|National federation||Ice Hockey Federation of Russia|
|IIHF since||April 1, 1952 (Soviet Union)|
|Top league||Kontinental Hockey League|
|Current champion||SKA Saint Petersburg|
Russia is an European country, bordered by Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (Kaliningrad Oblast), Poland (Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It is also close to the U.S. state of Alaska, Sweden and Japan across relatively small stretches of water (the Bering Strait, the Baltic Sea, and La Pérouse Strait, respectively). There are a little over 142 million people living in Russia, whose capital is Moscow.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History of hockey in Russia
- 3 References
- Russian National Team
- Russian Junior National Team
- Women's Russian National Team
- Soviet National Team
- Soviet Junior National Team
- CIS National Team
- CIS Junior National Team
|Kontinental Hockey League||2008||-||Top-level multi-national competition|
|Supreme Hockey League||2010||-||Second-level multi-national competition|
|Russian Hockey League||1992||-||Third-level national competition|
|International Hockey League||1992||1996||Defunct top-level competition|
|Russian Superleague||1996||2008||Defunct top-level competition|
|Vysshaya Liga||1992||2010||Defunct second-level competition|
|Russian Hockey Second League||1992||2009||Defunct fourth-level competition|
|Junior Hockey League||2009||-||Top-level junior competition|
|Junior Hockey League Championships||2011||-||Second-level junior competition|
|Russian junior competitions||1992||2010||Various junior competitions|
|Russian Women's Hockey League||1995||-||National women's competition|
|Soviet Championship League||1946||1992||Top-level national league|
|Pervaya Liga||1947||1992||Second-level national league|
|Vtoraya Liga||1963||1992||Third-level national league|
|Klass B||1966||1982||Fourth-level national league|
|RSFSR Championship||1947||1977||Regional Russian competition|
|Chuvash ASSR Championship||1962||1989 (?)||Regional competition|
|Udmurt ASSR Championship||1984 (?)||1989 (?)||Regional competition|
|Bashkir ASSR Championship||1979 (?)||1988 (?)||Regional competition|
|Soviet Cup||1951||1989||Cup competition|
|Soviet Sport Tournament||1956||1988||Collection of tournaments|
|Soviet junior competitions||1992||Various junior competitions|
History of hockey in Russia
For more information on the early years of bandy/hockey in the country, please see Early Russian Ice Hockey.
Early years (1912-1945)
Chokkej, the Russian version of bandy, was long the dominant sport in Russia and then the Soviet Union. Prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917, the country briefly joined the International Ice Hockey Federation (then the LIHG), but since the Canadian version of ice hockey ("kanadskij hokkej" or "hokkej s sjsjboi" [hockey with a puck]) failed to gain a foothold among clubs and players, the Russian Hockey Union soon withdrew from the federation.
Nothing happened on the ice hockey front again until 1932, although bandy was still played regularly and was very popular. That March, ice hockey players from the German Labour Sport Union visited Moscow to demonstrate the game. Several of the German players were members of the 1932 German Olympic team. They faced a team composed of bandy players from CSKA Moscow. The bandy players won all three games against the Germans, but the event was poorly-received by the Soviet media. At this time, "Western Hockey" was generally viewed with derision by the press, who often described it as a bourgeois game that was unacceptable for proletarian athletes to play. However, the Leningrad Spartak magazine did give the new sport a tacit endorsement in November 1931, stating that "An advantage of Canadian hockey, is in the size of the ice fields. It would be possible to set up a hockey ground on any skating rink."
Efforts were made to stage a Russian Championship in ice hockey in 1933. The rules of the Moscow bandy championship were amended to state that five clubs (Central Army Sports Club, Promkooperatsiya, Dukat, Serp i Molot and Dynamo) should also feature ice hockey teams in addition, with the matches played counting for the championship. However, a shortage of equipment and lack of interest from the players and clubs prevented this initiative from getting off the ground.
In 1935, K. Kvashnin, the captain of the Moscow bandy selects, wrote a letter to the newspaper Krasnyi Sport writing that ice hockey should be taken up "as soon as possible". Nothing became of his attempts, but in 1938, the first hockey rink was built in the eastern section of Dynamo's stadium in Moscow. The Moscow Sports Committee also required the top bandy clubs in the Moscow championship to have a "Canadian hockey" team as well. A lack of suitable equipment again led to these efforts fizzling. In 1939, ice hockey was introduced at the Institute of Physical Culture of Sport, allowing students, including the future legendary coach Anatoli Tarasov, to play the game as a part of their studies.
Soviet Hockey Emerges (1946-1963)
The war prevented further developments from occurring for six years, but after its conclusion, Tarasov banded together with other bandy and football players from the Moscow clubs (Dynamo, Spartak and Krylya) to promote the game. In late 1946, the Institute of Physical Culture and Sport approved the Soviet Championship in ice hockey to be contested. HC Dynamo Moscow, led by player-coach Arkady Chernyshev who also scored the championship's first goal. Anatoly Tarasov was the player-coach of VVS Moscow, who finished second in Group A in the opening phase and fifth overall. Tarasov scored 14 goals, the highest total of the season. He later quit and joined CDKA, later known as HC CSKA Moscow, the following season.
The March 1948 visit of the famous LTC Praha club to Moscow was a hugely important event in the development of Soviet hockey. They played three games against a Soviet all-star team, composed mostly of CSKA players, including Yevgeni Babich, Vsevolod Bobrov and Tarasov formed the top Soviet line The games all attracted crowds of nearly 30,000, and the Soviets performed admirably, winning the first game (6:3), losing the second (5:3) and drawing the third game (2:2). LTC was largely comprised of Czechoslovak National Team players. The national team had recently won the silver medal at the 1948 Winter Olympics. Thus, Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, felt more confident that the Soviet Union could be competitive in ice hockey. The burgeoning Cold War led to Stalin wanting to use sports to further the Communist ideology. As ice hockey was a much more popular sport worldwide than bandy, it was endorsed by the Kremlin.
As the coach (and player) for the most influential and powerful club, CSKA (at the time known as CDKA) Moscow, Tarasov was a key figure in developing Russia's unique hockey style. It was his ideals and philosophies that shaped the Russian game into what it is today- fast, graceful, non-individualistic, and patriotic. Initially, he wanted to go to Canada to study how the Canadians played the game, but his mentor, Mikhail Tavarovsky from the Institute of Physical Culture, advised against this, saying "There's nothing for you in Canada, devise your own style". He decided to use the Russian's skills in bandy to give the Soviet teams an advantage. His mantra was incredibly fast skating, crisp passing, and accurate shooting. "Don't shoot unless you're certain to score", he instructed his players, and also advocated for rapid strings of passing, once saying " "after all, the ultimate aim of a pass was to get a free player. So if our opponents make 150 passes in a game against our 270, this means we had 120 more playing opportunities."
Tarasov also emphasized superior physical fitness - he made his players to run stairs and throw logs for hours at a time. He was a strict disciplinarian who demanded complete obedience; he was intolerant of individualism and his firey temper kept everyone in line. Many great players developed under his system in the 1960s. Among these were: Vitaly Davydov, Anatoli Firsov, Vyacheslav Starshinov, Veniamin Alexandrov, Alexander Ragulin, Alexander Yakushev, Konstantin Loktev, and goalie Viktor Konovalenko. This group was followed by other greats who would represent the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series against Canada, including Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Valeri Vasiliev, Alexander Maltsev, Valeri Kharlamov, and a brilliant young goaltender named Vladislav Tretiak.
Tarasov's CSKA club won the Soviet Championship three straight years from 1948 to 1950, but were usurped by VVS Moscow, who reigned supreme from 1951 to 1953. Several top CSKA players, including Bobrov and Babich, joined VVS, which was managed by Joseph Stalin's son, Vasily. After Joseph Stalin died, de-stalinization resulted in the unceremonious dissolution of VVS and the club's merger with CSKA.
The Soviet National Team made its international debut on April 22, 1951, defeating East Germany 23-2, and the country joined the International Ice Hockey Federation a year later, on April 1, 1952. The Soviets took a while to play internationally as the Kremlin wished to wait until the team could be competitive with the world's best - especially Canada. They were initially going to play in the 1953 World Championship, but after an injury to Vsevolod Bobrov, the federation elected to postpone their debut to 1954. The Soviets beat all their European opponents, save Sweden (1-1 tie), setting up a showdown with Canada, represented by the East York Lyndhursts, for the gold medal. The Soviets claimed a 7-2 victory and would remain a power in international hockey for the next 40 years. This was also the start of a long-standing rivalry with the Canadians.
At the time, the Europeans did not really recognize that Canada's was represented by a third rank team (the Lyndhursts were a Senior B team from Ontario - far below the level of play in the NHL). For this reason, the result did not go unnoticed in Canada - it was a disaster for the country's national pride, and it prompted Conn Smythe to call for an NHL team to go to Moscow after the playoffs to restore Canada's "rightful" place in the hockey world. Unbeknownst to Smythe, the Soviet Union did not even have an indoor rink at the time (the first one, Luzhinki, was built in 1957). Playing in the Russian spring was impossible.
In 1955, Canada (represented by Penctinton Vees) regained the top spot by defeating the Soviets 5:0 in the final game. But in 1956, the Soviets claimed Olympic gold, going undefeated. This made the Soviet hockey officials confident that USSR would claim the 1957 World Championship, hosted in Moscow. The tournament coincided with the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Russian Revolution. It wound up being a calamity for the Soviet team, who needed to beat Sweden in the final game to win the gold. After two periods, the hosts were leading 4:2, but in the Swedes scored twice in the 3rd period and won the gold.
This disaster led the resignation of Arkady Chernyshev, the long-time national team coach, and the insertion of Tarasov as the coach. His coaching style was not well liked by some of the players, and following a third-place finish at the 1960 Winter Olympics, an insurrection was carried out by several veteran players, which led to Tarasov resigning as coach of the national team and CSKA.
The top officials, however, soon learned that the legendary coach was indispensable. In 1961 (one year later) Tarasov was re-appointed as coach for the two most prestigous teams. After the defeat in the 1962 world championships, it was decided to couple him with the other great coach and builder, Arkady Chernyshev.
The Golden Era (1963-1972)
The loose cannon Tarasov and reserved Chernyshev formed the perfect coaching duo. Between 1963 and the winter of 1972, USSR won nine straight World Championships and three consecutive Olympic golds. At the two tournaments during this time span, the USSR won 68 games and lost only 6.
With the exception of Sweden two times (1963 and 1970), the USSR only lost to Czechoslovakia (on four occasions), but those defeats was usually a part of a plan to help their communist allies score a better finish at the tournaments. In 1967, Czechoslovakia needed to beat the Soviets in the final game to win the silver medal. The USSR had already clinched gold and top officials from the federation in Moscow pressured the team to lose that final game. The players, led by Anatoli Firsov, resisted, arguing that such a loss would be dishonest. The Soviets won 4-2 and thus Czechoslovakia was left off the podium. Sweden took silver, and Canada bronze. When the Soviets returned home, they received a very icy reception.
In the following years, the players succumbed to their leaders. At the 1968 Winter Olympics, USSR lost to Czechoslovakia (5:4). This assured Czechoslovakia the silver. In 1969, USSR lost two games - both to Czechoslovakia - but still won the gold medal. In 1971, the USSR again handed their slavic brothers a victory to gift them the silver.
As time went on, Tarasov had enjoyed enough success that he started to believe that he was not only above the top officials of the hockey federation, but also the political leadership in the Kremlin. For instance, in a gold medal game in the Soviet Championship between his CSKA and Spartak Moscow, CSKA had a goal annulled. With Leonid Brezhnev, the minister of defence and the chairman of the Sports Committee (and later Soviet premier), in attendance, Tarasov then told his team to leave the ice. The team was then approached by the minister and the chairman, but the players held firm - standing up for their coach. After 28 minutes, Brezhnev finally got tired of waiting, and told the game officials to let Tarasov get his way. The decision to annul the goal was reversed!
With his increasingly obnoxious behavior, Tarasov created many enemies in the highest political circles, and the end of his tenure appeared imminent. The officials only waited for the end of the Soviet winning streak, which happened at the 1972 World Championships, where the hosts Czechoslovakia edged out the Soviets for gold. At that time, Tarasov was still extremely powerful. It should also be kept in mind that the USSR earlier that year had won an even more prestigious title, the Olympics. But Tarasov made it more easy to depose him by announcing his resignation, along with Chernyshev. Tarasov and Chernyshev were simply exhausted after the two big tournaments, and they wanted to take a break. The federation took this opportunity to hire another coach, the legendary Vsevelod Bobrod.
Tarasov and Chernyshev, however, made it clear that they were only taking a break, and that they wanted to return for the Summit Series later that year. This started a tug-of-war which created a lot of unrest on the national team. Many of the players remained loyal to Tarasov and Chernyshev, and they had great difficulties respecting a new coach, even if his name was Bobrov. The country's biggest star at the time, Anatoli Firsov simply refused to play for the team as long as it was not coached by Tarasov. His rebellion was officially kept secret, and his absence in the Summit Series was explained by a non-existent injury.
Transition and Continued Success (1973-1991)
Thus, just as the USSR reached their zenith by finally facing the Canadian NHL professionals in the Summit Series (losing narrowly 4-3-1 and greatly impressing everyone in Canada - the media, the fans, and the NHL'ers they faced), the golden years of Soviet hockey were reaching an end.
In the subsequent championships throughout the 1970s, the USSR national team was plagued by great internal discontent. No coaches received the respect, loyalty and obedience like Tarasov and Chernyshev, and when practicing during the World Championships, the stars often behaved markedly differently than in the Tarasov-Chernyshev era. Instead of focusing on the practice, they often stood in the rink side speaking with hockey manufacturers, club officials and journalists.
In his time as coach for the national team, Bobrov benefited from what Tarasov, Chernyshev and other club coaches had build up. At the time, the Soviet League was packed with young talents and the league was as competitive as ever, although CSKA Moscow was obviously the dominant force. In fact, they won no fewer than 16 league championships between 1955 and 1975.
In 1973, USSR won its most convincing World Championship gold ever. scoring 100 goals in 10 straight wins. Vladimir Petrov topped the scoring leader list with 34 points. In 1974, the competition was much closer as USSR need to beat Czechoslovakia in the final game to win the gold. USSR was behind 0:1 after the first period. During the intermission a top official from the Russian hockey federation entered the locker room. Bobrov coldly asked him to close the door - from the outside. The official turned red and left the room in anger. In the 2nd period, USSR intimidated the Czechs by playing incredibly hard. The Soviet players had completely abandoned their old hockey style, playing a more physical brand of hockey - the "Canadian" style if you will. The biggest Czech star, Vladimir Martinec was injured and USSR quickly scored three unanswered goals to win the gold.
The game was bad prestige for USSR. But neither this, nor Bobrov's public humiliation of the official, explained his resignation after the championships. The fact was that he couldn't handle the players. He was therefore forced to handle the torch to Boris Kulagin, a disciple of Tarasov and successful coach of Krylya Sovetov Moscow (who had just won the 1974 Soviet League championship). The situation went from bad to worse after Kulgain took the reigns. T USSR suffered the humiliating defeat to Poland at the 1976 World Championship and had to settle for silver, and in 1977 for bronze.
Kulagin was then replaced by Viktor Tikhonov and exiled to coach the Danish club Rødovre Mighty Bulls. His assistant coach, Konstatin Loktev, mysteriously suffered an accident at a training camp in Poland, preventing him from continuing his duties. Tikhonov wanted to take full control of the players and re-introduce the disciplined and tough regime employed by Tarasov. The price: The domestic league had to accomodate CSKA and the national team. He demanded that the best Soviet talents be transferred to CSKA where he was also named coach. The deprivation of talents from other teams was made worse by the fact that the country's production of hockey talents had slowed down after the Tarasov-Chernyshev era.
Tikhonov got his way and CSKA was enforced by notable young talents such as Makarov and Starikov (Traktor), Kapustin (Krylya), Kasatonov and Drozdetsky (SKA), Balderis (Riga), Lobanov (Spartak) and Glimayev (Salavat). The decisions were defended by the fact that the young players were to serve in the military, and CSKA was the army's club. Tikhonov exercised nearly absolute control over his players' lives. His teams practiced for 10 to 11 months a year, and the players were confined to barracks throughout that time. CSKA went on to win every league championship contested between 1977 and 1989, running roughshod over their opponents
Tikhonov quickly got the red machine churning again, and the USSR won another two World Championship golds in 1978 and 1979. The Soviets did however experience a shocking defeat to the American National Team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Termed the "Miracle on Ice", the Soviets were stunned by the hosts 4-3 and had to settle for silver. In an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden just prior to the tournament, the USSR had waxed the Americans 10-3. Tikhonov later said that this victory "turned out to be a very big problem" by causing the Soviets to underestimate the American team. In the Soviet locker room, Tikhonov singled out his top players Tretiak, Kharlamov, Petrov, and Mikhailov, and told each of them, "This is your loss!" Two days after the Miracle on Ice, the Soviet team defeated Sweden 9–2, winning the silver medal. The Soviet players were so upset at their loss that they did not turn in their silver medals to get their names inscribed on them, as is custom.
The Soviets soon returned to their winning ways however, claiming the gold at the next three World Championships and the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. They also finished first at the WC in 1986, 1989, and 1990. Sergei Makarov made the All-Star Team at seven straight World Championships between 1981 and 1989 while defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov was honored at eight straight tournaments from 1982 to 1991. The latter also won the IIHF Directorate Award as the best defenseman in 1978, 1982, 1985, 1986 and 1989. Vladisav Tretiak retired in 1984 and became the first Soviet player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.
As the Soviet Union weakened toward the end of the 1980s, Tikhonov's fear of defections since was so great that he cut players when he thought they might defect. In 1991, for instance, he cut Pavel Bure, Valeri Zelepukin, Evgeny Davydov, and Vladimir Konstantinov just before the 1991 Canada Cup. All of them had been drafted by NHL teams, and Tikhonov might have thought that they might defect if they were allowed to go to the West, just like Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov had done. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tikhonov mellowed his style considerably. He later served as Russia's coach in 1994 and 2004.
A list of notable Soviet players would include: Yevgeny Babich, Helmuts Balderis, Vsevolod Bobrov, Vyacheslav Bykov, Vitaly Davydov, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Anatoli Firsov, Valeri Kamensky, Sergei Kapustin, Alexei Kasatonov, Valeri Kharlamov, Vladimir Krutov, Alfred Kuchevsky, Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Alexander Maltsev, Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Alexander Ragulin, Vyacheslav Starshinov, Vladislav Tretiak, Valeri Vasiliev, Alexander Yakushev, Yevgeni Zimin, and Viktor Zinger.
Russian Independence (1991-present)
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Unified Team, coached by Tikhonov, won gold at the 1992 Winter Olympics. The International Hockey League replaced the Soviet League, and was itself rechristened as the Russian Hockey League in 1996. From 1996 to 1999, league membership was Russian-only. In 1999, membership was opened and the league went international, and was renamed the Russian Superleague.
On the international level, the Russian National Team is still very competitive, continuously ranked in the elite of the world and part of the Big Six. Although they won the 1993 WC, the team struggled throughout much of the 1990s and early 2000s. Most of the top Russian players left the country to play in the NHL. Stars such as Sergei Makarov, Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov, Alexandre Mogilny and Alexei Zhamnov became household names in North America. Many players disagreed with the policies of the Russian Hockey Federation and refused to play for the national team. Some of the disputes were resolved in time for 1998 Winter Olympics, where the Russians fell to the Czech Republic in the gold medal game.
After an embarrassing 11th place finish on home ice at the 2000 World Championship, Russia's international results have slowly improved. Led by a new era of stars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin, and Ilya Kovalchuk, they have won gold at the World Championships four times since 2008 (2008, 2009, 2012, and 2014). The 2014 Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, Russia, were a massive disappointment for the hosts. With a loaded roster, the Russians hopes of winning gold on home ice were dashed when they bowed out in the quarterfinals, 3-1 to Finland. This result led to the dismissal of former Soviet national team player Zinetula Bilyaletdinov as head coach. The disappointment was eased some by claiming WC gold several months later.
The Kontinental Hockey League was formed as the successor to the Russian Superleague in 2008. It is among the top professional leagues in the world and is a multi-national entity, which also features teams from Latvia, Finland, Croatia, Slovakia, and Kazakhstan. The KHL is generally considered to be the second-best hockey league after the National Hockey League. Below the KHL lie the Supreme Hockey League and the Russian Hockey League. The Junior Hockey League was founded as the top-tier junior competition in 2009.
The women's national team made its international debut in an exhibition match against Switzerland in 1994, a game in which they lost 2-1. The team won the silver medal at the IIHF European Women Championships in 1996, and claimed bronze at the IIHF World Women's Championships in 2001, 2013, and 2016. They have appeared in all four Olympic tournaments since 2002. The Women's U18 national team has participated at the IIHF World Women's U18 Championships annually since 2008.
The junior national team first appeared internationally at the 1993 IIHF World U20 Championships. Prior to this, the Soviet junior team had won 11 golds at the WJC. The Russian juniors have won gold at the world juniors four times - in 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2011.