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1976 Canada Cup
    In 1976 the very first tournament was introduced by Hockey Canada chief Alan Eagleson, which would finally put together all the best players in the world from the six hockey powers: Canada, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Finland and the USA. Alan had come up with the idea 10 years earlier while watching the 1966 World Cup of Soccer finals on tv (England 4- Germany 2). He figured to himself, "Why not have a World Cup of hockey as well?" His dream became a reality with this initial Canada Cup.
     It was August and the Montreal Summer Olympics had just wrapped up- with the Soviets dominating and Canada finishing with a respectable 11 medals.
     However, hockey-wise, it was now Canada's time to shine at their very best. This 1976 Team Canada is considered one of the greatest sports teams ever assembled- right up there with the USA basketball Dream Team of the 1992 Olympics, as well as the Brazilian soccer team of the 1970 World Cup. Virtually the enitre team were legends in their own right and most of them have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Scotty Bowman and Don Cherry were on the coaching staff.
     Bobby Orr was able to play this time around. In 1972 his knees were just too weak. It was his last hurrah and he would go on to win the tournament's MVP award while basically only skating on one leg. Another fixture on the team this time around was Bobby Hull, who was forbidden to play in '72 due to his WHA allegiance. What a team! This time the Russians really didn't have a chance.
     The Soviets fielded a strong team in most tournaments and this one still had a lot of stars on it from the 1972 Summit Series, as well as new up-and-coming stars like the fast skating Sergei Kapustin, Helmut Balderis (from Latvia) and Victor Zhluktov. The team was quite solid but slightly weakened though. It turned out that some in the Soviet Federation kept a few of their top stars off the team for reasons unknown. The proof is that Petrov, Mikhailov, and Kharlamov from their top line were left at home, and so was the Big Yak, Alexander Yakushev. On the bench appeared a new face to Canadians- that of coach Viktor Tikhonov- the evil, dark lord of the Soviet coaching staff of the future.
     Canada drove through the round robin part of this tourney with relative ease. They only lost one game- that to the Czechs, by a score of 1-0. In their crucial, and much anticipated last round robin game meeting with the Soviets, the final score was a respectable 3-1 victory. Even though Canada outshot the Russians 43-28, the game was actually closer than the stats let on. Orr and Maltsev were the stars of the game who received the customary soapstone carvings. (Many thought Gil Perreault should have been the player to win the prize due to his set-up on Bobby Hull's goal, as well as the offensive scares he put into the Russian defence in that game.)
     This year the the finals were against the Czechoslovakians. Canada easily won by scores of 6-0 and 5-4. The notion of "We're the best!" was reinstilled in the minds of all Canadians.
     The Russians knew they were weakened so didn't worry too much this time around. Victor Tikhonov would take over as head coach of both the Red Army and the National Team, and he wouldn't allow for making the same mistake twice. The next meeting would be a different story.

1979 Challenge Cup
     This cup was something new to North American hockey fans. It was only played for once, in 1979, and it took the place of the regular mid-season all-star game between the Wales Conference and the Campbell Conference. Instead, it was to be a display of the best players from the entire NHL against the Soviet Nationals. The three game series was held at New York's Madison Square Gardens and was billed as the "Series of the Century.".
      At that time, the majority of the top players in the NHL were still Canadian and the team basically was a "Team Canada" except for three Swedes- Borje Salming, Ulf Nilsson, and Anders Hedberg.
     This time the Soviets had their big line back in place- that of Vladimir Petrov, Valery Kharlamov, and Boris Mikhailov. Tretiak was still in net and Valery Vasiliev was at his prime on defence. Many of Canada's 1976 players were back like Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perreault, Bobby Clarke and Guy Lafleur. They also had some younger faces from the future dynasty New York Islanders- these being: Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, and Denis Potvin.
       The games were introduced with a great atmosphere. The theme to "Star Wars" was played throughout the series and amidst the opening ceremonies. Three singers were introduced to sing the national anthems of the Soviet Union, Canada and the USA. Bobby Orr (newly retired after numerous knee surgeries), Danny Gallivan and Dan Kelly did the play-by-play.
       Gone were the days that Canada could outpower their opponents, as now the Russians proved they were every bit as strong as the NHL players. Usually the Soviets were better conditioned than the Canadians, but the NHL players were in tip-top shape for this one as it was a mid-season showdown. When Tikhonov was asked if he expected there to be any fights he replied, "With millions of dollars worth of talent out there why would the crowds want a fight when we will show them great hockey instead?"
     The first game opened with a flurry. Guy Lafleur opened the scoring in the 16th second on a beautiful deke. Soon Gilbert Perreault dazzled from the centre line and suckered the defence and set up Mike Bossy for the second.
     From start to finish, this game was easily the most exciting ever played anywhere, at anytime. The passing, checking, speed, goal scoring and sportsmanship was spectacular. The New York crowds had witnessed the greatest display the Madison Square Gardens would ever see, and that was equalled by the fact that the NHL ALL-stars won 4-2. Lafleur and Golikov were the selected as stars of the game.
      It looked as though the NHL would regain it's prestige, despite the fact that a lot of Soviet league teams had come over to play NHL teams and were often victorious in the process.
      The second game was a real battle with the Soviets coming out in front 5-4. The game had the same fast-paced fury as the first, with both sides skating and passing at the highest speed imaginable. Both teams laid in hard on the bodychecks. Also, it was the first time North American audiences had heard the term "Holy Makarov", which came straight from the mouth of Danny Gallivan. This was prompted by Sergei Makarov's set-up of Vladimir Golikov's game winning goal. (Sergei was quite new to the national side, but his apparent talent was plain for North American audiences to see. I personally have never seen a more exciting hockey player ever play the game than Makarov himself. He would go on to be the greatest player on the Russian side since Valery Kharlamov).
     The final was a shocker- a 6-0 shut-out for the Russians. It was Gerry Cheevers worst night in net ever. I think he added another scar to that mask of his after that blitz. I am sure there were many other young Canadians crying afterwards besides yours truly. The Soviet back-up goaltender, Myshkin, was the hero this night.
     After the game Bobby Orr and Howie Meeker had commented how well the Soviets moved the puck. Meeker's words were, "Every player on their team can stick handle and pass better than us. They skate lighter than we do and seem to have lighter contact with the ice. They skate differently and when they come over here I can always tell which ones are the Europeans because of the way they skate. I don't know, maybe it's their teaching methods?"


Proceed forward to Canada Cup 1981- click on USSR flag.
Above: Boris Mikhailov, the captain (with a K), lifts the Challenge Cup for the CCCP. Right: Clark Gillies takes on the Soviet defence.
                                                                 TEAM ROSTERS

Team Canada 1976- Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Danny Gare, Jean Pronovost, Steve Shutt, Rick Martin, Bob Gainey, Phil Esposito, Carol Vadnais, Darryl Sittler, Reg Leach, Bill Barber, Guy Lafleur, Denis Potvin, Dave Burrows, Paul Shmyr, Dan Maloney, Guy Lapointe, Pete Mahovlich, Gil Perreault, Serge Savard, Larry Robinson, Gerry Cheevers, Rogatien Vachon, Glenn Resch, Dan Bouchard, Lanny McDonald, Marcel Dionne

Soviet Union 1976- Valery Vasiliev, Alexander Maltsev, Alexander Gusev, Sergei Kapustin, Sergei Babinov, Viktor Zhluktov, Helmut Balderis, Vladimir Lutchenko, Vladimir Vikulov, Boris Alexandrov, Victor Shalimov, Vladimir Golikov, Vladimir Kovin, Alexander Skvortsov, Zinetul Bilyaletdinov, Alexander Golikov, Vladislav Tretiak, Viktor Zinger, Vladimir Krikunov, Valeri Belousov, Viktor Shalimov, Mikhail Vasilyonok, Viktor Kuznetsov, Alexander Kulikov, Yuri Lebedev, Vladimir Repnev

NHL All-stars 1979- Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Steve Shutt, Gil Perreault, Marcel Dionne, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Bobby Clarke, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Barry Beck, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Robert Picard, Denis Potvin, Bill Barber, Don Marcotte, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden, Gerry Cheevers, Ron Greschner, Borje Salming, Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg

Soviet Union 1979- Sergei Starikov, Viktor Zhluktov, Vasily Pervukhin, Vladimir Kovin, Sergei Makarov, Mikhail Varnakov, Alexander Skvortsov, Vladimir Golikov, Alexander Golikov, Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Valery Kharlamov, Gennadiy Tsygankov, Valery Vasiliev, Sergei Kapustin, Yuri Federov, Zinetul Bilyaletdinov, Helmut Balderis, Irek Gimayev, Viktor Tuminev, Sergei Babinov, Vladislav Tretiak, Vladimir Myshkin
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