at The Summit in 1972
This column features
stories and unique views on the
Summit'72 and international hockey
submitted by our visitors.
Don't Cry for
Russian Hockey *
by Klauss Zaugg, iihf.com
Don't cry for Russian hockey. It still lives on
in this tournament.
Of course, I know the Russians have been eliminated
from these championships after the worst performance
in their history, losing four consecutive games
in an international tournament for the first time.
But their hockey has survived. Every team here
has a bit of Russian hockey in its game. Always
remember: For more than half of hockey's history,
Europeans called the game "Canadian hockey." That's
because the Canadians invented the game, the stick,
the puck and the rules. But today's hockey was born
February 26, 1954 in Stockholm, the first day of
the 21st World Championships, when the Russians
played their first game in an international tournament.
They demolished Canada 7-2, won six games and tied
one, claimed their first gold medal.and changed
the game forever. Famous Russian coaches like Anatoli
Tarasov and Viktor Tikhonov have done more for the
good of the game than any other coaches and maybe
more than any single player including Wayne Gretzky.
The Russians were the first to play a style of
hockey almost lacking body contact but enormously
smart and fast. It was almost impossible to knock
them down or to slow down their game with hooking,
slashing and holding. This was the wake-up call
for all the hockey coaches in the world, except
those in North America. They had their wakeup call
18 years later in the 1972 Summit Series between
Canada and the Soviet Union.
To compete with this fresh style of hockey, coaches
had to teach their players to read the game better,
to skate faster and use a better-organized defense
To stop the Russians, the Europeans invented new
defensive strategies. Because it was not possible
to stop the Russians with pure violence, the coaches
in Sweden, Finland and the former Czechoslovakia
had to find other ways to slow down the "Big Red
Machine." They invented the modern trap. Watching
the games in St. Petersburg, I can see the Russian
hockey culture even without the Russian team. It
doesn't surprise me to see how fast and smart the
Finnish, Swedish, Latvian or Swiss players are,
or how well-organized their game is in all three
The biggest surprise for me has been the USA team.
Their head coach, Lou Vairo, combines North American
intensity with the Russian style of skating, passing
and organizing the game. That's why I love to watch
Vairo's team. They do not just "work hockey," as
they have to do back home in the National Hockey
League or in the North American minor pro leagues.
They play the game.
I shouldn't be surprised. Lou Vairo was a close
friend of Anatoli Tarasov. Not of Don Cherry.
Can you imagine how hockey would look today if
we had never had the Russians? If Don Cherry's philosophy,
Fred Shero's "Broad Street Bullies" in Philadelphia
or Harry Sinden's and Tom Johnson's "Big Bad Bruins"
in Boston had managed to reign supreme over the
world of hockey instead of the Russians? The world
of hockey would resemble our earth still ruled by
It may sound like an oxymoron... but thank God
for the Big Red Machine.