When we discussed the 1951-52 Soviet Championship season at this blog, you may recall that the big story was the (somewhat controversial) tie-breaking game that decided the title in favour of VVS MVO Moscow, the team of the Soviet Air Force, over the Red Army squad:
“This is where things got slightly odd. The Red Army men had the better goal difference; 54-12 as opposed to the Air Force’s 53-18, and normally that would have meant the title. However, for some reason, in 1951-52 this was not the case. Whether it was part of the annual tinkering with the format of the championship, or political pressure had been exerted to give the team of Josef Stalin’s son a second chance, a tiebreaking, winner-take-all, game was to be played between the two teams. On the 24th of January, 1952, VVS MVO and CDSA met in Moscow, and when it was over, Vasily Stalin’s team had its second consecutive championship, by a score of 3-2.”
However, I had been unable to discover much about the game beyond its final score. And so I was quite excited, while wandering through YouTube earlier today (I was looking for something entirely different, as is often the case), to come across the little video that you’ll find below the jump!
That is indeed a small collection of remarkably clear highlights of the 1951-52 tiebreaker, put together as a newsreel by the Warsaw Documentary Film Studio in Poland. VVS MVO are in their usual striped sweaters, with CDSA wearing the solids. Vsevolod Bobrov, arch-wizard of Soviet hockey at that time, is recognizable — he’s the one wearing the white captain’s armband for VVS MVO. Note also the collection of boxing headgear and cycling helmets worn as protection!
The game, as all hockey games in the USSR at that time, was held outdoors, on a rink built at one end of Red Army’s soccer stadium (there is an excellent little bit illustrating this at the very beginning of clip). You can clearly see the curve of the stadium providing the seating on three sides of the rink, with temporary stands built along the fourth. The shots of the crowd suggest a chilly evening, as one would expect on January 24th in Moscow!
The clip only shows one of the five goals scored during the tiebreaker, and it is Bobrov who scores it (this bit begins at about 0:44), cutting in front from the left of the net and backhanding the puck past CDSA goalie Boris Afanasyev. Afterwards, we get a quick look at the trophy presentation (Bobrov again front and centre), and that’s the end of the film.
Anyway, it’s a great little clip, and I was thrilled to find it! When compared with the footage of the title-deciding game from 1946-47 (the first year of the Soviet Championship), it illustrates very obviously how far the USSR’s hockey program had come — in terms of equipment, facilities, technique, and everything else — in a very very short period of time. Enjoy!