Last updated on Sunday, 18 May 2008

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100 Top International Hockey Stories of the Century

Three stories a week were published thoughtout the 2007-08 season.
All stories ©

01-10 11-20 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 71-80 81-90  91-100

41 Carter’s "video goal" – the most dramatic Worlds finale ever        
Helsinki, Finland
May 11, 2003

Sweden had defeated host Finland in the most dramatic quarterfinal win in the history of the World Championships, coming back from a 5-1 deficit to top the Finns 6-5 in Helsinki. (see story 61). Canada had their quarterfinal scare in Turku, barely shaking off a pesky German team, thanks to Eric Brewer’s goal 37 seconds into overtime. But both teams had surprisingly easy semifinals: Canada trounced the Czechs 8-4 while Sweden sailed by Slovakia 4-1.

So two days after the semifinals, it was Sweden vs. Canada in the first Worlds final between those two teams since 1997, also that one in Helsinki. Sweden took a 2-0-lead on goals from Matthias Tjarnqvist and Per-Johan Axelsson, but Canada bounced back thanks to markers from Shawn Horcoff and Shane Doan, the equaliser with ten minutes to go.

So the 13,387-capacity crowd at the Hartwall Arena was to witness yet another overtime thriller, also the first time teams would skate four-on-four in a World Championship gold medal game. This was a phenomenal overtime, with Canada’s Roberto Luongo and Sweden’s Mikael Tellqvist having to make several great saves to keep the game alive. One IIHF official said after the game: “It was so exciting I forgot to breath for fifteen minutes.”

With the fourteen-minute mark of the OT approaching, Canada’s Anson Carter got the puck in full speed at centre ice and just inside the blueline he released a heavy shot from the right angle. Tellqvist made a partial save with his glove hand, but Carter jumped at the rebound behind the net and attempted a wraparound shot as both he and Tellqvist were racing to get first to the far post.

Carter got the shot away just a split second before the Swedish goalie had reached the other side and the puck slid under Tellqvist’s pads. Nobody in the arena could see if the puck had crossed the line before it eventually came out again, but Carter had the definite feeling that he had scored and started a wild celebration. The entire Canadian team erupted and started to mob Carter, but the joy eventually calmed down when the players saw that the Czech referee Vladimir Sindler approached the off-ice officials bench without calling it a goal. It became clear that Sindler would call upstairs to the video goal judge.

The longest five minutes in Team Sweden and Team Canada’s lives were the hardest five minutes of video goal judge Pavel Halas’ career.

While everyone in Hartwall Areana waited to find out, “is it in?” Halas was busy at work looking at the goal from every angle imaginable to make sure that he got the right call.

“I knew I had to be 100 percent sure,” The Czech-born Halas said. “There was no time for feelings, you have to get it right.”

Being a video goal judge is a thankless job. A mistake in any situation is a blemish, but in this particular situation, with a gold medal on the line, the wrong call would be a travesty in World Championship history. Which is exactly why the instant that referee Vladmir Sindler skated over to the phone to confer with Halas, he knew he better be at his best.

Head referee Sindler had no clear view of the puck on the ice and could offer little help as he was on the left side of the net, while the puck was on the right. Learning this, Halas, started looking at all of the angles from the television feed. After looking at eight or nine different angles, Halas had a gut feeling that he had found the magic angle that revealed the puck had indeed gone in the net.

“I wasn’t certain at first,” Halas said. “It was more of a sense that this was going to be the angle that told us the truth.”

Halas asked the video coordinator to zoom in as much as he could on the lucky angle. After a zooming process that took nearly three minutes, Halas had his answer.

“It was clear from the angle that we choose to zoom that the puck was about 15 centimeters over the goal line,” Halas said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian and Swedish teams were waiting for what felt like an eternity for the ruling to be handed down. While they and thousands of fans waited, Halas, spoke with Sindler on the phone.

“It helped that we both spoke the same language,” Halas said. “We also spoke in English because in this kind of a situation, you want to do everything according to the protocol.”

Fortunately for everyone concerned, no translation was needed when Sindler hung up the phone with Halas and crisply signalled that the goal was good and the gold was Canada’s.

Celebration from the Maple Leaf side of the bench erupted for a second time, while utter disappointment and disbelief was seen on the faces of the Swedes. Meanwhile, somewhere high atop of Hartwell Arena, Pavel Halas sat back knowing he had made the right call — no thanks necessary, just another day in the life of a video goal judge.

For Canada and Anson Carter it was huge. It was Canada’s first World Championship title in six years, while Carter got a heroes’ reception in his home town Toronto. On May 15, fresh off the plane, Carter was whisked in a limousine to the SkyDome arena where he threw out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays - Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball game. He was besieged by autograph seekers and well wishers at the park, conducted a lengthy press conference, and then went to a local TV studio to do a half-hour talk show before returning downtown to do more interviews.

The goal not only meant gold for Canada. It also meant that one of the most important goals in Canadian hockey history was scored by a black man. The new face of Canadian hockey excellence was black, and with dreadlocks no less.
Anson Carter is having a bite of gold medal after the “longest” goal in World Championship history.

PHOTO: Europhoto/Pekka Mononen

The best angle: This TV-shot from Finnish television YLE shows that Carter’s shot crossed the goal line.

42 Breakup of old Europe creates a new hockey world
Prague, Czechoslovakia
May 6, 1992

It is an often repeated saying that sports and politics should not be mixed. In practice nothing could be further away from reality. Sports and politics have been, are, and will forever be intertwined. Ice hockey and the IIHF were very much affected by the defining moments in modern history, the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9, 1989, and the final dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.

Only five months after Mikhail Gorbachev declared the office of the President of the USSR as extinct and turned the power to Boris Yeltsin, the IIHF held its Annual Congress in Prague, Czechoslovakia. (Ironically, only seven months after that congress also the hosting country seized to exist). As the members of the IIHF highest legislative body convened in the congress room in Prague in the morning of May 6, 1992, the agenda had the following point 7: Admission of new member associations and expulsions.

Nine new countries, who earlier were part of other nations, applied for new membership; Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Iceland, who of course was not involved in the political developments at the turn of the decade, applied simply as a new member.

There were 32 nations represented at the congress, carrying a total number of 73 votes, which meant that 37 votes were needed for simple majority. As the first congress day was nearing its end, finally point 7 came up on the agenda. There would be no surprises and no split voting. All the applicants were unanimously admitted and the status of observers from the nine applying countries turned in a couple of seconds into official membership. There was a rousing applause welcoming the new members to the hockey family. At the same time the Russian Ice Hockey Federation was installed as member, replacing the former Soviet Union.

So altogether the IIHF lost one member (Soviet Union) and gained eleven new. (As matter of trivia, Kuwait was expelled, due to lack of hockey activity).

Few congress decisions in IIHF history had bigger influence on the international game than this one. It was as huge for the world governing body as the 1967 expansion from six to twelve teams was for the NHL.

Five of the new members (Latvia, Ukraine, Slovenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) would in a couple of years reach the top division of the IIHF World Championship program and all, with the exception of Slovenia, would soon qualify for the Olympic Winter Games. Latvia forever changed the face of the World Championships thanks to their fans who travel en masse to follow their team, regardless of where they play.

Ten years after becoming an independent hockey nation, Belarus shocked the sporting world by defeating Sweden in the quarterfinal of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. In the wake of that success, the country has developed stars like brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovsky (all playing in the NHL). Slovenia has – despite all odds (the country has only about 100 professional players) – reached the highest level of world competition and will again be in the World Championship in Canada in 2008, probably with sensational forward Anze Kopitar, one of the brightest young stars in the NHL.

The congress decision from 1992 triggered even more nations to take up ice hockey and join the IIHF. In 1991 there were 25 nations competing in the IIHF championship program. In 2007 there were 46.
From left: Andrei Kostitsyn (Belarus), Kaspars Daugavins (Latvia) and Anze Kopitar (Slovenia) representing their new countries.

PHOTO: Europhoto.

43 Bossy’s OT goal in Canada Cup semi-final ends Soviet’s four-year unbeaten streak
Calgary, Canada
September 13, 1984

The moral of the story was: make sure never to do anything to upset the Soviet national ice hockey team. The USA had the temerity to beat the vaunted team at the 1980 Olympics, but from that moment until the playoff round of the 1984 Canada Cup, the famed CCCP team did not lose a single game, including three perfect records at the World Championship in 1981, 1982, and 1983, as well as the 1984 Olympics. The team had also won the 1981 Canada Cup, demolishing Canada 8-1 at the Montreal Forum in the finals, and in 1984, they were well on their way to another international whitewash.

The Soviets stormed through the Canada Cup round robin, winning all five games and outscoring their opponents 22-7. Canada, meanwhile, looked hot and cold, winning only two of five games and losing two (with one tie), including a 6-3 loss to the Soviets. Canada was not even close to match the Big Red Machine in the game, played on an NHL-sized rink in Edmonton.

The records of the two teams set up a semi-final showdown between Canada and the CCCP team in Calgary, a match-up fans loved but had hoped would wait until the finals. Pete Peeters was the Canadian goalie for that all-important game, and Vladimir Myshkin was in the nets for the Soviets.

A tense opening period yielded no goals, and John Tonelli got the only goal of the second. Canada outshot the Soviets 17-6 in that period, though, and Myshkin’s great play gave the Soviets hope. They came out flying in the third, and Sergei Svetlov and Sergei Makarov scored in the opening seven minutes to give the Soviets a 2-1 lead. Defenceman Doug Wilson tied the game for Canada on a pass from Wayne Gretzky with just over six minutes to play, and the game went into overtime.

Igor Larionov took a penalty early in the fourth period, but Canada failed to score. It wasn’t until 12:29 that the tension turned to delirium for fans at the Saddledome and across Canada.

But it all started with one of the greatest defensive plays by a defenseman – who was known for his offense. Twelve minutes into the OT-period, the Soviets suddenly emerged on a two-on-one break where Vladimir Kovin carried the puck and attempted to feed Mikhail Varnakov. The Soviets were usually deadly on an odd-man rush but Kovin’s pass was read perfectly by the offensive minded Paul Coffey who went down on his knees and intercepted the puck. Not only did Coffey steal the pass, he immediately started a counter attack, and after getting the return pass from John Tonelli inside the Soviet blueline, Coffey shot from the point.

Mike Bossy was positioned in front of Myshkin, but he had little clue that the puck deflected off his stick and into the net. Canada escaped with a 3-2 win. It went on to beat Sweden 2-0 in the best-of-three finals, but the victory over the Soviets thanks to Bossy’s dramatics remain the more compelling image from that tournament. Four years of Soviet perfection ended in stinging defeat.
Canada's Mike Bossy (right) hugs John Tonelli after the OT-upset of the Soviet Union in the 1984 Canada Cup. Bossy tipped in the winner, Tonelli (tournament MVP) assisted.

PHOTO: HHoF/Miles Nadal

44 Amid turmoil, Sweden wins first gold in a quarter of a century
Vienna, Austria
May 1, 1987 

The 1987 World Championship in Vienna, Austria, was marred by the “Sikora-case”, a jurisdictional quagmire which almost ruined the entire tournament and became a nightmare for the IIHF. An eligibility dispute regarding the West German player Miroslav Sikora became a case for the Vienna District Court which, in an unprecedented event, overruled a decision by the championship directorate. The IIHF had to adjust the standings according to the court’s decision.

Amid all the turmoil and confusion, where accredited journalists spent as much time covering the Vienna court as writing about hockey, the players tried to stay focused on the games. In the end, there were four teams left in the run for gold: the defending champion, Soviet Union, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden, a country that had not won hockey gold since 1962. The teams played a four-team final round-robin playoff for the medals. (It wasn’t until 1992 that there was a one-game, winner-take-all gold medal game.)

What became the key match up was played on May 1 -- Sweden vs. Soviet Union -- in the second round of the round-robin. Both teams had tied their first games as Sweden battled Czechoslovakia to a 3-3 draw and Canada surprisingly held the vaunted Soviets to a scoreless tie.

With less than a minute and a half remaining in the game, the Big Red Machine was leading 2-1 and on its way to another world title. The Soviets had their best unit on ice: defencemen Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov and forwards Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov. They had young Evgeni Belosheikin in goal. Sweden answered with their best: Tommy Albelin and Anders Eldebrink on defence, while Bengt-Ake Gustafsson centred wingers Hakan Loob and Tomas Sandstrom.

Gustafsson, arguably one of the finest centres in international hockey, got the puck from Eldebrink and skated from his own zone up the middle, making a couple of nice moves along the way. Inside the blue line, he turned and made a drop pass to Albelin who crossed the puck from his right point position to Loob, who was standing to the left of the Soviet goal.

When Loob was checked by Kasatonov, the Swedish forward made an amazing turn-around backhand pass that surprised the entire Soviet defence, including the goaltender Belosheikan. The puck went straight to Sandstrom, who had pinched in deep and was standing to the right of the net. With the Soviet defence collapsed around Loob, Sandstrom could almost effortlessly chip the puck into the empty side of the net. All five Swedish players on the ice had the puck before it went in.

The historic photo, below, shows how Belosheikin threw his stick as a last desperate effort to deflect the puck and possibly make the referee call a penalty shot. Kasatonov, when realising what had happened, threw out his arms in disbelief. The best five-man-unit in the history of the game was utterly outplayed at a crucial moment in a crucial game. Time of the goal: 18:39. Final score: 2-2.

Sandstrom’s marker is one of the best and most spectacular goals ever scored in the history of the championships. And, eventually, it gave Sweden its first gold medal in 25 years. On May 3, on the last day of the final round-robin, Sweden crushed Canada 9-0 in the early game. The score against the demoralised Canadians gave the Swedes superior goal difference over the Soviets. Sweden, with four points, could still have been overtaken by Czechoslovakia had the Czechs defeated the Soviets in the very late game (and final contest of the tournament). But the Soviets won, 2-1, and the Swedish team started their wild celebration in the stands. A quarter of century of Swedish frustration was over.

Despite Tre Kronor’s win, it became all too obvious that the IIHF’s system of awarding medals was badly flawed and outdated. The Soviet team came into the championship as defending World Champions; they were the only team that didn’t lose a single game in Vienna; but, they still didn’t win gold. Sweden won thanks to an inflated score against Canada, in the only game of the final round where one of the teams was no longer in a position to win gold.

But this is not what people recall from the sunny Vienna spring of 1987. Once the Sikora controversy had been dealt with, what is stuck in everyone’s memory was the amazing Tomas Sandstrom goal which eventually led to the historic gold.
Sweden's Tomas Sandstrom scores the amazing 1987 "golden goal". Soviet defenceman Alexei Kasatonov is in despair.

PHOTO: Bildbyran/Sweden

45 Luc Robitaille the hero as Canada wins first World Championship in 33 years
Milan, Italy
May 8, 1994 

It is inconceivable that Canada, a country virtually unbeatable for the first 30 years of IIHF history, all of a sudden could not win a gold medal at the World Championship. But after the Trail Smoke Eaters won in 1961, year after year passed, and Canada failed to win gold. The 1960s was a time of amateur hockey for Canada, but in 1977 the IIHF allowed all pros to play internationally and Canada was back in international hockey after a six-year abscence. Still, Canada failed to win. Many times the teams Canada sent over were ill-prepared, often with poor attitude, but most often the simple truth was that the Soviet teams were too good.

In February 1994, however, Canada came this close to winning Olympic gold in Lillehammer, losing in a shootout to Sweden. Three months later, for the World Championship in Milan, Italy, coach George Kingston had assembled a team that even to this very day could probably win gold. The names remain impressive, indeed, starting with Joe Sakic and continuing with Paul Kariya, Rod Brind’Amour, Jason Arnott, Rob Blake, Brendan Shanahan, and Luc Robitaille.

The 12 teams played in two groups in Italy that year, and Canada was the only team to finish the round robin with a perfect 5-0-0 record (and a goal differential of +17). This led to a quarter-finals showdown with Jaromir Jagr and the Czechs. Martin Straka gave his team an early 1-0 lead, but Shanahan replied a few minutes later for Canada to make it 1-1 after the first period. The teams exchanged goals in the second, and the third was a tense 20 minutes that seemed headed toward overtime until Shayne Corson beat Petr Briza with just 2:34 left in regulation.

In the semi-finals, Canada hammered Sweden 6-0, thanks to a hat trick from Robitaille, four assists from Steve Thomas, and a shutout from Bill Ranford. This put Canada in the gold-medal game against Finland, which had advanced with a 10-0 slaughter of Austria in the quarter-finals and another pasting in the semis, this time 8-0 against USA.

Both teams played evenly for the first 40 minutes, but in the third period, Finland held a wide edge in play and shots, and Esa Keskinen scored early to give the Finns a 1-0 lead. As so frequently happens, however, Canada had late-game heroics in its repertoire, and Brind’Amour tied the game in power-play, with less than five minutes to go. A scoreless ten minutes of overtime took the game to a shootout, and even that went into extra shots.

In the first five shots, Robitaille and Sakic scored for Canada but Jari Kurri and Mikko Makela responded for Suomi. In the extra shots, though, Robitaille scored the winner on Jarmo Myllys. It was one of the most amazing shoot-out goals every scored since the IIHF introduced the format in 1992. Robitaille skated in on goal, lost control of the puck as he approached the net, but regained possession in time to make a brilliant deke on the goalie to give Canada the win. And when Mika Nieminen was thwarted by Bill Ranford in the last run, it was over. Robitaille's heroics had given Canada its first gold since 1961 at the World Championships and the win started a new run of success for the country which has now won five of the last 14 tournaments.
Luc Robitaille scores on Finland's Jarmo Myllys with the deciding shoot-out goal that gave Canada their first World Championship gold in 33 years in 1994.

PHOTO: Bruce Bennett Studios

46 Hockey escape of the century – Stastnys land in Quebec
Innsbruck, Austria
August 24, 1980

Everybody knew that the four-team European Cup finals in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1980, would be a cakewalk. Soviet national team head coach Viktor Tikhonov was still fuming after the shocking loss to the United States in the Lake Placid Olympics only six months earlier.

Tikhonov was also the coach of the CSKA Moscow club team and the Innsbruck event was his first opportunity to avenge the Olympic debacle. With most of the national team players on the CSKA roster, the Soviet champions defeated Finnish Tappara Tampere 8-0, Czechoslovak Slovan Bratislava 11-1 and Sweden’s MoDo Ornskoldsvik 7-1. CSKA was once again European club champion.

For the 24-year old Slovan player Peter Stastny and his younger brother, Anton, the scores didn’t really matter. Prior to the trip to Innsbruck – on the Communist side of the Iron Curtain – Peter and Anton talked about contacting the Quebec Nordiques, the new NHL club that had drafted Anton just one year earlier. Peter, one of the best forwards in the world and a member of the Czechoslovakian national team since the 1976 Canada Cup, was undrafted, but he was convinced that the Nordiques would love to have them both.

During one of the first nights in Innsbruck, Peter and Anton left the Slovan hotel to find a public phone booth. Peter made sure that he had a pocketful of Austrian Schillings for the overseas call. He had written down on a small piece of paper a telephone number he had seen in an NHL media guide – area code 418 and then 529-8441, the switchboard of the Nordiques hockey club.

Peter was the one who did the talking, and Anton nervously looked around making sure that no one was watching. From the media guide they understood that the main person with the Nordiques was someone named Marcel Aubut, and Peter asked the receptionist to connect him with the club official.

When club president Marcel Aubut was told that “someone named Peter Stastny was calling from Europe”, he immediately took the call. Peter managed to tell Aubut in broken English that he and Anton were in Austria, that they both wanted out to play in the NHL, and that it was possible to defect while they were out of Czechoslovakia. Peter followed with a question: “Do you want me and my brother to play for the Nordiques? We only come in pairs. But hurry, the tournament ends on August 24.”

Stastny could sense the excitement on the other end of the line. For the Nordiques two world class players would be a godsend. In their first NHL season, the season that had recently ended, Quebec finished dead last in its division with 25 wins and 44 losses. Aubut quickly realised that the brothers were just what the struggling expansion club needed.

Aubut told Peter to stay put and that he and another club official were coming to Innsbruck on the next flight. Marcel Aubut and director of player development Gilles Leger arrived in the Austrian city roughly 24 hours later. In the evenings, after the games, Peter and Anton sat in covert negotiations with the two Canadians, and it became clear that the Nordiques officials would not leave without Peter and Anton.

Once the brothers had agreed to defect, Peter called his pregnant wife Darina in Bratislava and told her to come to Innsbruck. The last game of the tournament was on August 24 at 19:00, and the score was lopsided – CSKA beat Slovan, 11-1. After a post-game meal, the Slovan team bus was scheduled to depart from the hotel parking lot at midnight. All players were there, except for the brothers.

Peter, his wife, and Anton were already in Aubut’s car on their way to Vienna where they arrived early in the morning of August 25. The moments of defection – including an after midnight search for Anton who suddenly got lost for an hour in downtown Innsbruck – were in Peter’s words “the scariest moments of my life. It was like being part of a John le Carré novel.”

Aubut had already organised the necessary immigration papers with the Canadian embassy in the Austrian capital and after spending some hours at the Hotel Intercontinental in Vienna, the party took off for Quebec City, via Amsterdam and Montreal.

When the news broke, the sensational story grabbed headlines around the world. Players from Czechoslovakia had defected before (Vaclav Nedomansky, Richard Farda) but no escape was more dramatic. And no defection would have a bigger impact on hockey than Peter and Anton Stastny’s decision to leave Bratislava for Quebec.

With the Stastny brothers (the third, Marian, joined them one year later), the Nordiques immediately became one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. Peter would play a full decade with the club, scoring over 1,000 points in 737 games while Anton had nine seasons with 636 points in 650 games.

As the Nordiques relocated to Colorado in 1995, Peter will forever remain as Quebec’s all-time scoring leader, with Anton third on the list. But it wasn’t the points in the game summaries that make this a top story — it was the gut-wrenching and brave decision to abandon a system you didn’t approve of, and to continue to live and play in freedom.
Peter Stastny, centre, flanked by brothers Marian (left) and Anton. All three played for the Quebec Nordiques in the ‘80s.

Peter Stastny won the NHL's top rookie honours (Calder Trophy) after scoring 109 points in the 1980-81 season.


47 IIHF starts the World Women's Championship
Ottawa, Ontario
March 19, 1990

Although women have played hockey almost as long as men, it wasn’t until 1990 that they had their own official tournament. Indeed, Lord Stanley’s daughter, Isobel, was a famous participant in outdoor games at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in the early 1890s, and university hockey in Canada flourished from the 1900s on. National championships were played in the 1930s, but the war ended much interest in the game.

It wasn’t until 1987 that any attempt was made to play a world championship. This tournament was played principally at the Centennial Arena in Toronto, and its success so impressed the IIHF that a formal World Women’s Championship was scheduled for 1990, in Ottawa. Eight teams participated, but it was clear early on that two nations stood well above the others. Canada and the United States both went through the preliminary round robin with ease, although it’s interesting to note that the U.S. beat Finland by only a 5-4 score.

Nonetheless, the teams met in the gold-medal game, and Canada beat the Americans 5-2 to win the first gold medal ever handed out by the IIHF for women’s hockey. But the tournament was the most important moment in the women’s game in the game’s history. Players from European countries came to Ottawa using, in many cases, personal expenses, honoured to compete and enthusiastic about supporting this new initiative. The Canadians were famous for their pink sweaters and socks. The media gave the tournament more media coverage than it had hoped for, and TSN telecast the final game. Angela James (CAN) and Cammi Granato (USA) played in that tournament, and they will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in May 2008 for their careers in the women’s game.

Despite that first success, the World Women’s Championship was not at first an annual affair. The next tournament was played in 1992, then 1994 and 1997, at which time its importance to international hockey could not be ignored and it was made a yearly event. Importantly, 1998 marked the Olympic debut for women’s hockey, and the event is now on firm footing and an important part of the IIHF’s calendar.
Susana Yuen is hosted up by her teammates after the Canadians defeated Team USA to win the 1990 World Women's Championship in Ottawa.

Hockey Canada

48 Czechoslovakian team jailed for treason – entire generation lost
Prague, Czechoslovakia
March 11, 1950

Czechoslovakia was the best national team in the world in the years following World War II. The team won the 1947 and 1949 World Championships and lost the 1948 Olympic gold to Canada only on goal differential.

But it was their own people, driven by conspiracy theories in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, who prevented this great team from defending its title at the 1950 World Championship in London, England. Just before the national squad was about to board the plane for Great Britain on March 11, 1950, the players were handcuffed by the national state security police (KNB, Czechoslovakian forerunner to the KGB) and taken to jail.

Seven months later, on October 7, the players appeared in court accused of attempting to defect and they were charged with treason. The security police presented “intelligence information” about plans to defect in Great Britain during the World Championship. The main argument was the information that in December 1948, the players of LTC Praha (most of whom played for the national team) had discussed the option of defecting in Switzerland after the annual Spengler Cup tournament in Davos.

Yes, there had been earlier defections by Czechoslovakian hockey players to the west, but none of the accused players had ever seriously considered taking this step, although they had their chances. They could have stayed in Sweden after the 1949 World Championship or in Vienna where they prepared for the 1950 event in London. The players, of course, pleaded not guilty.

Needless to say, their fate was pre-determined by authorities who ruled the totalitarian regime, and twelve were sent to jail. The players were labeled “state traitors”.

Goaltender Bohumil Modry was sentenced to 15 years in prison; forward Gustav Bubnik to 14 years; forward Stanislav Konopasek got 12; Vaclav Rozinak and Vladimir Kobranov each got 10 years; and, Josef Jirka got six years. Six other players were given sentences ranging from eight months to three years; Mojmir Ujcik, Zlatko Cerveny, Jiri Macelis, Premysl Hajny, Antonin Spaninger and Josef Stock.

Modry, the best goaltender in Europe of that era, died in 1963, at the age of 47, from prison related complications. Most of the players were released after five years, but their lives and families were shattered. So was a great hockey team. Czechoslovakia would have to wait 23 years, until 1972, before they won another World Championship.
The 1947 Czechoslovakian world champion team. Three years later, the players were "state traitors".

IIHF Archives

49 NHL-lockout floods European leagues with 388 players
2004-05 season

The loss of the 2004-05 NHL season came as a surprise to no one. For at least a couple of years prior to September 15, 2004, it had been clear that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association executive director Bob Goodenow were on the road to conflict, and neither party was going to give in an inch. If these signs weren’t clear enough indication, then the World Cup of Hockey left no doubt.

The final game was scheduled for September 14, 2004, its ending to come just hours before the Collective Bargaining Agreement was set to expire. Sure enough, after Canada beat Finland 3-2 in a terrific final, the players went home and didn’t come back for nearly 12 months. Despite the extraordinary events that ensued, fans of the game realised one important fact — the NHL might be the best league in the world, but it certainly wasn’t the only league around.

The world of hockey was faced with a unique situation. Some 800 players wanted to play the game they loved, but it wasn’t going to be in the NHL. For a small number of those players, no NHL meant returning whence they came. Alexander Ovechkin, for instance, simply kept on playing in Russia with Dynamo Moscow, and newly-drafted Evgeni Malkin simply stayed put with Magnitogorsk. Canadian teens stayed in junior leagues a year longer, and American kids simply remained in NCAA. Other players returned to their roots. Scott Gomez, for instance, returned to Alaska and played for the Alaska Aces of the ECHL.

But there were still two big groups of players looking for ice time: established North Americans and veteran Europeans. At first, players going to Europe seemed like a great boon for fans and teams. Who, after all, could object to the Sedin twins returning to MODO for a few games? And Saku Koivu returning to TPS Turku was a dream scenario for fans of the player and team. If Davos wanted to sign Joe Thornton and Rick Nash, who could possibly object to these two amazing players dressing for the start of a new season in Switzerland?

Two problems occurred, though. Firstly, the NHL was clearly nowhere near a resolution, and the lockout was not being measured in games lost but in weeks and months lost. And, second, the arrival of players to Europe was not in the form of one or two stars on one or two teams — in all, nearly 400 NHLers flooded European hockey. The signings and arrivals may have benefited the individual players and club teams, but it caused enormous friction between the NHLers and the European players who were being forced off the team to make way for the newcomers.

Some Canadians playing in Europe openly criticised the NHLers, saying they were taking jobs away from players in Europe. The NHLers countered by saying that’s what those players complaining had done to Europeans already. In all, it made for a strange and uncomfortable year, one marked by fantastic hockey and improved quality of play, but one equally that proved divisive.
NHLers Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Ilya Kovalchuk playing for Russian club Ak Bars Kazan during the 2004-2005 lockout.

Bob Martin/Sports Illustrated

50 LIHG (precursor to IIHF) formed by four members
Paris, France
May 15, 1908

Perhaps the most important event in the introduction of hockey to Europe came from a figure skater. In the late winter of 1897, George Meagher of Kingston, Ontario, brought with him some hockey equipment and organised Canadian-style hockey games at the Palais de Glace in Paris between the local team and two bandy teams from London and Glasgow. This marked the first time games using a puck were played in Europe. It wasn't until five years later that the game was picked up again, this time at the Princes' Skating Club in London, by a group of Canadian students.

In 1906, the Oxford Canadians were formed, a team made up of mainly Rhodes scholars from Canada, and this group travelled throughout Europe demonstrating the beauty and difficulty of the game. The first truly international hockey games had been played in 1905, though, between FPB Brussels and CP Paris, hailing the start not just of a new sport but its use for competition between countries. The man behind CP Paris (Club de Patineurs de Paris) was Louis Magnus, a small, moustachioed man born in Jamaica in 1881. He arrived at a time when Canadian hockey and European bandy clashed as horses and cars clashed on the roads when the latter was replacing the former.

Magnus wanted to create a unified set of rules for the sport called ice hockey rather than have games played all over Europe using a list of rules arbitrarily composed for each event. However, the International Ice Skating Union couldn't have cared less about Magnus's wishes; it had bigger concerns to deal with. Magnus, then, decided to form his own association. Called the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (LIHG), this would be a body devoted solely to ice hockey (which the IISU wasn't) and devoted to promoting the game and setting a codified set of rules.

The first meeting of the LIHG was organised by Magnus on May 15-16, 1908, in his home at 34 rue de Provence, in Paris. Those attending included executives of the Club de Patineurs de Paris (Magnus, Robert Planque, and Robert van der Hoeven), as well as representatives from Belgium (Eddie De Clercq and Eduard Malaret), Switzerland (Eduard Mellor and Louis Dufour), and Great Britain (E.E. Mavrogodato). Magnus was named president and Planque general secretary, and so began the formal organisation of hockey between countries.

One hundred years later, the LIHG is known by its English name - the International Ice Hockey Federation - and it boasts some 65 members worldwide. From a modest meeting in a Paris apartment to a global game watched and played by hundreds of millions of people, international hockey owes its start to Magnus.
The founding document from May 15, 1908. LIHG (later IIHF) was born.


The founding father: Frenchman Louis Magnus.


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