviets, especially Anatoly Tarasov didn’t want to copy the Canadian style. Tarasov: “A copy is never as good as the original”. So, the Soviet Hockey programme grew up on technical team play: Passing more frequently, more skating, discipline and collectiveness. The individual talent of a player (score, defend etc.) was increased till he could bring this talent into the team play. Tarasov preferred specialists, instead of versatile players.This was the beginning of creating five-man units on the ice. This style of hockey didn’t change till the break of the Soviet system.

After the Olympic Gold Medal in 1956, the Soviets didn’t win either of the big tournaments, World Championships or Olympics for the next six years. Extremely painful was the loss of the Gold Medal to Sweden on their own ice in Moscow in 1957.  Important players like Bobrov or Sologubov got older and slower. It was time to build a new team during the sixties. The coaching tandem of Tarasov and Chernyshev had a hard job. But they were very successful in creating this new team. Alongside their troika of Loktev-Almetov-Alexandrov they installed players like Alexander Yakushev, Vyacheslav Starshinov, big bear Alexander Ragulin and also one of the most talented hockey players ever, Anatoly Firsov. Beginning in 1963, the Soviets won every World Championship in that decade and also the Olympic Games in 1964 and 1968. 

Anatoly Firsov
Vladislav Tretiak

1968 was also the year, when Anatoly Tarasov saw a fifteen year-old kid in the Army junior team whose goaltending abilities were so unbelievable, Tarasov had never seen the like. He invited this guy, called Vladislav Tretiak, to practice with the first team and not long after this invitation he inherited the goaltending position of Viktor Konovalenko in the Central Red Army team and in the Soviet squad. This career continued till 1984 and Tretiak is still one of the most respected and popular Russian sportsmen outside of the former Soviet Union.
Sport schools were opened to produce more and more talented players for the Soviet hockey programme. By the beginning of the 1970’s nearly 3 million boys had joined this intense hockey training programme.

The 1970’s

That was the most successful decade for Soviet Hockey. They won 7 World Championships and two Olympic Gold Medals between 1970 and 1979. It was also the decade of the best winger who had ever been produced by the Soviet hockey programme - Valery Kharlamov. Together with Right Wing Boris Mikhailov and Center Vladimir Petrov they created the most dangerous scoring unit at that time. With the successes of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Tarasov was able to convince the Soviet Hockey Federation, that the time had come to play against the best in the world - the Canadian professionals.
The “September to Remember”, happened in 1972 when the titans clashed in the legendary “Summit Series”

Valery Kharlamov
Paul Henderson's goal 1972

After several rounds of negotiations between the NHL, the IIHF and the Soviet Hockey Federation they decided on a tournament of eight games - the first four in Canada and the rest in Russia.
The Canadian team was coached by Harry Sinden and included the best NHL players at that time. Only the injured Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull, who was declared ineligible for the Summit Series while signing with the WHA, were missing.
The biggest surprise on the Soviet side was the relief of Tarasov and Chernyshev as the coaches. They were replaced by Bobrov and Kulagin. Anatoly Firsov was also off the roster, because of his support for Tarasov. The opinion about the result of the series was always the same in Canada. Everybody expected an 8-0 sweep by the Canadians. Some people changed their minds after game one.
In front of 18000 fans the first game was held on Sept. 2nd in the Montreal Forum. Led by Kharlamov and Tretiak, the Soviet squad surprised the Canadians and won 7-3.

shake hands 1972

Nearly 130 million people either watched the game on Soviet TV or listened to it on the radio and celebrated this victory, while Canada was shocked. After three more games in Canada the tour went to Moscow. The Russian team led the series with 2-1-1. After a great comeback by the Canadians, both teams had three wins till the last game. After 19:26 min. played in the last period, Paul Henderson made the most important goal in Canadian hockey history. Canada won this decisive game 6-5 and also the tournament. Of course, the Soviets lost the Series, but the hockey world had changed. Canada wasn’t the only hockey superpower anymore. The Soviet players led by Kharlamov, Tretiak and Yakushev proved, that they were as good as their North American counterparts.

1976 Canada Cup pic

After the series, the NHL community realized that they would have to improve the technical aspect of their game, and on the other side the Soviets trained bodychecking and physical play to use it to their advantage. Both styles of hockey had changed forever. To learn more and more from each other, both nations organized further tournaments to see the best players of both sides on the ice. Summit Series 1974 against the pro’s of the WHA, Super Series 1975 (which included on of the best games ever -  Montreal-Red Army), Canada Cup 1976 and the biggest indication of their skills, the Challenge Cup 1979 against the NHL-All-Stars were played. The Soviet teams won most of the games.

World Champion 1979

The Soviets proved that their hockey programme had now become the best.

Another important change came to the Soviet team shortly before the Canada Cup 1976. A new coach was nominated and the era of Viktor Tikhonov began. Coming from Riga, he was introduced as the coach of the Red Army and national team.

The 1980’s

The 80’s started with a shock for the Soviet Team. They started as the big favourites in the Olympic games 1980 in Lake Placid, but lost their Gold Medal against a young U.S. team, coached by Herb Brooks. The American fans still call this big upset the “Miracle on ice”. Surprisingly, Tikhonov was not fired. To avoid such failure again, he worked harder and put more pressure on his players.

Kharlamov, Petrov, Mikhailov

The face of the team changed. Tikhonov began to threaten his older and slower top-line. First he clashed with Petrov and Mikhailov, later with Kharlamov and put him off the roster for the Canada Cup 1981, which was supposed to be his last tournament. On August 28th 1981, the nation got a big shock. The great Valery Kharlamov died along with his wife Irina in a car accident. His wife had been driving on that day as a truck came towards them.

John Sanful wrote in his book “Russian Revolution” - “The best one-on-one player in Soviet history, a legend in his own country and in the world after twelve years on the national team, was gone. The Soviet Union had lost its most talented, flamboyant player.”
After his death it was decided that no player would ever wear the No. 17 again, while playing for the Red Army Team. Only his son was allowed to wear this number while playing for the Red Army team.

Makarov, Larionov, Krutov

Tikhonov had two new very talented players in his team. The young wingers Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov were the biggest hopes for the future of Soviet hockey. First they were centered by Vladimir Petrov, but Petrov was getting older and he was slowing down. He no longer had the power to support  these gifted wingers. It was difficult to find the perfect center for them, but then Tikhonov saw a young, but very small player in the industrial town Voskresensk. His name was Igor Larionov. Tikhonov recruited Larionov to Moscow and found the missing part of the puzzle for his new starting forwards.

To complete the five-man-unit, Tikhonov installed Alexei Kasatonov and Viacheslav Fetisov as the defending part. They became the most dominating combination in Hockey for nearly one decade. They were called the “Green Unit”, because they always wore green jerseys during practice. Fetisov became the new captain of the national team. Together with Larionov he led the team from victory to victory. The first important one was winning the Canada Cup in 1981.

Kasatonov and Fetisov while armwrestling
celebrating the victory in Canada Cup 1981

With the Green Unit, the Soviets dominated the final game against Canada and beat their opponents, led by Wayne Gretzky, 8-1. After the first game of the Summit Series in 1972, this was the second big shock for the Canadian hockey fans. That was the first and last time the Soviet hockey team were able to win the Canada Cup. In 1982 and 1983 they won the World Championships easily. The KLM-Line scored whenever they wanted, and the other lines were also scoring machines. The Olympic games in 1984 in Sarajevo, also won by the Soviet Union, brought a big loss. It was Tretiak’s last tournament.

The decisive game against Czechoslovakia which was won by the Soviets 2-0 was the last big game of hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak. The last player of the ‘72 team retired. Since the day he retired the Russians haven’t been able to find a goaltender of his class, and this was to become the weak point in their teams. After reaching third place in the World Championships in 1985, the year after they were able to win Gold again on their home ice in Moscow. The year 1987 was maybe the year, in which people around the world saw the best games ever.

Olympic Gold in 1984
Krutov during Canada Cup 1987

As a replacement for the traditional NHL All-Star game the two-game “Rendevouz Series” between the Soviet Union and the NHL All-Stars was held in Quebec City. Both teams were able to win one game each. A few months after that tournament, the Canada Cup was held. After a 3-3 tie in the pre-round, long-time rivals USSR and Canada played against each other in the finals. Neither the players nor the spectators will ever forget what they saw in September 1987 in the Montreal Forum and in the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. 215 minutes, 33 goals, dramatic moments, high-class stickhandling and beautiful passes. It was hockey in perfection. On the one side the Soviets with their superstars of the “Green Unit” and players like Bykov, Khomutov and Kamensky. On the other side the NHL stars Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, Bourque and many others. All three games ended 6-5. The Soviets won the first game, Team Canada the other two and also the tournament with an overtime goal by Super-Mario Lemieux in game three.

Top hockey journalist George Gross from Toronto, who has seen everything in hockey in the last 30 years said shortly after game three: “Just imagine! We were there and had the privilege of seeing ice hockey being played at a level you are never going to witness again. That’s something to tell our grandchildren.”

A few months after these unbelievable games, the Soviets went to Canada again. The 1988 Olympics were held in Calgary. The Soviet Union defended their Olympic Gold title by winning seven out of eight games. It was very important for the team, because after the Olympics in 1984 they were only able to win one major tournament, the World Championships in 1986. It was the last Olympic Gold Medal with the letters CCCP on their jerseys. In 1989 they won the last World Championship of the  decade. The junior team was also able to win this title. Three young guys played there together in one line. Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny. They would have become the future of Soviet hockey in the 90’s, the successors to the KLM-Line, but then things changed.

The political change

Alexei Kasatonov

After becoming president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbatchev reformed the government and made steps towards a more democratic system. After centuries of oppression by the Czars and the communists, the Russian people got more freedom and rights. The wall in Berlin, the symbol of  separation between East and West, came down. It not only meant the reunion of Germany, but was also a sign of the end of communist dictatorship. Under these circumstances, Soviet hockey players rose to complain about their situation under Tikhonov. Their goal was to release the Red Army team to allow them to fulfill their childhood dreams of playing in the National Hockey League.

Igor Larionov

Fetisov and Larionov became the loudest critics of Tikhonov and his way of controlling the players. Makarov and Krutov also showed their unspoken support. Only Kasatonov was loyal to his coach. That was the reason why the friendship between him and the rest of the Green Unit came to an end. Always being  men with visions and  fighters for freedom, Larionov and Fetisov spoke about the NHL and a life without bad treatment. But now was the time, the public could listen to them. In 1988, Larionov wrote an open letter to a popular Russian magazine criticising the situation of being caged and drilled for Soviet hockey praise nearly eleven months a year. He wrote about injections given to other players and the climate of fear and isolation.

Fetisov followed his friend  in an interview about the whole situation. That was the dark side of the glory. In 1989 Fetisov was released from the Red Army team and the Soviet squad. Now all the players stood up and showed their strength as a team. The experienced players, led by the KLM-Line went to a television show and gave Tikhonov an ultimatum. “If Fetisov isn’t allowed to play at the 1989 World Championship we won’t either.” Fetisov was reinstalled, even voted again as team captain. The Soviets won all their games and Fetisov was voted as the tournament’s top defenseman. Those were the signs the NHL officials had been waiting for.

The NHL had been keeping an eye on the Soviet players since their demonstration in the Summit Series. Scouts had been seen on every tournament, observing the players. They contacted players like Tretiak and Kharlamov. The aging Firsov was close to the NHL in the late 70’s, but the government refused him permission to  leave. Some players were allowed to play in several European countries and in the Far East, eg. Yakushev in Austria and Lebedev in West Germany. But these players were already old and had no prospects in the NHL. In 1975 the NHL teams began to draft Soviets, hoping that one day they could play in North America. Viktor Khatulev was the first soviet-trained player, drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975.

Slava Fetisov

By the mid 80’s all the most important Soviet players had been drafted by various teams. But nobody knew though, whether they would ever play in the best league in the world. At that time there was only one chance for the players - defection! There were rumours about the planned defections of Firsov and Kharlamov. Maybe some of the stories were true.

Helmut Balderis

Due to financial problems in their country and the chance to get hard currency for their players, the Soviet officials began to talk with the NHL about releasing some players. Most of the players were officers in the army and only the government could give them permission to leave legally. After a few years of hard negotiations and broken promises, the Soviets finally gave permission for the older players to leave. But the last decision was let up to one man - Viktor Tikhonov. And he wasn’t about to let his best players leave. In fear of never being able to see their country again, they didn’t want to defect.
But after revolution before the World Championships in 1989, things changed very quickly. 

The year of the Soviet

The year 1989 will always remain “The year of the Soviet” in NHL history. Calgary made the first move in signing the modestly talented player Sergei Priakin shortly before their Stanley Cup season ended. He didn’t make much of an impression on the audience and wasn’t a part of the Stanley Cup team. On May 25th, Tass, the Soviet news agency announced that Fetisov, Makarov and Larionov were no longer members of the Soviet army and were free to sign contracts with any hockey team in the world. On July 1st, the Flames signed a contract with Sergei Makarov, while the New Jersey Devils introduced Slava Fetisov and Sergei Starikov to the press. Vancouver Canucks followed by signing Igor Larionov. The headlines in the press were always the same “The Russians are here.”

It was the first wave of Russians to come over to North America. Krutov followed his teammate Larionov to Vancouver. The 37 year- old Helmut Balderis, who was one of the best technical players ever,  went to Minnesota and goaltender Sergei Mylnikov went to Quebec to play for the Nordiques. While only releasing older players from the army, the way for the young ones to the NHL was still closed, so the young Alexander Mogilny decided to defect. During the World Championships in Stockholm he flew with the help of the Buffalo Sabres to the USA. All these players decided to change their lives, to exchange dictatorship for freedom, the quest of the NHL and to show the North Americans that they were not the “big bad machines” and are only sportsmen like all the others in the world who want to play the game they were living for.

The first steps

Sergei Makarov

Apart from Mogilny, the other players were all nearly 30 years old or older when they came to the National Hockey League. They had had their best times in the Soviet Union and nobody knew how they would handle the new situation. Different ice rinks, bigger schedules, the pressure and fights in the NHL, the new language and the completely different culture between the Soviet Union and North America. And there was another big thing. The political cold war was nearly over but the cold war in the heads of the NHL players and spectators was still alive.

The Russians had been their enemies for many decades. Off the ice, the fight against communism and on the ice the fight between two hockey systems. At the beginning, most of the Russian players had a hard time being accepted by their own teammates, and for the opponent teams they were targets to hit. So, the first season was not a success, especially for the older guys. Fetisov had problems with the tough style of NHL hockey, his last fight had been during the Junior World Championship in 1978. Everybody expected so much from him but he couldn’t fulfil the high expectations. Things didn’t improve when Alexei Kasatonov arrived in New Jersey in September 1989. Although they played as a defensive pair, they avoided talking to each other. Fetisov didn’t want to excuse Kasatonov’s spying activities during the eighties.

The expectations in Vancouver concerning the arrival of Larionov and Krutov were very high too. Larionov did his best to get in touch with his new life and with his teammates. He spoke English fluently and made the first steps to break the ice between him and his teammates. But on the ice there was a problem. He had never played dump and chase hockey and he couldn’t change his game, built on exact passes, that he’d learned in the Soviet Union. But at least he tried to do his best . Krutov was a big disappointment for the Canucks officials. Not willing to learn the new language, he didn’t have any contact with the other players and his overweight and bad working attitude did the rest.

Sergei Makarov also had trouble with the dump and chase hockey. He also told a newspaper that he would like to play in Vancouver with Larionov and Krutov, which disturbed the harmony between him and his teammates. But in contrast to his old linemates he played very well. Alexander Mogilny had problems with flying, so he got counseling. But the Buffalo fans and the press thought, it was not the fear of flying, but the player trying to arrange a trade to the New York Rangers. Sergei Mylnikov never managed to become the starting goalie for the Quebec Nordiques. It was his only season in the NHL. Another forgotten player in the NHL was Helmut Balderis, The Latvian was doubtless one of the most popular players in the USSR. He came to Minnesota at the age of 37. He hadn’t played for the last two years because he had been coaching in Japan. The “Electric train” or the “Latvian Guy Lafleur”, as he was called by his fans retired after one season with the North Stars.

The 1990’s

Larionov as a Canuck

At the beginning of the 90’s more and more people were asking themselves, whether the Russians were capable of making it in the NHL. Could those players, who had won everything in their careers, understand the meaning of the Stanley Cup? Sergei Makarov excelled on the ice in winning the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the year in 1990. The others still had problems finding their form. Vladimir Krutov left the Canucks and the NHL to play in Europe, Larionov was disappointed with himself and the others were not the same as in the Soviet Union. They still had a lot to learn. But more and more Soviet players were taking up the challenge and signing contracts with various NHL clubs.

The players now coming to the NHL were no longer the old veterans, but young and hungry for success. The flamboyant Pavel Bure left Russia to play for the Vancouver Canucks. This trade was also very positive for Igor Larionov who found a guy capable of using his creative style to score goals. The third part of the Kid-Line with Bure and Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov, also arrived in the United States after defecting during the Goodwill Games in Seattle in 1991. Guys like Kristich, Irbe and Tatarinov were next. Sometimes the stories of defection read like criminal stories. Vladimir Konstantinov for instance, had a friend who had medical connections. He convinced the doctors to say that Konstantinov had a rare form of cancer and he wouldn’t be able to play hockey again. So the officials released him from his military service and he was able to fly to Detroit. When he arrived he signed a contract with the Red Wings.

But what happened to the international success of the Soviet squad after losing so many players to North America? They still had a lot of talent and with the help of veterans who had already been eliminated with their teams from the playoffs, the Soviet Union were able to win the World Championships in 1990. That was the last Championship medal that they were able to win with the four letters CCCP on their jerseys.

The team that entered the Junior World Championship in 1991 began the tournament as Soviet Union and ended it as Unified team. The Soviet Union was history and it now split up into several countries. After winning the Olympic games as Unified team, led by the veterans Bykov and Khomutov, considered at that time to be the best pair who had never played in the NHL, the official successor of the Soviet Union in the IIHF was going to Russia.

Under former great Boris Mikhailov as coach, the Russian team was able to win the Gold Medal in the World Championships in Germany in 1993. That was the last World Championship medal to go to a former Soviet state.

Meanwhile the players in the NHL excelled more and more and took over important parts in their teams. The young guys like Bure, Mogilny and Fedorov became scoring machines and the veterans were also able to use their experience and skills in their teams. Makarov and Larionov were reunited in San Jose and played together like in the good old days. Also Fetisov and Kasatonov, who were now playing in different teams, became in the meanwhile accustomed to the NHL. In 1994, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup with Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov, Sergei Zubov and Alexander Karpovtsev on their roster. Those players were the first Russians to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. Five years after the arrival of Sergei Priakin, there were now 55 Soviet-trained players in the NHL. Some of them won important NHL awards. It was now normal to have Russians in the NHL.

1997 was a special year for Igor Larionov and Viacheslav Fetisov. Already in their late 30’s, they were finally able to fulfil their dreams of holding the Stanley Cup above their heads.

After winning national titles, World and European Championships, the Olympics and the war against a whole system, they finally won the Stanley Cup. It was an emotional moment, as both veterans took the Cup and showed it to the spectators in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Ten years earlier, nobody ever would have believed, that a Russian would lift the Cup into the air. And now these guys, heroes in their own country, had made the final step in their careers. With Fedorov, Kozlov and Konstantinov they built the first complete Russian line in NHL history. In 1998 they were able to win the Cup again. After their first title in 1997 Fetisov, Larionov and Kozlov brought the Cup to Russia for the first time and showed it to the fans at the former headquarters of communism, the Red Square in Moscow.

Slava and Igor lifting the Cup

The NHL is meanwhile an international league. Every fourth player is from Europe, among them nearly 70 Russians. The minor leagues are also full of players from many countries. They are all integrated and don’t have as many problems as the veterans did in 1989. But what happened to those veterans? Larionov is still playing in Detroit, Fetisov is an assistant coach for the Devils, while Krutov has the same job in Moscow. Kasatonov is GM for the Red Army and Makarov is enjoying his new life in Southern California.

The future of Russian Hockey

It’s unbelievable, but the last World Championship medal won by Russia was the Gold in 1993. The players leave the country at a very early age to play in the NHL or in different European leagues. Most of the Russian league (RHL) teams don’t have any money. The whole country is in a bad crisis, and hockey is on the same level. The only positive appearance of a Russian team in the last few years was the Silver medal in the Olympic games in Nagano in 1998. The deepest point was the horrible performance on their own ice during the World Championship in St. Petersburg in 2000. The stars, led by Bure, Yashin and Kamensky showed a lousy working attitude and Russia ended up 11th, the worst place ever in history. Most people in the Russian Hockey Federation are busy with their own careers and not really interested in what’s happening on the ice. There are a lot of rumours about the influence of the mafia in the RHL. National coach Boris Mikhailov is not very popular with the players either. The fans hope that Slava Fetisov will become the new “Messiah” of Russian hockey. 

Hopefully there are still some children skating on frozen ponds in Russia and dreaming of becoming the next Larionov, Makarov, Fedorov or Bure. That would be the last chance to bring back hockey glory to this country.

Quo vadis, Russia??