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The NHL versus Russia

The NHL’s arrival in Europe last week coincided with two exhibition games between the leagues teams and their Russian rivals; the KHL. First up was an aggressive affair between the Carolina Hurricanes and SKA St. Petersburg. In a role reversal between leagues, SKA came out playing aggressively, so much so, in fact, that Hurricanes coach, Paul Maurice pulled his star players; Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward from the game as it deteriorated into a slugfest which resulted in a 5-3 victory for SKA. The other interleague game featured the Phoenix Coyotes gaining a measure of revenge for the NHL, by defeating Dynamo Riga 3-1. The interleague games were part of a longstanding tradition of play between the NHL and Russia. With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at some of the most famous and infamous matchups between the two rivals.

1. The Montreal Canadiens versus Central Red Army
    December 31st, 1975

This matchup featured the most successful franchises from the NHL and the former Soviet league as the Canadiens played host to the Red Army team. Montreal featured Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey among others against Valeri Kharlamov, Vladislav Tretiak, Vladimir Petrov and Boris Mikhailov. The level of play was as high as the 72’ Summit Series as the star players from each team were entering their prime. Despite outshooting Red Army 38-13, the Canadiens were forced to settle with a 3-3 tie, due to the outstanding play of Tretiak. This game would cement Tretiak’s longstanding relationship withe the city of Montreal, as the team would go on to draft the goaltender 138th overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, despite Soviet players not being allowed to compete in the NHL.

2. The Philadelphia Flyers vs Central Red Army
        January 11th, 1976

Less than two weeks removed from their epic confrontation with the Canadiens, the Red Army would meet the defending Stanley Cup Champions; the Philadelphia Flyers. However, this matchup would feature far less artistry than its predecessor as the Flyers lived up to their Broad Street Bullies moniker by literally driving the Soviet players from the rink after they took exception to a dangerous hit from Flyers defencemen Ed Van Impe on Valeri Kharlamov. Under Flyers owner Ed Snider’s threat of not being paid, the Soviets returned to the ice, only to lose 4-1 in a raucous affair.

3. 1979 Challenge Cup
    February 8, 10, 11th 1979

It can be argued that the Soviets were at the peak of their powers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. At this time, two generations of players were united as Petrov, Mikhailov and Kharlamov were joined by Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov. The Challenge Cup featured the Soviet National Team against an NHL All-Star team led by Lafleur, Bobby Clarke and Mike Bossy. After splitting the first two games at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the Soviets blitzed the NHL team by a score of 6-0. This would be the start of a tumultuous few years for the Soviet team as they were upset by Team USA at the 1980 Winter Olympics, only to go on and trounce Team Canada 8-1 at the 1981 Canada Cup. 

4. Rendez-Vous 87
    February 11, 13th, 1987

For years, Wayne Gretzky had been calling for more competitions between the NHL and the Soviet Union. The NHL also hoped to gain a measure of revenge against the Soviets in best-on-best competition. Held in Quebec City, the Soviet side was led by the Green Unit, Larionov, Makarov and Krutov, who were flanked by defensive stalwarts; Viacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov. The NHL squad responded with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri. However, neither side would claim superiority as they split the two games, with the NHL winning game one 4-3 and the Soviets taking game two 5-3. This event was a precursor to Canada Cup 87, where Gretzky and Lemieux would combine to defeat the Soviets in a thrilling best of three final.

Filed in: Non-NHL Hockey, International Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: alexei+kasatonov, bob+gainey, bobby+clarke, boris+mikhailov, guy+lafleur, igor+larionov, jari+kurri, ken+dryden, larry+robinson, mario+lemieux, mark+messier, mike+bossy, montreal+canadiens, sergei+makarov, valeri+kharlamov, viacheslav+fetisov, vladimir+krutov, vladimir+petrov, vladislav+tretiak, wayne+gretzky


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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com


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