The Ruskies snoozed and nodded their way through the Olympic preliminaries. The U.S. only just managed a tie in their first match. Then when the two teams met again, the victor to face Canada for the Gold, the Russians went to sleep for two periods, hanging on merely by the acrobatics of Khabi the Krease Keeper. Then, BANG, two quick ones, as they have done to Canada so often in the past, and the U.S. is reeling. Chelios really looked his age that night. Celtic great, Bill Russell always said comebacks were like an elastic band, you could only stretch it so far before it snapped. And so it was for the Russians that night. The Americans hung on and as they say the rest is history.
Larionov debuted with the Krutov and Makorov in the early 80’s. The KLM line, that so devastated Canada in an 8-1 trouncing in Montreal, was a wonder to watch. Krutov was another of those who drank and smoked his talent away. However, in 1981 on a cool September eve, these kids were a marvel.
We flew to Winnipeg in late August that summer. The Canada Cup games were spread across the country and the ‘Peg was the Soviets home base. Seems crazy now, but it was the only way we could see the Russians live. The cold north winds were blowing and you’d swear that old man Winter was just over the horizon. We caught a couple of games in the ‘Peg, home of the World Hockey League Jets. The Golden, Golden CBS colour man Bill Mazer called him. Bobby Hull. Hockey’s first Million-Dollar Man. Played with Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg in Winnipeg and they were great to watch. Remember sitting in the end Blues at the Carlton Street cashbox when the Jets were in town playing the Toronto Toros. When Hull made a rink-long dash, you could just feel the power, even way up in the GODS. His brother Dennis, told me a funny story at a charity fundraiser. He said Bobby didn’t have sex for twelve years. Then he turned 13.
This day, the vaunted Russians struggled to a 2-2 tie with a feisty Czech team. Fetisov was just a kid then. They called him the Russian Orr. He wasn’t of course but he had immense talent. That day he was somewhere else. Fetters spent most of the game Beaver shooting. The moment that stays with me, from that time long ago, was a move the eminent Alexander Maltsev, then late in his career, made. At full speed, he turned backwards, beat the young Czech defender, and fired a hard backhand off the cross bar. It made the trip worthwhile.