Twenty years of Soviet Hockey: 1962 - 1982 (Index of player profiles in OP)

Discussion in 'All Time Draft' started by Sturminator, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. Batis

    Batis Registered User

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    For what it is worth during the 1972 Summit Series the Soviets as a group scored more shorthanded goals (3) than Team Canada scored powerplay goals (2). And Mishakov who led the Soviet forwards in ice time with a landslide margin was a player from Firsovs generation.
     
  2. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    Cool! Doesn't say much about Firsov specifically, but still good info.
     
  3. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Right. The actual time the Soviets were shorthanded over the series amounts to 37 minutes and 38 seconds. Team Canada had 24 PP opportunities and scored 2 PP goals, so the Soviets successfully killed 22/24 = 91.67% of the Canadian PP opportunities.

    Also for what it's worth, in 1968 the Canadian national team coaches McLeod and Bauer thought penalty killing was one of the areas where the Soviet national team was on par with NHL clubs like Chicago and Boston. See section "penalty killing" here.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  4. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    As much as I love outside observers making comments like that, nothing beats actual results. Suchy and Sologubov, for example, were once called Europe's answers to Bobby Orr. I take any such comments with a grain of salt. The Summit Series results are obviously promising, and I definitely agree that, near the top of the pecking order, the Soviet PKers should be considered on par with great NHL PKers.. I'm just not quite sure what that means yet.
     
  5. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    ANATOLY FIRSOV – His career

    Soviet senior league:
    1959-1973.

    Soviet national team:
    1963-1972.

    Soviet honours:
    1962-63: top 20 forward
    1963-64: #1 left winger, All-star
    1964-65: #3 left winger
    1965-66: #1 left winger, All-star
    1966-67: #1 left winger, All-star
    1967-68: #1 left winger, All-star, 1st in Best Player of the Year voting
    1968-69: #1 left winger, All-star, 1st in Best Player of the Year voting
    1969-70: top 5 left winger, 7th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1970-71: top 6 left winger, 1st in Best Player of the Year voting
    1972-73: 5th in Best Player of the Year voting

    International honours:
    1967 World Championship – All-star and Best Forward
    1968 Olympics – All-star and Best Forward
    1969 World Championship – All-star
    1970 World Championship – All-star
    1971 World Championship – All-star and Best Forward

    1) Early career

    Anatoly Firsov grew up under economic hardship in the USSR of the 1940s-50s. His father died early while fighting in WW2 and his mother had to support the three children on her own. During winters he played "hockey with the ball" (bandy). A frail but talented youngster, Firsov spent a lot of time playing against boys who were several years older than him. In 1955 he joined the youth team of Spartak Moscow under Aleksandr Igumnov. Over time he developed an interest in "hockey with the puck", but a move was initially blocked by Vladimir Stepanov, senior coach of the Spartak bandy division.

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "Our head coach Stepanov was discouraging me: 'Where will a guy go who is as small as you? Over there on the tight rink you will be pushed around and get nowhere. But here you've got the space of an entire soccer field. No, forget about hockey with puck. I won't let you go anywhere!' And he didn't let me go. The next season I started with my old [bandy] team again. But I wanted to switch to puck hockey so much! And finally I played hockey with the puck for the second youth team of Spartak."
    The transition to "Canadian hockey“ took some time, but in 1958-1959 Firsov was promoted to the senior team of Spartak Moscow. He played center and started as #3 in the depth chart behind veteran Anatoly Yegorov and young Vyacheslav Starshinov. In 1960-1961 he was called up to the Soviet junior national team and drew the attention of Anatoly Tarasov. When Firsov was drafted into the Soviet army in November 1961, Tarasov used the opportunity to get him to the Army club CSKA Moscow. Initially Firsov refused to go. He spent three days hiding in the home of Spartak coach Aleksandr Novokreshchonov.

    Anatoly Firsov (1999):
    "But then Novokreshchonov himself told me to go to CSKA. He said: 'Only Tarasov can develop those gifts you have.' (...) When I returned home, the military police and the head of the police were already waiting for me. We went to the military registration and enlistment office. I was issued all the documents and on the same day I went to Riga to play for my new team."

    Note: First part quoted after an interview published by Public Broadcasting Service. The Russian original is not available. Second part quoted after Fyodor Razzakov (2014):
    The pill was sweetend by the rank and salary of an Army officer and a three-room apartement for Firsov, his wife and his daughter who had been living in a one-room apartement before.

    2) Workout regime under Tarasov

    After joining CSKA, the skinny Firsov became subject to an intense training process.

    Anatoly Firsov (1999):
    "When I came I was puny. With 67 kilograms [147.7 lbs], my physical capabilities were far behind my technical and mental abilities. And so Tarasov started training with me 2-3 times a day. I went into it without an idea of what these trainings would be like. Players who had trained unter Tarasov before could handle the loads, but after my first day of training I fell down and couldn't even stand up again."

    Note: Quoted after the PBS interview linked above. I put the passage into proper English though.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "When Firsov came to CSKA Moscow, he was by no means an athlete: from under a thin layer of muscles, even the bones were sticking out in some places. But the workouts which he bought into immediately and unconditionally soon bore visible fruit: his musculature became stronger, he gained weight and the power of his shot increased."
    Leonid Goryanov (1983):
    "Under Tarasov, Firsov trained in such a way that one day the great weightlifter Yury Vlasov approached him in the gym and asked him: 'Are you alive?'"
    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "I was complaining. I didn't have the stamina and Tarasov thought up such difficult and varied athletic exercises that I still don't understand how I managed to cope with them. I was moaning, moaning and moaning and the coach was buzzing in my ear: 'Do you want to become a great master? Then deal with it.' And so I held on."
    Eventually Firsov got accustomed to the workouts, but Tarasov kept pushing him further and further.

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "Even when I overtook the rest of the team in the athletic training and everything finally seemed to be in order, it wasn't. Tarasov still found flaws in me. I eliminated them gradually, but he just kept finding new flaws in every training and it began to anger me to no end. (...) One day he suddenly announced with determination that I didn't know how to shoot the puck. I thought: 'If I can't shoot, then why did you invite me to CSKA?' I spent hours shooting the puck against the board and Anatoly Vladimirovich [Tarasov] just shook his head: 'Not so, that's still not how it's supposed to be. Look closely at [Aleksandr] Almetov and how his hands work.'"
    Leonid Goryanov (1983):
    "Tarasov and Firsov worked for hours on quick shooting. Later that concealed shot was branded 'Firsovian'."

    3) Switch to left wing

    After the transfer to CSKA, Firsov first continued to play center as he has with Spartak Moscow. However, Tarasov eventually decided to move him to LW instead.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "As is known, Anatoly Firsov was playing center forward when he gave his debut with 'Spartak'. In his first matches for CSKA, he remained in the familiar position. However, later on I saw that he could become quite a promising winger. Usually the actions of the wingers depend on the actions of the center forward to a certain extent, on the center's ability to 'supply' them with work. But Firsov is enterprising and lively, he knows how to shoulder the game himself and can therefore play with success even when the center has a poor game. We moved Firsov to the wing and as time showed, this experiment turned out to be successful."
    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "It was difficult to learn from anew how to shoot, but it was immeasurably more difficult to change the role on the ice: with Spartak I had been center forward and now our coach assured my I was born to be a wing. So now I find myself on the wing where everything is unfamilar, the boards are in the way and there is nowhere to turn around. After every failure I argue with Tarasov that I need to be put back to [the center position on] the Kiselyov line, but the coach stands his ground. I had to realize that insistence was a trait in Tarasov which I couldn't overcome, especially when he was convinced he was right. And of course, he was right."

    4) Tarasov's impact

    Tarasov's constant pushing keeps frustrating Firsov until he finally asks the coach a fundamental question.

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "There once came the day when I couldn't stand it any longer, so I asked him: 'So, am I not fit for hockey at all?' He replied: 'What do you mean? Of course you are. But in my opinion you have one basic flaw: you play contemporary hockey when you should be ahead of your time. It's 1963, but you should already strive to play as if it were, say, the year 1966. Now you know!' (...) Tarasov has long convinced us that the main opponent is ourselves. It is not enough to beat the competitors, we also need to constantly outrun ourselves. We have to play better today than we did yesterday. And tomorrow we have to be even better than today."
    Leonid Goryanov (1983):
    "Anatoly Firsov didn't agree with those who said he already was a renowned hockey player before joining CSKA Moscow. He stressed: 'I was just one of many who were spoken about as promising. Players like these have always been there and they continue to be there, but not all of them find their place in big hockey. Anatoly Vladimirovich Tarasov was the one who help me find such a place.'"
    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "I suppose I got to Tarasov just in time. I was 20 years old and if I had been late for another two or three seasons, I could hardly have made up for what I did not learn in junior hockey."
    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "Anatoly Firsov is one example of a player who came from our club Spartak Moscow. Even though many years have passed since then, there is still something standing in between us. And not only my own grievance persists, but also those of all the Spartak veterans: Starshinov, [Valery] Fomenkov, [Valery] Kuzmin and [Aleksey] Makarov. If I'm holding a grudge against him even now it's not because he left Spartak. What is stinging me is that he nowhere and never mentions whose pupil he was, where he learned to play and where he became a strong player. When he came to CSKA he already was a master!"
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Soviet hockey did not lose anything from Firsov's transfer to CSKA. In the Army team, he started to improve in leaps and bounds."

    5) Soviet national team

    In 1962-1963, Firsov was called up to the Soviet national team for their tour of Canada (November 1962). At the end of the season the Hockey Federation named him among the "34 best players of the season" (18 of them forwards) for the first time. However, he was left out of the 1963 World Championship squad.

    Vladimir Akpoyan (2001):
    "Tarasov really wanted to take Firsov to the World Championship. But most of the 'iceberg' of his talent was still 'under water' and wasn't yet visible to anyone except Tarasov."

    In the following season the first line of Dinamo Moscow (Yury Volkov – Vladimir Yurzinov – Stanislav Petukhov) was favoured to make the Soviet roster for the 1964 Olympics over the second line of CSKA (Firsov – Valentin Senyushkin/Anatoly Drozdov – Leonid Volkov). However, Firsov himself – considered superior to his CSKA linemates – was about to be included as the tenth forward on the Soviet team. But then the top player of the Dinamo line, Yurzinov, fell ill just one week before the Olympics. Chernyshov and Tarasov reacted by reducing Petukhov to the role of the tenth forward and dropping Yury Volkov altogether. The Dinamo line was replaced by a makeshift line consisting of Firsov on LW, Leonid Volkov on RW and Viktor Yakushev (Lokomotiv Moscow) at center.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "This new line made a significant contribution to our victory at the Olympics."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Firsov's mastery wasn't at its peak yet, but his drive and dedication already allowed him to work miracles. It was in our crucial game against Czechoslovakia. With one single stroke he beat a defencemen and almost another. Breaking into the zone, he went one against one with [Czechoslovak goaltender] Dzurilla... The [second] defenceman managed to restrain Anatoly a bit. The puck was closer to Dzurilla who came out of his goal to pick it up, he was already very near to it... Firsov rushed ahead and while diving to the ice, he extended his stick so that he managed to push the puck into the goal... Dzurilla was pulled and replaced. What for? Was he to blame for the fact that his opponent happened to be Anatoly Firsov?"

    Josef Černý (1973):
    "I remember him as a rookie at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck. He was a young player with dazzling technique."

    The Soviet forward lines at the 1964 Olympics:

    Aleksandrov – Almetov – Loktev
    Mayorov – Starshinov – Mayorov
    Firsov – V. Yakushev – L. Volkov
    spare: Petukhov
    Individual scoring numbers (goals+assists=points): Boris Mayorov 7+3=10, Starshinov 7+3=10, Yakushev 7+3=10, Loktev 4+6=10, Firsov 4+3=7, Aleksandrov 4+3=7, Almetov 3+3=6, Volkov 4+2=6, Petukhov 3+2=5, Yevgeny Mayorov 1+2=3.

    At the end of the season, Firsov was named to the Soviet All-star selection for the first time. In the following years he was a fixture on the national team of the USSR.

    The forward lines at the 1965 World Championship remained almost unchanged from 1964:

    Aleksandrov – Almetov – Loktev
    Mayorov – Starshinov – Ionov
    Firsov – V. Yakushev – L. Volkov
    spare: Yury Volkov
    Individual scoring numbers in 1965: Almetov 7+5=12, Loktev 7+4=11, Firsov 5+4=9, Aleksandrov 4+5=9, Starshinov 6+2=8, Mayorov 5+3=8, Yakushev 4+4=8, Ionov 4+4=8, Leonid Volkov 4+1=5, Yury Volkov 1+3=4. The Soviet forwards in WCh All-star voting: Almetov 19 points, Loktev 17 points, Aleksandrov 14 points, Starshinov 12 points, Yakushev 7 points, Mayorov 6 points, Firsov 4 points, Ionov 1 point.

    6) With Polupanov and Vikulov

    In the 1965 pre-season, Firsov's regular linemates at the club level (C Valentin Senyushkin and RW Leonid Volkov) both lost their spots on the roster of CSKA Moscow. Firsov (24) was now asked to mentor two younger players, Vladimir Vikulov and Viktor Polupanov (both 19). A new line emerged: Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "My experience as coach has convinced me of this: when you form a new line, you need an experienced ace on it who can lead and guide the youngsters and, if necessary, prompt them to make the right decisions. And so the final decision of the coaching council was to put Firsov next to the young guys."
    Leonid Goryanov (1983):
    "To the surprise of everybody, Tarasov put Vikulov and Polupanov on a line with Firsov in autumn of 1965 and proposed the troika should be included in the squad for the 1966 World Championship in Ljubljana."

    The choice came down to either the Polupanov troika or a line consisting of Viktor Yakushev (Lokomotiv) – Vladimir Yurzinov (Dinamo) – Aleksandr Striganov (Dinamo). On February 14th 1966 the question was settled as CSKA defeated Dinamo Moscow 7-2 in a Soviet league game and the Polupanov line was 5-0 when they are on the ice. Three of their goals were scored against the Dinamo line of Kiselyov – Yurzinov – Striganov. Subsequently, the Soviet national team went with the following lines at the 1966 World Championship:

    Aleksandrov – Almetov – Loktev
    Mayorov – Starshinov – V. Yakushev
    Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov
    spare: Ionov​

    Individual scoring numbers: Aleksandrov 9+8=17, Almetov 5+8=13, Starshinov 11+1=12, Yakushev 2+9=11, Loktev 5+4=9, Mayorov 3+3=6, Vikulov 4+2=6, Firsov 3+2=5, Polupanov 1+3=4.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "I have no doubt that Anatoly Firsov could have been the best forward of the tournament at Ljubljana. But he thought about his comrades first and did everything in his influence to make their debute a success."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Firsov played worse than usual in Ljubljana, but only because he put his focus on helping the youngsters."

    At the end of the season, Firsov made the Soviet all-star team for the second time after 1964.

    7) The 1-2-2 system

    After the 1965-1966 season, the Polupanov line was turned into a 1-2-2 unit together with defencemen Eduard Ivanov and Aleksandr Ragulin. The assignments: Ragulin – stopper, Ivanov – halfback, Polupanov – halfback, Firsov – left forward, Vikulov – right forward. It was in this formation that Firsov and his linemates participated in the 1967 World Championship. The Soviet lines there:

    Aleksandrov – Almetov – V. Yakushev
    Mayorov – Starshinov – Yaroslavtsev
    Firsov – Polupanov* – Vikulov
    spare: A. Yakushev

    *used as halfback together with Ivanov

    Individual scoring numbers: Firsov 11+11=22, Polupanov 11+8=19, Almetov 8+7=15, Aleksandrov 7+7=14, Vikulov 6+6=12, Viktor Yakushev 2+5=7, Starshinov 4+2=6, Mayorov 2+3=5, Yaroslavtsev 1+1=2, Aleksandr Yakushev 1+0=1.
    All-star voting: Firsov received 99% of the votes he could possibly receive. Aleksandrov received 79% and Almetov 47%.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Our team was a perfectly balanced ensemble. All lines were strong and were operating smoothly. The selection of players was as good as it gets and everyone did well. But even among the best there are always the very best, the most skilled and the strongest. And for the sake of objectivity, I must say that in Vienna the strongest line on our team was the Firsov line."

    After being voted All-star and named Best Forward at the World Championship, it's not a surprise Firsov made the Soviet All-star team again in 1967.

    In the 1967 offseason, Firsov suffered two unfortunate injuries. First he cut his foot on a piece of glass while on a beach holiday at the Black Sea. And just when his foot started to get better, he injured his hand in a car accident that otherwise ended lightly.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "His hand was in a plaster for more than a month. He couldn't train with the stick for 35 days."

    Firsov nevertheless trained as hard as he could, but he couldn't do anything about the cast and the injured foot still didn't bear full weight.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "In the first games of our championship [in mid-September 1967], the great and incomparable Firsov looked like an ordinary and, frankly, mediocre player. But of course I didn't doubt at all that his hard work would eventually restore his form completely."
    While it took Firsov some time to regain his usual form, the performance of his unit probably wasn't helped by the fact that one of the two halfback roles was now assigned to rookie Vladimir Lutchenko. He even got a shot at the national team level, but in early December national coaches Chernyshov and Tarasov pulled the plug on the Lutchenko experiment. On the following tour of the USA and Canada, a few line and unit combinations were tried out for Firsov and his comrades. Caught in the transition, their performance during the tour was unusually weak.

    Leonid Goryanov (1983):
    "Tarasov didn't turn loud against them, but he 'incited' them with these simple words: 'It's premature to you assume your tickets to the Olympics in Grenoble are already booked.'"
    Firsov himself was hurt by a hard check into the boards in which he suffered a broken rib. However, the rib fracture remained undiscovered until after the 1968 Olympics and Firsov just kept playing through the pain for a few months. Nevertheless, the performance of the unit with their new halfback Viktor Blinov quickly improved and any chance of them missing the Olympics was soon off the table. At the 1968 Olympics, the Soviet national team went with the following lines:

    Mayorov – Starshinov – Aleksandrov/Zimin
    Firsov – Polupanov* – Vikulov
    Moiseyev – Ionov** – Mishakov

    *used as halfback together with Blinov
    **used as halfback together with Romishevsky

    Individual scoring numbers: Firsov 12+4=16, Polupanov 6+6=12, Starshinov 6+6=12, Vikulov 2+10=12, Mayorov 3+3=6, Aleksandrov 3+3=6, Mishakov 4+1=5, Zimin 3+2=5, Moiseyev 2+3=5, Ionov 1+2=3.

    At the end of the season, Firsov made the Soviet all-star team for the third consecutive time and he won the first ever "Soviet Player of the Year" poll among sports journalists of the USSR in a landslide.

    8) 1-2-2 system discontinued

    In the 1968-1969 season, the 1-2-2 system was discontinued after the premature death of Viktor Blinov. Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov kept playing together as a forward trio, but in December 1968 disciplinary lapses cost Viktor Polupanov his spot on the Soviet national team. His replacement was Aleksandr Maltsev (Dinamo Moscow). Soviet forward lines at the 1969 World Championship:

    Mishakov/A. Yakushev – Starshinov – Zimin
    Firsov – Maltsev – Vikulov
    Kharlamov – Petrov – Mikhaylov
    spare: Yurzinov​

    Individual scoring numbers: Firsov 10+4=14, Mikhaylov 9+5=14, Kharlamov 6+7=13, Maltsev 5+6=11, Petrov 6+2=8, Starshinov 6+1=7, Mishakov 4+3=7, Vikulov 2+4=6, Yurzinov 3+1=4, Zimin 1+2=3, Yakushev 1+1=2.
    Soviet forwards in WCh All-star voting: Firsov 99 points (#2 overall), Kharlamov 40 points (#4 overall).

    At the end of the season, Firsov was once again named a Soviet all-star and he repeated his win in the Soviet Player of the Year poll.

    In 1969-1970, Polupanov regained his national team spot. Soviet forward lines at the 1970 World Championship:

    Kharlamov – Petrov – Mikhaylov
    Firsov – Polupanov/Mishakov – Vikulov
    Nikitin/A. Yakushev – Starshinov – Maltsev
    spare: Shadrin​

    During the tournament, Firsov was in ill health.

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "In Stockholm in March 1970 I was suffering from a phlegmon. My foot swelled and my temperature rose to 39° C [102.2 °F]."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1970):
    "Measured by his earlier standard he played a tournament without shine. But let's not forget he was suffering from high fever on one day (he didn't play in the first round against Czechoslovakia) and of course that did reflect in his form. And even when he returned after his illness he didn't fail to fit right in. His courage, skill and dedication continued to be indispensable for us forwards."

    Note: Sourced from an anthology titled Десятая высота, edited by sports journalists Vyacheslav Gavrilin and Oleg Spassky. A thread dedicated to that anthology can be found here.

    Individual scoring numbers: Maltsev 15+6=21, Firsov 6+10=16, Vikulov 9+5=14, Starshinov 5+5=10, Kharlamov 7+3=10, Mikhaylov 7+3=10, Petrov 5+3=8, Mishakov 6+2=8, Yakushev 3+3=6, Nikitin 1+5=6, Polupanov 3+2=5, Shadrin 1+4=5. For the fourth time in a row, Firsov made the WCh All-star team.

    At the end of the season, Firsov finished 7th in Soviet Player of the Year voting and made the Soviet all-star team for the fifth consecutive time. His outlook, on the other hand, wasn't too bright:

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "I felt tired. Not even so much physically as morally and psychologically. And my old injuries began to make themselves felt. I started to notice the blows and bruises I had earlier on swallowed easily and without hurting."

    9) From Kulagin to Tarasov

    The 1970-1971 season was a turbulent one. Anatoly Tarasov who wasn't in the best health stepped down from the stressful coaching job to focus on his academic thesis. He was replaced by his long-time assistant Boris Kulagin. Kulagin tried to repeat the trick Tarasov had pulled off in 1965 when Firsov was put on a line with rookies Polupanov and Vikulov: now Firsov (29) was asked to mentor Vyacheslav Anisin (C) and Aleksandr Bodunov (RW), both 19. When the line didn't work out as advertised, the new coach restored to experimenting with various line combinations. One thing that didn't change under him was the CSKA workout regime which, however, the aging veteran players found increasingly difficult to keep up with. Kulagin was unwilling to make adjustments and made it clear he fully expected veterans like Ragulin and Mishakov to be on their way out. Noticably unsettled, CSKA Moscow had an uncharacteristically weak start into the Soviet league season with 6 defeats in the first 17 games.

    Firsov, unhappy with the constant line shuffling, tired from the wear and tear of the pervious seasons and, at 29 years of age, beginning to struggle with the usual workouts, had enough and publicly announced his intention to retire from hockey. By mid-November, CSKA was 10 points behind Dinamo Moscow and had lost both of their matches against the leader. With the third direct comparison between the two teams coming up, the club leadership decided to hit the brake and sent an emergency call to Anatoly Tarasov. Tarasov returned and took over from Kulagin. Morale and performance of the team improved immediately, but Firsov was still set on retiring.

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "I had decided to step down, but Tarasov asked me to stay. He didn't demand it like a superior and senior coach to whom I owed a lot. He begged me. 'I understand how difficult it is for you... I understand it's unpleasant and insulting if you're now worse than others... But you can catch up with anyone! It's not easy, but you've got it in you. Please, let's try.' Tarasov knows better than anyone else how much preparation means and yet he asked and advised me to stay... I wasn't inclined to do so, in my mind I had already said goodbye to the team. The conversation was long and difficult, but in the end Tarasov convinced me it was worth risking it if the interests of the team required it. He reassured me: 'I will try to built your trainings in such a manner that you gradually reach the best possible form. We will alternate different loads and you can skip some of the matches.' And it worked out. Step by step I found myself and it became a little bit easier to play."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1970):
    "We told Firsov that a player like him does not have the right to determine the terms of his departure. Even if his mastery has somewhat waned, he is still able to transfer his rich experience to the young players and he must therefore remain on the team."

    Note: Quoted after Aleksandr Gorbunov (2015).

    Even though Tarasov was back and Firsov withdrew his decision to retire, the established line of Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov didn't last much longer. The reason was Viktor Polupanov's continued violations of disciplinary requirements. Already fined and benched under Kulagin, his issues continued under Tarasov. In December 1970 Polupanov lost his spot on the Soviet national team for good, and in February 1971 he was gone from the roster of CSKA Moscow. On the national team level, he was once again replaced by Aleksandr Maltsev. Soviet lines at the 1971 World Championship:

    Firsov – Maltsev – Vikulov
    Kharlamov – Petrov – Mikhaylov
    Shadrin/Zimin – Starshinov – Martynyuk
    spare: Mishakov​

    Individual scoring numbers: Firsov 11+8=19, Kharlamov 5+12=17, Maltsev 10+6=16, Vikulov 6+5=11, Petrov 8+3=11, Mikhaylov 7+3=10, Starshinov 4+5=9, Martynyuk 4+4=8, Shadrin 6+2=8, Mishakov 6+1=7, Zimin 2+1=3. Firsov made the WCh All-star team for the fifth time in a row and was named Best Forward of the tournament for the third time.

    At the end of the season, he won the Soviet Player of the Year poll for the third time.

    10) Switch to halfback

    The exhaustion Firsov had displayed in 1970 was one of the reasons Tarasov decided to move him to the halfback position when the 1-2-2 system was revived in 1971-1972. The new 1-2-2 unit: Ragulin – stopper, Firsov – halfback, Lutchenko/Tsygankov – halfback, Kharlamov – left forward, Vikulov – right forward. Making the most successful forward of the 1960 switch positions was considered controversial in the USSR.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1974):
    "Except for Firsov and me, probably no-one was aware that Firsov had exhausted himself in his former role (...) It was hard for Anatoly who had personal guardians attached to him in every game. I thought a lot about the fact that it was time to get these 'care-takers' off his back, to put the opposing defencemen in an inconvenient position and to remove Firsov from the front where the possibility to maneuver is limited. The unfortunate circumstance that his old injuries affected him had to be taken into account."

    Tarasov himself conceded that Firsov was lacking some of the skills usually required from a halfback.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1974):

    "True, Firsov wasn't as good as a halfback (with emphasis on the word back!) should be when it comes to winning the puck and guarding an opponent, even though he did have the necessary patience for the fight for the puck. (...) In his own zone, the halfback turned into a defenceman and thus would look for physical clashes – and that's something we didn't want Firsov to do. We thought of a task that would keep him away from the opponent and also from the board in our own end. We told Firsov to not get engage in close combat and bodychecking so that he wouldn't lose his trump cards in the midst of a tough physical game. It was necessary to make use of his strengths and hide his vulnerabilities. (...) After some hesitation, I came to the conclusion that the defensive duties of our new halfback should be changed to a degree. It would be unreasonable to send him into collisions and serious physical battles. The easier way for Firsov to win the puck was to make use of his superior hockey sense and his stickwork – not to get involved in clashes, but to anticipate the decision of the opponent and to intercept his pass."

    Soviet forward lines at the 1972 Olympics:

    Kharlamov – Firsov* – Vikulov
    Blinov – Petrov – Mikhaylov
    A. Yakushev – Shadrin – Maltsev
    spare: Mishakov

    *used as halfback together with Tsygankov

    Individual scoring numbers: Kharlamov 9+7=16, Vikulov 5+3=8, Maltsev 4+3=7, Firsov 2+5=7, Blinov 3+3=6, Mishakov 2+1=3, Yakushev 0+3=3, Mikhaylov 2+0=2, Petrov 0+2=2, Shadrin 1+0.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "In this fundamentally new role in the hockey world, Firsov once again gave an excellent performance. The line didn't lose a single micromatch in 1972. I don't know any other player who proved so multifaceted over 10-12 years in big hockey."

    After the 1972 Olympics, Chernyshov and Tarasov were released as coaches of the Soviet national team despite winning the tournament. Tarasov angrily predicted the new coaches Bobrov (head) and Puchkov (assistant) wouldn't survive more than a few months and that he would be back soon. One of the first steps of the new coaching duo was to drop two veterans from the Soviet national team: defenceman Vitaly Davydov, captain of Chernyshov's club Dinamo Moscow, and Anatoly Firsov, captain of Tarasov's club CSKA. There is no doubt that Firsov was seen as a Tarasov-loyalist, but Bobrov and Puchkov could also justify their move with the fact that a rejuvenation of the Soviet national team was widely considered overdue. For what it's worth, the first attempt with a rejuvenated squad at the 1972 World Championship ended with the Soviets failing to capture the gold medal for the first time after 1963. Bobrov remained, but Puchkov was replaced as assistant coach of the national team by Boris Kulagin.

    Dropped from the national team, Firsov finished 5th in Soviet Player of the Year voting in 1972.

    11) Last year (1972-1973)

    Apparently Firsov was asked to return to the Soviet national team for the 1972 Summit Series, but after what had happened in 1971-1972 he refused to play under Bobrov. At CSKA Moscow, he initially kept playing on a line with Kharlamov and Vikulov, but the differences between Tarasov and Bobrov continued to haunt him: in December 1972 the line Kharlamov – Petrov – Mikhaylov was reunited at the national team level and the fact that the trio didn't also play together at the club level was seen as a grievance that had to be corrected. The Soviet hockey federation intervened and Tarasov backed down: Kharlamov was moved from the Firsov line to the Petrov line and LW Yury Blinov was moved from the Petrov line to the Firsov line. After the season was over, Firsov finally ended his playing career for good.

    Quoted literature
    Anatoly Tarasov: Совершеннолетие (1968=2nd edition)
    Boris Mayorov: Я смотрю хоккей (1970)
    Vyacheslav Gavrilin/Oleg Spassky (editors): Десятая высота (1970)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Хоккей грядущего (1971=2nd edition)
    Vyacheslav Starshinov: Я – центрфорвард (1971)
    Anatoly Firsov: Зажечь победы свет (1973)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Путь к себе (1974)
    Leonid Goryanov: Рыцари атаки (1983)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Настоящие мужчины хоккея (1987)
    Fyodor Razzakov: Легенды отечественного хоккея (2014)
    Aleksandr Gorbunov: Анатолий Тарасов (2015)

    Josef Černý quoted after Anatoly Firsov (1973).
     
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  6. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Aleksandr Ragulin (D, *1941)

    Recognition in USSR:
    1960-61: top 10 defenceman, All-star
    1961-62: top 10 defenceman
    1962-63: top 10 defenceman, All-star
    1963-64: #2 defenceman, All-star
    1964-65: #3 defenceman
    1965-66: #1 defenceman, All-star
    1966-67: #2 defenceman, All-star
    1967-68: #1 defenceman, All-star, 5th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1968-69: #1 right defenceman, All-star
    1969-70: top 11 defenceman
    1970-71: top 5 right defenceman
    1971-72: All-star, 7th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1972-73: top 3 right defenceman, 10th in Best Player of the Year voting

    International recognition:
    1964 Olympics: All-star
    1965 World Championship: All-star
    1966 World Championship: All-star and Best Defenceman
    1967 World Championship: All-star

    Prior to his transfer to CSKA Moscow in 1961, Ragulin played for Khimik Voskresensk under coach Nikolay Epshteyn.

    Nikolay Vukolov (2006):
    "The first thing that was evident about him was his strength. He was gifted with a great physique and could move mountains. But despite of all his strength, Ragulin also played a very smart game. A sophisticated tactician – I would even compare him to a chess player –, he thought the game several steps ahead. I'm convinced he became such a unique player because of [Nikolay] Epshteyn, who (...) discovered Ragulin's inherent traits. Another coach would only have seen a mountain of muscles in Ragulin and then he would never have become the player the whole world knows."

    His game in general:

    Hockey handbook (1977):
    "One of the best defencemen in the history of Soviet and international hockey. While possessing a powerful physique, Ragulin did not restrict himself to a physical game and purely destructive tasks. His excellent vision of the ice, polished technique, coolness and hockey sense allowed him to act as a true designer of the game. When he won the puck, he immediately sent an accurate pass to the forwards. Often he also succeeded himself with his strong shot from the blue line."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "His characteristic feature: a colossal demolishing power. Aleksandr is a defenceman almost impossible to get past. He's incredibly composed, extraordinarly gifted physically, very shrewed in his tactical decisions and particulary reliable in the fight for the puck."
    Viktor Konovalenko (1986):
    "Opponents generally tried to avoid clashes with Ragulin. But it wasn't easy to get around him."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2014):
    "Experts thought he sometimes lacked speed, but he had a good grasp on the stick, was tactically literate and had a highly developed intuition."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "Aleksandr wasn't fast, in particularly from a standing position, but nobody could compete with him in a maneuver and when he made use of his stick. He had no equal in intuition. Neither the opponents during the match or the outstanding CSKA forwards during training could beat him. Aleksandr identified their intentions in advance, didn't fall for their feints and drove off the puck or, entering a check, took possession of it. And, having won the puck, his passes to his linemates created a maximum of convenience for developing an attack."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987): On the 1972 Olympics
    "After [the tournament in] Sapporo, Vladislav Tretyak said: 'One Aleksandr Pavlovich [Ragulin] is worth as much as any two other defencemen.'"

    Passing:

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Aleksandr is careful and doesn't go the the front line of the attack very often. His offensive contribution mainly consists of his passes, and thankfully he has the skill to pass precisely, strongly and pointedly in spades."
    Viktor Konovalenko (1986):
    "He had a very precise pass. Everyone knows what the role of a pass in hockey is, but what is incomparably more important than other passes is the first pass. The first pass is the beginning of the attack."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971): On the 1968 Olympics
    "Carrying the puck, he saw his partners and managed to follow all their movements so that he always found the best solution. He was the best counterattacker among our defencemen: Of the 142 passes he attempted, 128 reached their man and resulted in counterattacks for us."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971): On the 1970 World Championship
    "...Ragulin made 57 long passes that allowed our forwards to attack successfully. 71% of the counterattacks started by Ragulin were completed with success."

    In the late 1960s, the offensive qualities of the Soviet defencemen became subject to a public debate. Old-time players like Nikolay Sologubov and Ivan Tregubov expressed some criticism of Ragulin & Co and by 1970, Russian coach and columnist Dmitry Boginov stated that the Soviet defencemen didn't contribute offensively like "modern defencemen" should.

    Nikolay Sologubov (1967):
    "First you win the puck, then you get away from the opponent, then you look who to pass to and finally you make the pass. A first-rate defenceman does it all in one instance, almost without any pause. The swiftness in this action is the superb prerequisite for a fast attack and Ragulin, as, indeed, many of our defencemen, often holds the puck too long and restrains the development of a counterattack."

    In the early 1970s, Ragulin's lack of footspeed became an issue.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1974): On the 1971 World Championship
    "True, Ragulin didn't do a good job defensively. He wasn't always able to keep up with fast opponents."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1974):
    "It became difficult for Aleksandr to skate five kilometers or more in one match. His age and his weight affected him. He became too slow for playing within the framework of the various tactics of 'five in attack, five in defence'. Without a tactical change, he would have found himself unable to really support the forwards, both on the counterattack and in the final phase of the attack. He would have struggled to attack the opponent without risk and without leaving his zone uncovered, so that the team would not have been able to employ the tactic of power pressure which requires particularly strong activity by the defencemen. He would have had to spend a lot of time with the opponents in the corners of the rink instead of stopping the attack on the flanks and quickly moving to a counterattack, like for example Gennady Tsgynkov does. Ragulin needed time, but the opponent didn't give him time. He was constantly under time pressure, often failed and couldn't play an active role. His acceleration dropped sharply and this made it much more difficult for him to participate in close combat."

    Tarasov's reaction was to revive the 1-2-2 system (1971-1972). As the "stopper", the central stay-at-home defenceman in that setup, Ragulin was able to still contribute to the team success (see the Tretyak quote about Ragulin at the 1972 Olympics).

    Quoted literature:
    Nikolay Sologubov: Мой друг хоккей (1967)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Хоккей грядущего (1971=2nd edition)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Путь к себе (1974)
    Arkady Komarov (editor): Хоккей. Справочник. ("Hockey handbook", 1977)
    Viktor Konovalenko: Третий период (1986)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Настоящие мужчины хоккея (1987)
    Nikolay Vukolov/Nikolay Epshteyn: Хоккейные истории и откровения Семёныча (2006)
    Boris Mikhaylov: Такова хоккейная жизнь (2008)
     
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  7. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Viktor Kuzkin (D, *1940)

    Soviet senior league:
    1960-1976

    Soviet national team:
    1963 WCh, 1964 Olympics, 1965 WCh, 1966 WCh, 1967 WCh, 1968 Olympics, 1969 WCh; 1971 WCh, 1972 Olympics, 1972 WCh, 1972 Summit Series

    Recognition in USSR:
    1961-62: top 10 defenceman
    1962-63: top 10 defenceman
    1963-64: #3 defenceman
    1964-65: #1 defenceman, All-star
    1965-66: #2 defenceman
    1966-67: #3 defenceman
    1967-68: #3 defenceman
    1968-69: #2 right defenceman
    1969-70: top 11 defenceman
    1970-71: All-star

    General comments:

    Hockey handbook (1977):
    "One of the best defencemen in Soviet hockey. Mobile and light-footed. Had good sense of the situation. Steady in controlling the puck and no less skilled in winning it. Started out as a center forward and retained the ability to complete the attack. Captain of CSKA and the Soviet national team for several years."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "He's straightforward, bold and sometimes more aggressive than necessary. He's naturally gifted and plays a game without slips and without decline."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Kuzkin plays a tactically mature game. However, he's usually not at his best in the first period: he needs time to get into the match."
    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "He's on his guard, knows how to feather the nest and, if necessary, to hold on to the puck."
    Mobility:

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968): On the 1967 World Championship
    "[Carl] Brewer doesn't skate around the ice enough [to play on the Soviet team], he covers no more than one and a half kilometers per game. Our defencemen skate up to five kilometers, and Viktor Kuzkin and Vitaly Davydov even six kilometers."
    Composure:

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Oleg Zaytsev and Aleksandr Ragulin are both cool-headed, though perhaps not as calm and level-headed as Kuzkin is..."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "It was impossible to make Kuzkin lose his mind. I confess, we deliberatedly provoked him several times to see him angry or heated just for once. It was in vain. I don't remember which referee it was who said there is almost no way Kuzkin gets removed from the ice for he is never 'steamed up', but his words accurately reflect the character of our defenceman."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "In difficult moments, he knew how to surpass himself without losing composure."
    Offensive game:

    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "Viktor started as a centeral forward. Changing his role after he had come to CSKA, Kuzkin skillfully used the former experience in a new spot."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2008):
    "Kuzkin was an extremely versatile player. He started as forward but fulfilled his task where he was sent by Tarasov. The latter was probably the only one who could vision him as a defenceman: fast, tenacious, able to pass, able to connect to the attack and to shoot."
    Nikolay Sologubov (1967):
    "If you ask me which of the current defencemen comes closest to the type of a modern [=creative] defenceman, the first I will name is Eduard Ivanov of CSKA, and – sometimes – Vladimir Brezhnev. To a lesser degree, Viktor Kuzkin and Aleksandr Ragulin."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Viktor turned from forward to defenceman and that is perhaps why he is so darting and quick. He likes to play in the front. But it doesn't look like a gamble at all when he does it: he always gets back in time. His pointed and effective forays at the wing makes him appear like a fourth forward."
     
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  8. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Vitaly Davydov (D, *1939)

    Soviet senior league:
    1958-1973

    Soviet national team:
    1963 WCh, 1964 Olympics, 1965 WCh, 1966 WCh, 1967 WCh, 1968 Olympics, 1969 WCh, 1970 WCh, 1971 WCh, 1972 Olympics

    Recognition in USSR:
    1958-59: top 9 defenceman
    1959-60: top 11 defenceman
    1960-61: top 10 defenceman
    1961-62: All-star
    1962-63: top 10 defenceman
    1963-64: #4 defenceman
    1964-65: #4 defenceman
    1965-66: #4 defenceman, All-star
    1966-67: #1 defenceman, All-star
    1967-68: #2 defenceman, All-star
    1968-69: #1 left defenceman, All-star, 8th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1969-70: All-star, 6th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1970-71: top 5 left defenceman

    International recognition:
    1967 World Championship: Best defenceman

    In junior ranks, Vitaly Davydov played winger (presumably LW). When he was called up to the senior team of Dinamo Moscow in the late 1950s, head coach Arkady Chernyshov turned him into a defenceman.

    Arkady Chernyshov:
    "When I offered him the role of a defenceman, not only Vitaly but many others were surprised: Davydov wasn't a big guy and didn't have too broad shoulders. But I was convinced that in the near future our hockey would require defencemen with a wider range of activity – players who are not only able to destroy but also able to create. And I believed that Davydov could become such a player. Having played forward himself long enough, he knew all the skills and tricks of the forwards, so that it was easier for him to guess the plan of the opponent in his new role. The previous experience was also supposed to help him when connecting to the attack. And most importantly, I believed in his willigness to work hard. This hard work transformed a small youngster without special physical qualities into a great master."

    Note: Quoted after Tarasov (1987).
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "Nature did not endow him with a heroic stature: his height was 170 cm [5'7"] and his weight not more than 75 kg [165 lbs], but he nevertheless became an outstanding player."

    General comments

    Hockey handbook (1977):
    "One of the best defensive players in the history of Soviet hockey. Distinguished himself with fine technique, exceptional tactical prowess, thoroughness, discipline, composure and selflessness. He had speed and agility, was a skillful puck-stealer and one of our first players to master the method of catching the puck. Being short and of relatively light weight, he still used physical plays with great skill and had success against the physically strongest forwards of the opponent. To this day considered one of the cleanest and most technical defencemen in international hockey."
    Vadim Krivenko, Novosti Press Agency (1967):
    "Though having an unimpressive build for defense work, [Davydov] is pluckier than everyone else and skillfully applies body-checking technique."

    Patrick Houda (2018):
    "Davydov was not physically imposing but was an excellent skater with fast outlet passes to his forwards. Steady and reliable defenseman who made few mistakes. Did not have much of a shot but was strategically very intelligent. Played his best games against Canada. In one of the games vs Canada he received a slash across the jaw from Roger Bourbonnais and fell to the ice. Davydov recovered quickly and by sheer will-power caught the Canadian and stripped him off the puck. It was later revealed that he had broken his jaw in eight places."

    Note: From the player register at passionhockey.com. Source here.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    " One could easily think that technique, intuition and attention would have to be his main or even his only weapons. And indeed, at first sight he comes across like a clear-cut offensive defenceman, but then it turns out he's also capable of another game, a powerful and tough one. Vitaly doesn't fight with force and muscles but with his character: fierce, composed and cool."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Note the different faces of Vitaly Davydov, defenceman of Dinamo Moscow. One minute he cleanly, subtley and even elegantly grabs the puck and quickly passes it to his comrades. A few seconds later the same Davydov cuts into an opposing forward without mercy and wins the puck, but this time he is in no hurry to make a pass and instead rushes to the the offensive zone himself."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "The economy if not perfection of his movements, his rationality and the high technical level of his performance, that's what made Vitaly stand out among the player of our national team. He didn't have any weakness: he was equally good when it came to fast moves, carrying the puck, passing quickly and to handling a pass he received. And he had the ability to mask his intentions: he skated up to the opponent without being noticed, caught him with a bodycheck, won the puck and quickly made a smart pass."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1970):
    "Davydov is extremely disciplined, he concisely executes the instructions of the coaches, he's brave and fearless in physical encounters."

    Note: Quoted after an anthology titled Десятая высота, edited by sports journalists Vyacheslav Gavrilin and Oleg Spassky.

    Defensive play

    Nikolay Sologubov (1967):
    "Davydov seems to do everything right, he doesn't commit blunders. However, when he finds himself in a difficult situation he often gives the puck to his partner in order to hedge himself against a possible mistake – but without considering that the partner is in an even worse position. Nevertheless, his ability to steal pucks and his good positioning allow Davydov to a play sufficiently steady game."
    Vadim Krivenko, Novosti Press Agency (1967):
    "...usually [unreadable] back a bit to cover up for his team buddies."

    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "...Davydov was 'impassable'."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Vitaly defends brilliantly, in this he is probably an unsurpassed master."
    Nikolay Sologubov (1967): On the 1967 World Championship at Vienna
    "I already wrote earlier in my book that while Davydov's well-known strengths allow him to perform successfully in the national team, there are tactical flaws that prevent him from reaching a high class. But in Vienna he played just like a great player can."

    Physicality

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Even though he doesn't have outstanding physical traits, this defencemen is fearless and courageous and always willing to play a physical game."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Despite his small stature, Davydov loves to and knows very well how to play the body."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2008):
    "If you place the two Dinamo defencemen Valery Vasilyev and Vitaly Davydov side by side, no-one will believe that Davydov with his small stature was able to handle forwards weighting 100 kg [220 lbs]. But he was perfect positionally and did not get into a physical battle, he just pushed the opponent so that he lost his balance and within a few seconds Vitaly had snatched the puck."

    Offensive play

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "In the past Vitaly wasn't able to develop a counterattack. We made our objections and within a year of hard work he had completely dealt with his shortcomings and turned into one of the best defencemen of our country. Earlier he wasn't able to give a quick pass after picking up the puck. Now he can teach this art to others."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "As a forward, I also notice his weaker side: when he starts a counterattack, he doesn't do it with too much drive. Davydov is reserved and cautious. In the same situation, Ivanov and Ragulin – not to mention [Viktor] Blinov –, would certainly attack and take a risk, but Vitaly prefers to make the right move and to minimalize the risk."

    Attitude

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "His persistence reminds me of Vladimir Brezhnev who has longed to reach the heights of skill for many years. For his deceny and for his fanatism in training he is as deserving of recognition as Anatoly Firsov. And with his smooth and kind attitude towards his comrades Vitaly can serve as a model. If we say that young players should learn from the veterans of hockey, then Vitaly Davydov is the most convincing example of this."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "He always plays with full commitment, no matter who the opponent is. And how he prepares for the game! In that sense, he is like our Boris Mayorov."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Vitaly is the personification of discipline and a strict attitude to oneself. In ten years, he has never been late to a match, a training session or a team meeting."
     
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  9. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Here are some interesting remarks on Tarasov and Chernyshov and their different approaches by Russian journalist Anatoly Salutsky (*1938). Salutsky has written on hockey since the late 1950s and has published a biography of Vsevolod Bobrov in 1984.

    "As a coach, Arkady Chernyshov has always been famous for attaching great importance to the defensive tasks. Not that his tactic can be called defensive: he [also] paid a great deal of attention to the attack. But the fundamental difference between his coaching concept and the idea of Tarasov was that Chernyshov did not allow his defencemen to connect to the attack too actively. He required them to always meet the opponent at the blue line in order to prevent unexpected breakthroughs. The wingers on the other hand were given the opportunity to remain at the forefront of the attack and to rarely track back to the defensive zone."

    Another interesting comment by Salutsky, complete with a rare longer quote by Chernyshov himself:

    "There was one more fundamental difference between the coaching concepts of Chernyshov and Tarasov: not a tactical one, but rather a pedagogical one. Tarasov was an adherent of 'Kolkhoz hockey', equally demanding all players to sacrifice themselves. Chernyshov was a principled opponent of this approach. He once said: 'I don't remember any case when Bobrov blocked the puck with his body. And to me that was fine. Tarasov used to throw himself into shots [when he was still an active player] to make up for some other shortcomings, and also demanded it from other players. But imagine Bobrov throwing himself into a shot... To me, Bobrov was too valuable for this. He takes a puck, he has to leave the game – what a great loss for his team. This prompted me to not demand such actions from Bobrov. Later, I never put Aleksandr Maltsev on the ice when our team was shorthanded. Maltsev wasn't made for playing 4 against 5. A clever player like him must be used when the opponent is one man short. Why use generals like Bobrov and Maltsev at the front line in an infantery attack?'"

    Quoted after Fyodor Razzakov, Анатолий Тарасов. Битва железных тренеров. (2014)
     
  10. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    Thanks a lot!

    So from this we can gather, in a modern sense, that Chernyshev would not use his star players on the PK and he would not allow his defensemen to compromise their defensive positioning in order to initiate an attack.
     
  11. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Yes.

    The views expressed here by Chernyshov sound more in line with North American coaches of the 1960s than with Tarasov.
     
  12. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    If you find anything else on Chernyshev please do share. I am very, very intrigued by him, and not just because I have him in the ATD. Ever since a couple of years ago when we went more in depth into the Chernyshev-Tarasov partnership, I've always wondered about Chernyshev himself.

    To be honest, I think the closest comparable we would have of him in the modern sense is Alain Vigneult.
     
  13. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    Arkady Chernyshov: "It's for good reasons that Starshinov is on the ice whenever we are short-handed."

    Perhaps a more accurate assessment of Chernyshev's deployment of penalty killers is that he was able to identify who would be good at it and who wouldn't be based on the type of player they were? Although Maltsev seems like he would have been really good at the Soviet puck control PK style.
     
  14. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    I'd say Tarasov demanded every player to play in every situation and was rather unwilling to allow exceptions. While Chernyshov was willing to accept and embrace that different players had fundamentally different roles. Tarasov would probably at least have tried to make Gretzky and Lemieux backcheck and maybe spend time on the PK. Chernyshov wouldn't have.
     
  15. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    I want to revisit this question and cite some of the material I've been able to gather.

    1) Seniority in rank

    Tarasov himself has claimed in later publications (the two I'm aware of are both posthumous publications: "The Father of Russian Hockey", 1997, and a collection of texts titled Хоккей, Родоначальники и новички, 2015) that he and Chernyshov were both appointed head coaches of the national team with "equal power and rights" (равную власть и права). A book on Tarasov from 2015 by Aleksandr Gorbunov confirms this by quoting Yury Mashin who was chairman of the Soviet Sports Council in 1962 and the one who appointed Chernyshov and Tarasov. Mashin says that Tarasov and Chernyshov themselves asked him to appoint them as equals.

    And yet, the fact remains that Chernyshov was officially registered as "head coach" or "senior coach" of the Soviet national team from 1961-1972 while Tarasov was only registered as "coach" (1962-1972). So what gives?

    According to Gorbunov, the two coaches had a meeting in Tarasov's apartment where they agreed that Chernyshov should be named as "head coach" and Tarasov just as "coach". Gorbunov continues: "For them it was an empty formality. Both obtained the same rights and duties, and most importantly, the same responsibility for strategy, tactics, selection of the squad, quality of the preparation, the training process and the condition of the players."

    This seems rather confusing. Considering the statement of Yury Mashin, it's hard to deny both coaches were appointed as "equals", but at the same time we have some pretty solid pieces of evidence to the contrary. One passage I have already quoted earlier:

    Aleksandr Petrov (Tayny sovietskogo khokkey/"Secrets of Soviet Hockey"):
    "In one of the World Championships the USSR was losing against the Czechs when a 2 minute penalty was called against one of the opponents. Anatoly Vladimirovich [Tarasov] swept across the bench with cruising speed and immediately proposed: 'Arkady, let's put an experimental unit of five forwards on the ice.' Chernyshov looked at him and replied calmly: 'Anatoly, I've got a game to manage and at the same time I have to wrestle with you, you don't pull back.' Tarasov then moved back, they say.​

    Here is another one from a player who played for the Soviet national team under Chernyshov and Tarasov at the 1963 and 1965 World Championships (quoted after Aleksandr Gorbunov):

    Leonid Volkov:
    "As for the leadership of the team during the game, it was Chernyshov who had the say. There was no dual power. And how else could it have been? Chernyshov was determined and confident. Once he had made a decision, it was difficult to sway him. You really needed an extraordinary argument to do this."​

    Note that Leonid Volkov also played for Chernyshov at the club level, so he might have been biased in favour of him. But it's still hard to dispute the evidence that Chernyshov was indeed acting like the head coach during the game. Maybe both coaches did indeed formally obtain "equal rights and duties", but in reality it's that very act that looks like more of a formality when Chernyshov turned out to be the one calling the shots during the game and having the authority to silence Tarasov.

    2) Cooperation and division of labor

    According to Gorbunov, Chernyshov himself described the cooperation with Tarasov in the following manner in late 1971: "At first, we conducted the trainings together and both went out on the ice. He worked with the forwards and I with the defencemen. Now all training sessions are conducted by Tarasov, but in all the preparatory work and in drawing up the training plan, we carry the load together." The reason why Chernyshov eventually stopped working on the ice: According to Gorbunov he was "suffering from severe chronic radiculopathy which deprived him of the opportunity to lead the training process on skates and with a stick in his hands."

    Tarasov on his part had a take on the difficulty to sway Chernyshov that chimes with the statement by Leonid Volkov quoted above.

    Tarasov (quoted after Gorbunov):
    "He will listen to your argument with suspicion and even after all his objections have been exhausted, he will prefer to measure not seven times, but much more. That's his manner, and when we started working together, it found it somewhat bizzare. But later I became grateful for it because Chernyshov's unhurriedness and his slow pace in working out fundamental decisions balanced out the poles in our tandem."

    Boris Mayorov (quoted after Gorbunov):
    "Tarasov was a creative and inventive man, but in case of failure he was inclined to turn everything upside down. Fortunately he had the level-headed Chernyshov beside him who masterfully conducted the game in a tactically delicate manner."​

    Tarasov (quoted after Gorbunov):
    "Let's say we finally agree on something that Chernyshov initially was against. And then my proposal ends in a failure. No, Chernyshov will not complain to anyone that he himself had initially thought differently. He won't reproach me: 'See? I told you so.' He's a steady man, he's steady in everything he does."​

    The different characters of Chernyshov and Tarasov have been illustrated before. But here is a telling and hilarious addition from Gorbunov's book: According to him, some players on the national team nicknamed Chernyshov 'carrot' and Tarasov 'stick'. The Soviet national team really had both the carrot and the stick approach in place at the same time with that coaching duo.
     
  16. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    In post 284 I quoted a statement by Anatoly Salutsky regarding the tactical principles of Arkady Chernyshov:

    Here are some additions and elaborations.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1974): "It seems to me that in the discourse about tactics Chernyshov holds a firmly defined point of view: that strengthening the defence is indispensable (...) Chernyshov built and builds the game on accurate and strict observance of the defensive tasks by his players. That's why Dinamo stand out through the strength of their defence. A lot of their game is characterized by the motto 'If we don't give up a goal, we win!' A tactical option associated with this is to make the players line up at the blue line."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971): "For a long time, the tactic of Dinamo in defence was called 'five in a line'. In order not to confuse this tactical term with [association] football, you could also call their setup 'five on the line'. What does it mean? When Dinamo lost the puck in the offensive zone, all players immediately skated back to their own blue line and stopped there, forming a kind of motionless fence or screen. Standing still, they met the opponent. Stationed but ready to start, the Dinamo players were in a good position to observe all the maneuvers of the opponent."
    Vitaly Davydov*: "In those years [note: the 1960s], Dinamo used the so-called 'palisade' in defence. Four players were located on their blue line and the fifth was ahead trying to get attached to the puck carrier and slow the attack down. This was a passive method of defending because the initiative was given to the opponent without a fight."
    *Quoted after Fyodor Razzakov (2014).

    Tarasov (1974): "In recent years Dinamo has built the defence on different principles, including the principle of pressure, but nevertheless the echelon formation at the blue line remains a characteristic feature."

    Salutsky's statement that the Dinamo defencemen were required to meet the opponent at the blue line are confirmed by these comments, but his claim that the wingers weren't required to backcheck are contradicted by Starshinov ("five on the line", "all players immediately skated back") and Davydov ("four players located on their blue line"). Perhaps Salutsky refers to a later period (late 1960s into the 1970s) when the team defence was already built "on different principles" (as per the last quote by Tarasov). There is more from Tarasov on this question:

    Tarasov (1974): "The appearance of outstanding forwards, above all the magnificent and elusive Aleksandr Maltsev, made Chernyshov reconsider his main concept and retreat from it in some way. He used the talent of that young player in a very creative way. I recall our conversation at the [1971] World Championship in Switzerland. We were worried about the weak defensive performance of the line where Maltsev played together with Vikulov and Firsov. (...) But when I made claims to Chernyshov about Maltsev and began to reproach him for his dislike of the dirty work, Chernyshov rightly replied: 'Well, why should we turn Maltsev into a defenceman? His most important quality is the ability to complete an attack.'"

    Another comment by Tarasov confirms Salutsky's claim that Chernyshov "did not allow his defencemen to connect to the attack too actively", that is: as actively as Tarasov's defencemen at CSKA.

    Tarasov (1974): "In general, the defencemen of Chernyshov are primarily stay-at-home players. The exception are Vitaly Davydov – an athlete with great intuition in the game – and Valery Vasilyev – a player who not only defends with skill but also attacks intriguingly and supports the forwards with vigor."

    However, having cited three exceptions (Maltsev, Davydov, Vasilyev) to Chernyshov's principles, Tarasov himself can't help to wonder whether those were genuine principles or just pragmatic guidelines depending on the available players:

    Tarasov (1974): "Sometimes I find it difficult to decide what the decisive moment is in explaining the tactical appearance of Dinamo: Whether specific players determine the handwriting of the team and only appear to confirm a credo of the coach, or whether the players are selected according to the basic concept of the game."
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
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  17. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    I've come across a few caricatures from 1963, celebrating the Soviet World Championship heroes. The following one portrays the Spartak trio as a fighter jet. An accompying caption makes a wordplay by saying that Starshinov carries two major-ov wings.

    Spartak.jpg
     
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  18. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Interesting.The Dinamo approach to stacking the blue line with four or five skaters is very similar to pre forward pass NHL tactics- certain teams, where the blue line was stacked.(no Red Line at the time).
     
  19. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    The caricatures are from the May and June issues of the "Sporting Games" magazine. They were drawn by a certain I. Sokolova.

    A stormcloud dashing pucks towards the goal: Aleksandr Almetov

    Almetov.jpg

    A towering giant and living wall: Aleksandr Ragulin

    Ragulin.jpg

    No way through for those little pucks: Viktor Konovalenko

    Konovalenko.jpg
     
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  20. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    After the last few posts were dedicated to Arkady Chernyshov, the next one is about another prominent Soviet coach, Nikolay Epshteyn (1919-2015) who coached Khimik Voskresensk from 1955-1975. The defensive and passive style of play his club employed was widely viewed as an antithesis not only to Tarasov's CSKA, but to the fast attacking style of Soviet hockey in general. Khimik Voskresensk was the first non-Muscovite club that managed to crack the top 3 in the Soviet league (in 1964-1965 and 1969-1970).

    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Dinamo Moscow and Spartak adhere to the pointed offensive tactics of power attacking. It's almost a sin to hold and carry the puck in the middle zone. 'Ahead, fast ahead!', that's our slogan. Khimik plays a different game. For them to hold the puck in the middle zone and give it a ride there is a good thing. They don't attack the opponent, instead they lull him, cool his offensive ardor and lure him into a viscous game in the center of the ice. And then suddenly they shock him with an entirely unexpected counterattack. (...) CSKA has in its rows an amplitude of outstanding offensive and defensive players who are physically and technically very strong. That club was made to use the tactics of power attacking, a tactic of complete superiority. Khimik is a different matter. There are no stars of Firsov's brightness in the battle formation of the Voskresensk team. Based on the roster, Khimik coach Nikolay Semyonovich Epshteyn considers the tactics of passive pressing the most suitable and reasonable for his team."

    Nikolay Epshteyn (2006):
    "We finished third [in the 1969-1970 season]. The question is: Could a team that makes a bet on defence (which I as the coach was repeatedly accused of by my colleagues in the coaching department and some journalists) have achieved this result? Hardly. We always tried to play hockey based on the brains and technical skills of our players and their ability to challenge the opponent collectively. And the 'pressing' that I allegedly 'invented' was in fact just the beginning of our players' attacks, for I always taught the players this: Skate up to the opponent, strip him off the puck and immediately look for a partner to pass it forward. And we began with the pressing in the opponent's zone, in order to extinguish his impulse and to warm up our own offensive spirit."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "When you go out on the ice against Voskresensk, you know in advance they will use passive pressing. Having won the puck, they will keep it as long as possible. There will only be an attack when there is a 100% possibility to attack without risk. When we lose the puck, our opponents from Voskresensk skate back instead of attacking. What kind of patience does it take to not lose your self-controle in this viscous sauce of pressing! Voskresensk stubbornly disorganizes and frustrates our game. They weave a web of endless, monotonous non-offensive passes. They wait for our mistakes and they know how to wait for them... But Khimik doesn't always restrict themselves to passive pressing, they also know how to use active pressure. That is: Passive pressure with an added high readiness to counterattack as soon as they've won the puck. For example, our players rush towards the players who carry the puck. They are immediately cut out with a sharp pass and here comes the counterattack that the players of Epshteyn are so good at."

    Starshinov adds that once the pressing team has lost the puck in the offensive zone, one of their players goes after the opposing defenceman who has the puck – albeit not in an attempt to strip him off the puck, but only to prevent him from turning back. Meanwhile the other four Khimik players cover the remaining four opponents so that the puck carrier has no passing options. With no one to pass to and an opponent in his neck but space in front to move ahead, the defenceman is made to move over the red line and towards the Khimik blue line. The idea is to strip him off the puck deep in the Khimik half and then launch a fast counterattack that leaves him trailing behind.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
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  21. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Valery Nikitin (D/RW, *1939)

    Soviet senior league:
    1957-1971

    Soviet national team:
    1967 WCh, 1970 WCh

    Recognition in USSR:
    1960-61: top 19 forward
    1962-63: top 20 forward
    1964-65: top 12 defenceman
    1965-66: top 7 right winger
    1966-67: top 10 defenceman
    1967-68: top 7 right winger
    1969-70: top 11 defenceman, 10th in Soviet Player of the Year voting

    Hockey handbook (1977):
    "The strongest player in the history of the club Khimik Voskresensk. Characterized by his universalism, his ability to work with any linemate, his fine tactical thinking and his excellent technical foundation."
    Nikolay Epshteyn (2006):
    "Valery Nikitin is my pride, my weakness and joy. His speed might not have been very high, but he had a large range of playing and great potential. Not without reason he was called up to the national team and he didn't fail Tarasov and Chernyshov."
    Yury Morozov (2006):
    "Valery was a unique player. He used to come to me before the game: 'Hey Moroz, let me play up front today, I sense it will work, the feeling is there. And you'll do the work behind for me.' On paper he was a defenceman, but in fact he was a universal player. Here is how it worked: Based on the numbers on the sweater, the opponent thinks Nikitin is in defence and Morozov in attack. Only over the course of the game does he begin to realize that there is something wrong here. Nikitin goes ahead more and more and that's the danger, he knows how to score goals – sometimes even virtuosic ones."
    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "He's like a half-defenceman and half-forward, that's his distinction. He's been playing for Khimik for more than ten years and he's always on the ice in a special position, such is Nikitin's role. He has good stickhandling, loves and knows how to hold on to the puck, to wait while his teammates get open, to lure out one or two opponents and to send his partners forward in the most unexpected moment."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Valery can't be considered a top defenceman because he doesn't know how to dispose of the puck in one touch."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1970):
    "The Soviet national team values it highly when a defenceman is able to set up quick counterattacks, but Valery is used to a pace-reducing game with Khimik. With the national team he had to relearn."

    In 1967, Nikitin played for the Soviet national team at the World Championship in Vienna:

    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "They took him to the World Championship, but didn't allow him to play as he used to with Khimik. His partners also didn't adapt their game to him. He was put on defence and told: 'Play like Ragulin, Davydov and Kuzkin. If you get the puck, pass it right away.' In one word: They threw Nikitin off his game and robbed it of its flavour. And he didn't know how to play like Ragulin, only like Nikitin. His performance in Vienna [as a defenceman] was mediocre. Not bad, but not good either."

    However, in the game between the Soviet Union and Canada at the same tournament, Nikitin's positional versatility came in handy as he was moved to the right wing during the game. He played on a line with Boris Mayorov (LW) and Vyacheslav Starshinov (C):

    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "Having received no preliminary instructions, Nikitin played in this new position in his own way. Starshinov and I encouraged him and immediately Nikitin became Nikitin again, a bright and original player who was useful for our team. It's no coincidence he mostly played forward in the next game against Czechoslovakia too."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "In my opinion, Valery is a good, honest, hardworking and humble player. In Vienna, he did everything he could for the team. Nikitin was a great help to the team when we transferred him to the attack. He had to play on the Starshinov line, practically without training and without preparation of the troika. He played a difficult role there and coped with it well."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "The connection of players of different styles in our troika turned out to be successful. (...) Nikitin knows how to abruptly change the pace of the game, he creates an an uncomfortable pause for the opponent, breaks the rhythm of attack, confuses the opponent and prevents him from understanding our intentions and from adapting to them. Thanks to the clever player from Voskresensk, the attacks of our trio gained originality."

    Finally, a general criticism of the idea of "universal players" by Tarasov, exemplified at Valery Nikitin:

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "My ideal is not an average multi-dimensional player who is equal in all elements of skill, but a multi-dimensional player with some brilliant individual qualities, with peculiarities, even if there are things he doesn't know how to do well. That's why I think it's wrong when some of our coaches focus on players' weaknesses. By working on the weak points, they little by little pay less attention to the bright features of their gifts. (...)
    In this connection, I want to dedicate a few lines to Valery Nikitin, a hockey player of Khimik Voskresensk. It's only recently I got to know him well, when he was called up to the Soviet national team and headed to the World Championship in Vienna. (...) Valery is a very modest person, inquisitive, intelligent. He understands hockey well, it's nice to talk to him and I'm glad that I met him.
    But unfortunately, Valery is a universal player. When I thanked him after the World Championship, I frankly told him I regret his unsuccessful hockey destiny. Yes, unsuccessful, I didn't hold back. He got into the national team pretty late and not because he wasn't noticed by the coaches: Nikitin is just not a bright and outstanding player, unfortunately. And it's not even his fault. (...)
    The handwriting of his game has no bright distinctive features. His physical data are mediocre, he doesn't have a strong shot. True, he has his dexterity on which his rather high technique is based on. But the technique is not on the level of Alexander Almetov or Boris Mayorov or Vitaly Davydov or Anatoly Firsov, it's on a lower level. His skills are less perfect than those of the other national team players. As a defenceman, he is average and, frankly, he scared us. He doesn't really go into clashes because he isn't used to them and wasn't taught how. (...)
    Valery is the best among those who were raised to be universals. But even the best of them is inferior to the rest of the national team. Therefore, the error of the whole line of training of universal players needs to be pointed out. (...) Nikitin has been playing for Khimik for many years. They follow the line for universalization and here you have the result."
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
  22. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    The following posts will cover some less-heralded 1960s defencemen. I will include them for the sake of providing a broader picture of the upper echolon of Soviet hockey during the particular time.
     
  23. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Vladimir Brezhnev (D, *1935)

    Soviet senior league:
    1955-1970

    Soviet national team:
    1961 WCh, 1965 WCh, 1966 WCh

    Recognition in USSR:
    1959-60: top 11 defenceman
    1960-61: top 10 defenceman
    1961-62: top 10 defenceman
    1962-63: top 10 defenceman
    1963-64: #7 defenceman
    1964-65: #5 defenceman
    1965-66: #5 defenceman
    1967-68: #7 defenceman
    1969-70: # 6 left defenceman
    1970-71: top 11 defenceman

    Hockey handbook (1977):
    "Defenceman with a strong shot and a masterful physical game. Also distinguished by his understanding of the game situation. Was one of the long-lived players in our top league."
    Tarasov (1968):
    "He was active, fearless and his firepower increased [over time with CSKA]: all goaltenders were afraid of Brezhnev's shot. (...) By his calibre and skill, Vladimir was somewhere between the 5th and 6th best defenceman of our country."
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
  24. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Boris Spirkin (D, *1937)

    1958-59: top 9 defenceman
    1959-60: top 11 defenceman
    1963-64: #10 defenceman

    Hockey handbook:
    "One of the core players of Lokomotiv Moscow in the 1960s. Played a tough physical game and had an accurate shot from long distances."
    Jim McKay, Windsor Star (1960):
    "Boris Spirkin, a stocky, dark-haired rearguard, was one of the most impressive of the [Moscow] Selects. He apparently has caught on to the Canadian style of taking out a man near his own net."
    Boris Mayorov (1970):
    "A few years ago, my namesake and same-age peer Boris Spirkin played for Lokomotiv Moscow. The two of us were called up to the second national team at the same time. Everyone expected him to make the first national team. But that never happened. He ended his career when he wasn't even 30 and his performance already declined. The reason was this: he never learned to skate properly."
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  25. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Vladimir Ispolnov (D, *1937)

    1962-63: top 10 defenceman
    1963-64: #8 defenceman
    1964-65: #12 defenceman

    Hockey handbook:
    "Able to play a physical game, had a good shot."
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018

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