The oldest, most intense and most famous rivalry in the history of the NHL is the Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. The Montreal Canadians (do you smell something?). This rivalry has always been about more then just one city versus another, it was about the Center of English Canada against the center of French Canada. The teams represented two Nations which had been at war on and off for 600 years, and this combined to create a bitter rivalry which exists to this day and is unsurpassed by any rivalry in Hockey history. Except for one.
Canada Vs. The Soviet Union. The greatest rivalry bar none to ever take to the ice's surface. The bitterness and hate these two teams had for each other both on and off the ice stemmed from the fact that Canada and the Soviet Union were complete opposites when it came to Hockey, Politics, Economics, Social Issues, and just about everything else. This extension of the Cold War lead to the most famous series ever played by a Canadian hockey team. It was thethe pinnacle of the rivalry; the 1972 Summit Series.
When the Soviet Union first competed in Olympic Hockey in 1956 Canada won the Gold medal every year from 1920 to 1952 except for 1936 when they won Silver. That year(1956) the Soviet Union won the gold and won every other gold from then on until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 except for on two occasions when they won a Silver and a Bronze. Canada never won a Olympic Gold in any Olympic Hockey tournament that the Soviet Union competed in, in fact in 2002 they won their first gold since in 1952. One last statistic: In all international meetings between the Soviet Union and Canada, from 1954-1991, there were a total of 139 games played. The Soviet Union won 95 games to Canada's 32 games, and 12 games ended in a tie.
After the end of the Cold War and the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, the great Rivalry between two Hockey Super Powers, between two styles of play, and metaphorically between Communism and Capitalism, Thawed. This rivalry has carried over to a certain extent to the Canada Vs. Russia games, but they are not the same. The teams are no longer polar opposites, the Russians still have their own unique style of play but it is al ot more similar to Canada's then in the days of the Soviet Union. Also, There is no longer the Ideological backdrop of the Cold War to take the games to the next level.
A contributing factor to the decay of this historic rivalry is the general decrease in the overall strength of the Russian teams compared to the Soviet years. No longer can it be said that Canada and the Soviet Union are the two great Hockey Superpowers. In two of the four Olympics Russia has competed in, they have failed to win a medal in hockey twice. in the 9 Olympics the Soviet Union competed in Hockey they won 7 Golds, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze.
What is the reason for this decrease? What has caused the most winning nation in hockey history (Russia is considered a continuation of the Soviet Union by the IIHF)to not win a gold medal at the Olympics since 1988?.
Tomorrow we will delve into part two of Hockey, The Soviet Union, and Capitalism
And now i leave you with our daily clip, today it is of ballet on ice:
Leafs Notebook – April 1
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