Why did the USSR catch up Canada so fast?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Peter25, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    The Soviet Union first participated in the ice hockey World Championships in 1954. In 1972 they played the Super Series against Canada and the games showed that the Soviets had fully caught up Canada. By the late 1970s the Soviets were already ahead Canada and clearly the top hockey country in the world.

    What made all this possible? There was only 18 years between 1954 and 1972. In just 18 years the Soviets went from ground zero to the best hockey nation in the world. How did the Soviets caught up Canada, who had a 100 year old hockey history and far more hockey resources (players, teams, rinks, equipment etc.), so fast?
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  2. Nalyd Psycho

    Nalyd Psycho Registered User

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    I disagree with your point that the Soviets were the top hockey country in the world, but, besides that...

    The reasons are:
    1. They could build on the back of what Canada had learned. Tarasov was able to start from where hockey was tactically and technically in the late 40's and build a style from there.
    2. The communist system was well suited to focused development.
    3. Canada wasn't really trying to improve the game at that point. Due to the success of the original 6 era, there wasn't a grassroots push to create to update the developmental system beyond what Frank Selke had implemented in the 30's and 40's.
     
  3. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    I would say that from 1970 to 1977 the Soviets were on par with Canada. From 1977 to 1985 the Soviets were the number one hockey country. From 1986 to 1990 they were again on par with Canada.



    Not a valid reason IMO. We don't see this happening today. The new hockey countries today have not managed to catch up the traditional hockey countries. The Soviets from 1954 to 1972 was a phenomenom and an exception of the rule. This is BY FAR the fastest growth of a hockey country in a hockey history.

    True.

    That may also be true. The Soviet approach changed the whole sport and forced the other countries to develop too.
     
  4. Eisen

    Eisen Registered User

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    Tarasov himself said it that he based his hockey on what the Canadians played earlier the century.
     
  5. Nalyd Psycho

    Nalyd Psycho Registered User

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    The simple truth is, does any other country want to build up?

    The Soviet government made it a national priority to excel in Olympic sports, hockey being the preeminent team sport in the winter Olympics, it was made a priority to excel at, so they went out and developed a hockey infrastructure.

    Everywhere else in the world, growth of the sport has been organic. Organic growth is always going to be slower. Places like Germany and Switzerland have hockey infrastructure and fans, but not in an overwhelming fashion. And the culture of the two countries says that no one is going to force further development. It will happen over time, just as development in America was spurred on by 1st further expansion beyond and into traditional markets, 2nd the Miracle on Ice and 3rd star American born star players emerging in the decade after. If say, Niederreiter becomes a star and starts winning awards, expect a stronger generation of Swiss hockey players over the next 10-15 years. Conversely if China decided they wanted to become a hockey power, 20 years sounds about right.

    Also, remember that Soviet hockey didn't begin developing in 1954, it was more around 1948. They were just tactical in when they entered the World stage. Shortly after they dismantled the Czechoslovakian national team (one of the strongest in Europe, along with the Swedes.) and after Canada stopped bothering to try sending good teams.
     
  6. VMBM

    VMBM Crawfish Fiesta

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    Hmmm, I'd say that 1978-83* the Soviets had a national team that Canada couldn't quite match, as far as Challenge/Canada Cup type of serieses go, at least. If that is enough to make them numero uno hockey country, fair enough, but did USSR ever have as much - or even more - elite/good players as Canada? For example, if Canada's and USSR's B and/or C teams had faced each other, what would've happened? My guess is that Canada's teams would have won quite comfortably.

    * take out the 1980 team if you want to nitpick
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  7. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    Tarasov took the good parts of the Canadian game but implemented a whole new hockey style, which included far more passing and east-west skating than the existing Canadian north-south style of game.
     
  8. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    Maybe Germany, Switzerland, Denmark? Of course they don't have the similar system that the Soviets had.

    It was not really about infrastructure. The Soviet Union had two or three fully covered ice rinks in 1972 when they played Canada in the Super Series. All of them were in Moscow.

    The Soviets were always lagging behind in hockey resources (players, rinks, equipment) and hockey was always very Moscow centric. All the national team players came from Moscow.

    What made the Soviets successful was their training and scientific approach to the game. They implemented the best training methods during the "growth period" of 1954 - 1972 which enabled them to develop superior players from their limited resources.


    Well, yes. This is actually true. Officially hockey in Soviet Union began in the late 1940s when some bandy players switched to hockey. Vsevolod Bobrov was one of them. He also played in the Soviet soccer and bandy national team (he was a member of the Soviet soccer team in olympics).

    Bobrov started playing hockey at 28 and quickly became the top player in Europe. I guess it just shows how low the competition was back then, but he was a truly gifted athlete as well.
     
  9. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    Wow, you are one of the few Canadians who actually admit this.



    Nope. The USSR never had the depth that Canada had, because they had far less resources where to develop players. Even during the peak period of Soviet hockey (1978-1983) the Soviet Union had only few hockey rinks in the whole country, and the top hockey was concentrated in Moscow.

    Canada has always had more "hockey mass" than the Soviet Union and Russia, and will continue to do so unless Russia builds up similar resources as Canada.
     
  10. ozo

    ozo Registered User

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    Nalyd Psycho is right, we can talk a lot about shortcomings of Soviet system, but the simple truth is that they were excelling in aspects that they were caring about. Whether it was a battle in space or simply on the ice, when heads of the party wanted something to get done, they made things happen.
     
  11. VMBM

    VMBM Crawfish Fiesta

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    Sorry to disappoint; I'm Finnish and a fan of Soviet, rather than Canadian, hockey... but nevermind :D

    I definitely agree that the Soviets had the best 'A Team' for a few years (plus were on par for many years more).
    I just wish they had played another Summit series or something similar to that (best of seven, maybe)... so there would be less debate about it, as I think that this time the Soviets would have prevailed. I mean, as of now, the strongest evidence of the miigghhty power of the Soviet national team are the 1979 Challenge Cup and 1981 Canada Cup, which doesn't seem to be enough for many people ("it was just one game", "fluke", "Canadian players hadn't played together before" etc.).
     
  12. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    The Soviets in 81 get full marks.

    I've never given the Challenge Cup much value though. It was a mid-season NHL all-star exhibition, not a Team Canada like the ones that had played in the Canada Cups which had a one-month training camp. While it was a great exhibition of skills, which obviously the Soviets had more of at the time, it wasn't the intense hockey we would see at the Canada Cups.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  13. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    Why was the Challenge Cup heralded as a "Series of a Century" and shown primetime to millions of people in North America, if the NHL would not believe they were capable of beating this team?
     
  14. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    The 'Series of a Century" moniker was a marketing tool by the broadcasting networks. At the end of the day they wanted ratings, but all the marketing in the world doesn't make a team. That was a great collection of talent assembled by the NHL, but it was far from a team. That was a great exhibition of skills, not intense hockey. It was that year's NHL All-star game.
     
  15. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    Oh, come on. The NHL would not want to see it's All Star team to lose against commies in Madison Square Garden when millions of people are watching throughout North America.

    What kind of a "commercial" it would be for the NHL to get a 0-6 thrashing against the Mikhailov and the boys?

    This game was marketed as a hegemony battle, not as an All Star game. It should be treated as such.
     
  16. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    By the way, in the 1st intermission of the 3rd game of the Challenge Cup Larry Robinson said that this game means more to him than the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals.

    Another commercial?
     
  17. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    The NHL can want what they want, fans can want what they want, networks can want what they want, but at the end of the day, the players didn't take it as seriously as the marketers did.
     
  18. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    Certainly didn't show in his play in that game. He certainly wasn't the physical menace he usually was in a Stanley Cup game. The series was pretty much a no-hitter, and considering phyicality was the major edge the NHL players had on the Soviets, the NHLers played into their hands. Nice exhibition of skills though.
     
  19. McGuillicuddy

    McGuillicuddy Registered User

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    Not the point. It was an entertainment spectacle on a slightly higher level than the all-star game - in fact it was the all-star game replacement for that year. It most certainly was not a Canada Cup-type atmosphere with a proper training camp and the intensity that playing with a maple leaf on your jersey brings.

    I can never understand those who hold the Challenge Cup as a legitimate contest of hockey supremacy. Here you had an NHL all-star team of guys who mostly have never played together (with the exception of the half-dozen or so Habs on the team), and who 5 days earlier were trying to run each other's heads into the boards, up against a well-oiled Soviet national team.

    This isn't to argue one way or the other on your point on Soviet hockey supremacy circa. 1978 - 1983, but I don't think you can legitimately and reasonably use the Challenge Cup as evidence.
     
  20. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    And you base this accusation to what?

    Larry Robinson would certainly disagree, unless you call him a liar.
     
  21. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    I'm calling him a salesman in that particular context. He was about as honest as anybody who does an infomercial, LOL.

    I also recall him joking around about that series at the end of the 3rd game. Certainly didn't look like the same intense, angry Robinson after a loss in the NHL playoffs.
     
  22. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    Does Larry Robinson call the normal NHL All Stars game more important than the 7th game of the Stanley Cup was well?

    If not, then what is the difference between the Challenge Cup and the All Stars game?

    I have trouble seeing the logic here.

    1. The NHL brings its best team to the ice to play against a communist rival.

    2. The games are viewed by millions of viewers around the world. A perfect chance to promote the product!

    3. The series is marketed as a "Series of a Century" by the media, and players are comparing it to Stanley Cup finals.

    4. However, the NHL players come to the ice slacking while the Soviets play hard and win the game 6-0, completely humiliating the whole NHL in front of the millions of watchers around the world.

    So is this what the NHL wanted from this "Series of a Century"? If not, what was the purpose? Just to joke around and show some skillzz?
     
  23. Peter25

    Peter25 Registered User

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    And another question, why was the Canadian commentator so pissed off after the game, preaching how the Canadian kids need to learn more skills? This was supposed to be a meaningless exhibition game, right?
     
  24. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    I saw the entire series when it happened. Basically the players, the way they played, treated it a bit more seriously than a All-Star game, but less seriously than playoff hockey. All the words in the world doesn't change the way they played, which was basically non-physical for the most part. I'm not entirely sure the Soviets took it that seriously either, since they played Myskin in the deciding game, not their bread and butter guy, Tretziak.

    The Soviets deserve credit for the victory, and IMO they were probably better than the NHL stars at the time, but I don't hold that series victory as the smoking gun evidence you and others do. It was a nice exhibition of hockey, but nowhere near the intensity of the 72 series or the Canada Cups. In terms of relative importance, it's much lower than the 81 win IMO, which was what I was saying in the first place.
     
  25. John Flyers Fan

    John Flyers Fan Registered User

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    USSR population in 1970 - approx 250 million

    Canada population in 1970 - approx 20 million

    If Obama came out tomorrow and said that the US becoming the best hockey playing country in the world was a major priority, it would happen.

    It would take some time, but with far greater resources and population to draw from the US could take over the sport.
     

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