A significantly updated USSR national team was preparing to start in the Canadian Cup. Few believed in the success of the enterprise, including in the team itself. On the one hand, a successful world championship in Sweden, and on the other, a meeting with the strongest hockey players in the world. But the coach of the national team had his own views on this matter. And young hockey players had to prove that they got a place in the team by right, and are worthy successors of the traditions of their eminent predecessors.
Here is what the head coach of the USSR national team Viktor Tikhonov wrote on the days of his departure to Canada:
“Who are we going to play with? – said Maltsev (Khomutov, Skvortsov), – against Canada in 1981? ”
Only 4 months have passed when the USSR national team in Sweden won a remarkable victory – 17 times became the world champion.
And again, as before the World Cup, many doubted the successful performance of our team at the Canada Cup.
There were many reasons to doubt it.
There is a change. There were no stars left in the team except Maltsev and Tretyak. The recruits are not yet leaders, and many of them have not sniffed Canadian gunpowder. All the color of the professionals will gather in Canada.
The Canadian public before the tournament did not get tired of repeating that their team is possibly the best team in the history of hockey. No other team knew such a number of stars. It certainly looks more powerful than its predecessors five years ago. Even stars like Pittsburgh Penguins’ defender Randy Carlisle and Los Angeles Kings striker Charlie Simmer, who made the first lineup of the All-Star team last season, were not included. In addition to them, such stars as Bill Barber, Bobby Smith, Mike Rogers and Dave Taylor were out of the application …
The competition for a place in the squad was extremely high. Of course, the head coach of the national team Scotty Bowman could not assemble such a squad to satisfy the tastes of all fans. There are always dissatisfied people who believe that this or that candidate was unfairly outside the team.
Nevertheless, the composition of the home team is more balanced than ever.
As for the other participants in the tournament, all the teams were of a fairly high level. The starting match with the national team of Czechoslovakia – September 1, our team drew – 1: 1. Affected by nervousness and mistakenly taken tactics.
In the future, our team played out and already in the next match beat the Swedish national team quite confidently – 6: 3. The Swedes lost in the first round – 1: 3 to the American team and sought to rehabilitate themselves. The composition of the Scandinavians was very powerful, but our guys did not give them any chances.
The match with the US national team – September 5, became in fact a “revenge” match for the Olympic Games. The fact is that our team met the American for the first time since that unfortunate defeat. The US team had seven players from that gold team: Ken Morrow (Stanley Cup winner, by the way), Bill Baker, Neil Broten, Mark Johnson, Dave Christian, Steve Christophe, Rob McClanahan.
In addition, the Americans engaged the famous goalkeeper Tony Esposito, persuading him to accept American citizenship and play for their national team. But all this did not help them. Our hockey players won confidently.
The September 7 match with the Finnish national team did not become problematic. Despite the fact that the Finns have professional NHL hockey players, the USSR national team won easily with a score of 6: 1.
The rehearsal of the future final took place in the match of the last round of the group stage between the national teams of the USSR and Canada. True, you still need to get to the finals. This applied to both our team and the Canadian team.
On September 9, the main contenders played a match, the result of which was perceived very ambiguously. The match for the championship in the group, which did not decide anything, and therefore the result was largely unimportant. Not important, but indicative. First of all, in another demonstration of the amazing physical form of Canadians.
In the second round match with the US national team, they have already shown this. Ten minutes before the end of the meeting, the score was drawn – 3: 3, and then the founders of hockey showed “who is the boss”. They literally exploded and in 5 minutes 35 seconds threw 5 goals into the Americans’ goal! Knockout – 8: 3 !!!
Of course, the coaches of our team have studied well the play of the Canadian national team, which, along with excellent games, had frankly unsuccessful ones. The abundance of “children’s” mistakes cost them a draw in the match with the national team of Czechoslovakia.
Our only starting lineup was Vladimir Myshkin. In general, it was a game of worthy opponents, and at the end of the second period the score was drawn – 2: 2. In the final twenty minutes, the Canadians, as if in response to those who considered the result of the third period with the Americans to be an accident, staged our demonstration of their power. In 7 minutes 13 seconds, the same five goals were in our goal as in the American ones. The total score – 7: 3, clearly did not reflect the balance of power, but these “Canadian surprises” gave the coaches a lot of reason to think.
The semi-final meeting with the national team of Czechoslovakia was expected with great interest. The opponents of our team demonstrated a rather interesting game in Canada, having played in a draw with the national teams of the USSR and Canada. With the same score – 7: 1, they smashed the national teams of Sweden and Finland. And only the lack of proper concentration prevented them from becoming one of the favorites. In the match with the US national team, the Czechoslovak national team overtook the effect of deja vu (defeat in Lake Placid – 2: 7). Unexpectedly for all, they lost – 2: 6. Although nothing foreshadowed this.
The mistakes that our team made in the opening match were no longer made. From the first minutes of the match, the hockey players of the USSR national team went ahead. In the 9th minute, Sergei Shepelev opens the scoring. Czechoslovak hockey players did not sit out in defense and tried to seize the initiative. It was at this time that our goalkeeper Vladislav Tretyak demonstrated all his skills. With each match he played more and more reliably, and the score of the first period – 3: 0, in many respects to his merit.
Further, our hockey players acted very carefully, as did the rivals, and for the two remaining periods the teams were able to distinguish themselves only once. The final score was 4: 1, and the USSR national team booked itself a place in the final.
Its rival was Canadian hockey players, who methodically outplayed the Americans with exactly the same score. This time, the Canadians did not wait for the end of the match and decided all questions about the winner in the first period.
And again we turn to the diaries of Viktor Tikhonov:
“Preparing for the final match of the 81 Canada Cup.
A lot had to be done to implement our game plan. We have been preparing for the final match for a long time, with a perspective.
In the last 2 days, the coaches faced difficult psychological questions.
We had to infect the guys with our conviction, faith, that they will surprise everyone with their game, courage, sports heroism, and the Canadians will remember us for a long time !!! ”
The local public and press are delighted with the game of Maple Leaves.
Here is what the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail wrote before the final match:
– “What a pity that such a great team will cease to exist on Sunday. It did not have such scorers as Maruk, Babich, Richard, who scored fifty or more goals last season, but there were such collective players as Gainey, Dionne, Duguay, and in general, it turned out to be a powerful team … ”
September 13, 1981, Montreal. “Forum”. 17,033 fans have gathered in the legendary arena to witness the battle of the century! The preliminary match between these teams, which took place four days ago, set the local hockey fans in a positive mood.
Immediately after the start of the match, the Canadians unleashed a flurry of shots at our goal, trying to stun the hockey players of the Soviet national team. In the first period, the hosts threw our team – 12: 4, and if not for Vladislav Tretyak, we would have had a hard time. But the renowned goalkeeper caught real courage. All the efforts of the Canadians crashed against the wall built by the goalkeeper of the USSR national team. The score – 0: 0 at the end of the first period – is largely the merit of our goalkeeper.