Dec. 29,1969 Soviets vs Junior Canadiens

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Canadiens1958, Oct 30, 2011.

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  1. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Another in the series of Soviet vs Junior Canadiens games. This one had a twist as the Junior Canadiens iced graduates from the 1969 Memorial Cup team. Players who were first year pros plus others like Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin and Bobby Lalonde who would go on to successful NHL careers after leading the Junior Canadiens to a second consecurive Memorial Cup in 1970.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Fr8DH2VBP9sC&dat=19691230&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

    story top of page 8.

    The game was played a few months after the IIHF introduced body checking in the offensive zone. A young Vladislav Tretiak finished the game for the Soviets.
     
  2. Zine

    Zine Registered User

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    I find these articles very interesting yet they only add to question of where Soviet hockey was at this time.
    It's almost inconceivable that the national team went from losing to the junior Canadiens to a mere 3 years later being on the same level as Canada's best (using many of the same players).

    One could assume that:
    1. Much like NHL teams, Soviets did not take these games seriously; or
    2. Per the Red Berenson quote I posted the other day, there wasn't that big of gap between junior and NHL hockey at the time. I think you mentioned junior Canadiens also beat the Rangers.

    Interesting stuff nonetheless.
     
  3. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Key Questions

    Juniors lost 8-3 to the Rangers. A couple of nights later the Rangers lost to the NHL Canadiens 5 - 0. From memory the Junior Canadiens beat a 6th place Hawks team by a goal.

    The gap in the O6 NHL top to bottom was not as huge as people wish to believe today. 1964 last place Bruins beat the reigning and future SC Champion Leafs 11-0 in Toronto on a Saturday night. Leafs then went into Chicago and shutout the Hawks, Sunday night. Same goalie for Toronto, Don Simmons. Basic issue during the O6 era was the schedule. A team playing its 3rd game in 4 nights against a team with 6 days rest did not perform well.

    There are a few key questions that deserve study.

    The influence of Doug Harvey on the way Soviet defensemen played. Harvey, a LHS, could play equally well on either side and transition the puck from anywhere in the defensive zone. Usually defensemen favour one side or the other. The Soviets had very few RHS defensemen, mainly LHS. Their better defensemen - Vasiliev and Fetisov moved the puck similar to Harvey.

    The 1969 IIHF rule change that allowed bodychecking by the offensive team in the offensive zone accelerated the development of European hockey just as it did university hockey in the USA. Conversely pre 1969 European players have to be considered in the light of the old rules.

    Gap between junior and pro was huge. Typical junior season was app 42 games, NHL and minor pro was 70. Semi pro was closer to junior in schedule length. One game, depending how it fit the schedule of each team could always produce strange results. A season would not.

    The Ragulin quote is interesting. 7 games in 13 days, granted in a foreign country, on the road across 5-7 time zones BUT adults often playing against kids or semi pros. Typical O6 NHL schedule would be 6 or 7 games within 14 days. Canadiens would play Saturday night, then take the train after the game to a Sunday away game. Trip to Chicago was 22 hours. Sleep on the train, arrive about 90 minutes before game time, play then back on the train. Doubt if the Soviets or other European stars from the sixties could sustain such a pace over 70 games.
     
  4. Zine

    Zine Registered User

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    It would be intersting to see the complete roster. All the notable 70's era players were all still young. Ragulin was in the middle of his prime. Solodukhin, Andreev, Shepovalov weren't anything too great. Both Romischevsky and Populanov were pretty good. A extremely solid roster nonetheless that should not be losing to junior teams.

    There's a few quotes from the Canadien players regarding level of effort. It would appear the Soviets were tired/run down and expecting a light game. Yet when faced with an unfamiliar and physically taxing forcheck, likely wanted nothing more than to finish the game, get the heck out of Dodge and get some sleep.
    Regardless, this series might have been one of the greater learning experiences for the Soviet program.....i.e. a true introduction to NA offensive zone bodychecking that, as you alluded to, helped accelerate the development of Soviet/European hockey. It's quite ironic and humbling that it, at least in part, would be at the hands of a junior team.
     
  5. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    They were not used to it, so the answer is no. Schedules in Europe were clearly more comfortable. I don't have access to the 1968-69 Soviet League schedule, the closest I could find is the 1982-83 schedule (http://hockey365.celeonet.fr/hockeyarchives/URSS1983.htm): CSKA Moscow played 4-5 games in 14 days, while the 1968-69 Montreal Canadiens played 5-7 games in 14 days (1968-69 NHL Schedule and Results | Hockey-Reference.com).
    But what would have stopped Europeans from adapting to the NHL pace? After all, the Soviets generally were in good physical condition. It would've taken a season of adaptation or two and that would've been it. Peter Šťastný said that when he came to the NHL in 1980 he felt completely exhausted by the time Christmas 1980 came around. The unfamiliar strenuous schedule took its toll. But it didn't stop Šťastný from his NHL career.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  6. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Train Travel

    The issue is the mid sixties where travel was by train not the early eighties when teams flew.

    Contrast your comments about the Soviet flight to the Montreal game in 1964 with the Canadiens talking the train to Chicago and back, a 44 hour round trip within 48 to 50 hours, repeated upwards of seven times a seasons plus playoffs without complaint.

    Peter Stastny is a unique example. He could not go back, neither could his brothers. The European players that came over pre 1970 Sven Tumba and Ulf Sterner could go back and did. Jirik was older and the situation was similar.
     
    Last edited by moderator Theokritos: Dec 21, 2017
  7. Zine

    Zine Registered User

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    I'm not sure I understand your argument. Are you suggesting, given proper adjustment time, pre-1970s Europeans wouldn't have been able to adapt to an NHL travel schedule?
     
  8. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Evidence

    The limited evidence - Tumba and Sterner, is that they did not.

    Proper adjustment time is a poorly defined phrase. Exactly how much time? Pre fall 1969 you also have the issue of different IIHF rules especially bodychecking in all the zones.

    As a counterpoint look at how well the better players from the Canadian National team adapted. Fran Huck and Marshall Johnston had moderate success but others US National team players - Tom Williams(1960) took app 1 1/2 seasons in the EPHL before making a very weak Boston team. Lou Nanne took 5-6 seasons after university(1963) before playing regularly in the post expansion NHL.

    You could also consider how long it took players like Red Berenson - 1959 WC:

    http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/b/berenre01.html

    Did not become an NHL regular until after the 1967 expansion.

    Charlie Burns - Whitby Dunlops, third liner, all purpose forward for a few seasons with non playoff teams before being sent to the minors then bouncing back in a similar role post expansion, getting into some playoffs.

    Looking at comparisons for European players from the same competitions I do not see the potential for a quicker adaptation period. Especially when other factors are considered from culture and language down to previous exposure to NA hockey rules, coaching and competition at the junior and semi pro levels.
     
  9. Zine

    Zine Registered User

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    Respectfully disagree.

    Tumba played 5 games. Sterner 1 year. That's hardly enough of a sample size.

    The 70s Sovets were developed in the 1960s under the 'old' IIHF rules. It took them very little time to adapt to the new NA style changes. Even an old and run down Ragulin (who played his entire career under old IIHF rules) didn't look out of place at the Summit Series.
    The first wave of young Soviet players were able to overcome cultural and stylistic differences. Even the majority of the 'past their prime Green Unit' were able to carve out solid NHL careers.

    Fact is, by and large, great players will and can adapt no matter what....particularly if the adaptation is early enough in one's career. This has been proven time and time again. Insinuating that a particlar rule change, or traveling by train rather than air would hinder this is pure nonsense.

    For the most part it's not a matter of adaptation, but rather talent level.....which begs the bigger question, at what level where the 1960s European greats?
     
  10. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    True

    The points you raise(bolded) are true.

    Still the Sven Tumba and Sterner experiments are all we have as evidence.

    Yes the 1972 Soviet Nationals were developed collectively under the pre 1969 IIHF rules.Starting in 1969 all the players had to change. As such they changed and played collectively. Practice time had to be allotted by all the European teams at all levels to explain the new rules, new strategies, individual responsibilities, etc.
    In Europe this had to be done and was done during an era with shorter schedules and less travel which allowed for more in season practice time. Would the NHL teams be willing to accommodate the star players from 1960s Europe or would they be treated like Sterner, sent to the minors to adapt his game there?

    The 1980s Soviet players, including the new wave had advantages that the European Stars from the 1960s did not have. With the various tours and competitions, the "Green Unit" had played upwards of 50 games each against actual NHL players in competition. The junior Soviets had exposure to NA juniors as well. Add the availability of video and they all had advantages that the Soviets/Europeans from the 1960s did not have. Much easier to adapt under such circumstances.

    From the Soviet players I saw playing in Montreal against the Junior Canadiens pre 1967 expansion the following were deserving of a training camp with an NHL team before their 25th birthday. Alexandrov, Almetov, Davydov, Firsov,Kuzkin, Boris Mayarov, Starshinov. Ragulin perhaps.

    Success for the forwards would be a question of how quickly they would develop a complete defensive game. Defensemen question of learning the league and moving the puck quickly/effectively when pressured. Ragulin foot speed and movement issues, same problems that prevented other big defensemen from Canada from having worthwhile NHL careers pre expansion.
     

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