Category Archives: Seasons

1955-56: Perfection

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Nikolai Puchkov, the superb 1950s-era goalie for both Red Army and the Soviet national team. (Image Source)

Time now for another look back at the early days of Soviet hockey, with the next in our series of posts about Soviet Championship seasons!  The 1954-55 campaign had seen Anatoly Tarasov’s CSK MO Moscow, the Red Army squad, win the ten-team league ahead of Krylya Sovetov Moscow and Dynamo Moscow.  And CSK MO could look forward to bringing most of that title-winning team, including the vital Mr. Puchkov, pictured above.  However, for 1955-56 they would also be faced with one crucial absence from lineup, which we will get to in a little while.  Could they repeat, or would one of their rivals take advantage and snatch the title away?  Read on!

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1954-55: Moscow

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Red Army defend their goal through the ice fog during a mid-1950s match. Left to right: Ivan Tregubov, Viktor Shuvalov, Pavel Zhiburtovich, and goalie Nikolai Puchkov. (Image Source)

Time for another look back into the early history of Soviet hockey!  When last we checked in, Dynamo Moscow had pulled off a bit of an upset by taking the 1953-54 title ahead of Red Army’s massively stacked roster of superstars, and the Soviet national team had stunned Team Canada, and the hockey world, by winning the World Championship at their first try.  Would either of those feats be repeated in the 1954-55 season?  Read on to find out…

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1953-54: Upset

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Action on a sunny day during the 1953-54 season. The two teams, I think, are Dynamo Moscow (with the white epaulettes) and CDSA Moscow. (Image Source)

It was all change for the Soviet Championship as the new season, the eighth of the nation’s brief hockey history, loomed in the fall of 1953.  Gone, never to be seen again, were the three-time defending champions, the Air Force team VVS MVO Moscow.  As you may recall, from previous posts here, that team had been run by Josef Stalin’s son Vasily, and had been swept away in the wake of the old dictator’s death earlier that year.  And there was an obvious — most obvious — candidate to replace them atop the Soviet hockey hierarchy.  However, “there’s many a slip” as the old saying goes, and the 1953-54 season turned into a surprising spectacle indeed…

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1952-53: Stalin

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Vsevolod Bobrov (at right) scores one of his three goals against Yugoslavia at the 1952 Olympics. (Image Source)

Vsevolod Bobrov, reigning scoring champion of Soviet hockey, had a very fine time in the summer of 1952.  While the country’s hockey powers had decided to give the Winter Olympics a miss, the USSR did send athletes to the Summer Games in Helsinki — the first time since 1912 that Russians had taken part.  Bobrov went along, as a key part of the Soviet soccer team, and on July 20th against Yugoslavia he put on one of the great individual displays in Olympic soccer history.  With the Soviet Union trailing 5-1 and only 15 minutes left to play, Bobrov, who had already scored his country’s only goal, tallied twice more himself and played set-up man for two other goals, as the USSR rallied to a 5-5 tie.  However, the result was not enough to get the Soviets a medal, and the reaction of the Ministry of Sport was one of fury.  The Red Army team, which had supplied most of the players, was temporarily disbanded, and the press made no mention of that national team’s performance at the Olympics.

Bobrov, however, escaped any of that fall-out, by virtue of the fact that he played for VVS MVO Moscow, the team of the Soviet Air Force.  His close friendship with Vasily Stalin, manager of the team and son of Josef Stalin, no doubt helped as well.  In any case, as the 1952-53 hockey season approached, Bobrov and his team-mates would look to win their third national title in row.  Below the jump, we’ll find out if they did it, and explore a season that ended with an unforeseen twist…

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Found Footage

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VVS MVO Moscow, after winning the Soviet Championship in 1952.

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!

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1951-52: Tiebreaker

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Action from the Soviet Championship in 1951-52. The team in the darker sweaters is Spartak Moscow, and I’m fairly sure that their opposition is Red Army. (Image Source)

In the 1950-51 season, Vasily Stalin’s VVS MVO Moscow club, the team of the Soviet Air Force, had finally broken through in style to collect its first national championship.  They would return a virtually intact lineup for the next campaign, highlighted by the nigh-unstoppable top line of Vsevolod Bobrov (who also coached the team), Viktor Shuvalov, and Yevgeny Babich.  There were weapons elsewhere on the VVS MVO roster as well: Alexander Vinogradov anchored a strong defense, and the team’s goaltending tandem of Nikolai Puchkov and Grigory Mkrtychan was frankly peerless.  Could any of the Air Force team’s rivals put together something to beat that, or would VVS MVO stroll to a second straight title? Read the rest of this entry

1950-51: The Line

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Left to right: Yevgeny Babich, Viktor Shuvalov, & Vsevolod Bobrov — the great VVS MVO line, looking very dapper! (Image Source)

The 1950-51 Soviet Championship season opened with CDKA Moscow, the vaunted Red Army team led on and off the ice by Anatoly Tarasov, having won the previous three national titles in a row.  The relatively new league was quickly becoming a Moscow-centric competition, with the likes of Spartak, Dynamo, and Krylya Sovetov — capital city teams all of them — vying to unseat CDKA.  However, the army team’s fiercest challenge would come from another Moscow side: VVS MVO Moscow, the Soviet Air Force team run by Josef Stalin’s son Vasily.  The 1949-50 campaign had seen VVS MVO’s assault on the title destroyed by the horrendous tragedy at Sverdlovsk, but as the new season opened, they were back, re-tooled and ready to go.

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1949-50: Disaster

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The memorial to the victims of the Sverdlovsk Air Disaster. (Image Source)

1949-50, the fourth season of competition in the USSR, saw the top division expand to 12 teams, and the schedule likewise grow to 22 games for each team.  Three new clubs were on the scene: Dynamo Sverdlovsk, from the city currently known once again as Yekaterinburg, Bolshevik Leningrad, and the Soviet railway team Lokomotiv Moscow.  Not much was expected from them; the main question for the season was whether Josef Stalin’s son Vasily could strengthen his Air Force club, VVS MVO Moscow, enough to get it past his arch-rival Anatoly Tarasov and the powerful CDKA Moscow side.  Sadly, that question would be answered in the short term by a horrendous accident on the outskirts of Sverdlovsk in early January of 1950. Read the rest of this entry

1948-49: Capital Dominance

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Late February, 1948: Vsevolod Bobrov, in full flight for the Soviet national team, escapes the clutches of a handful of LTC Prague players.

1948 was an important year for the nascent Soviet hockey program.  With a couple of domestic seasons now under their belts, the game’s movers and shakers began to look outside the country’s borders for the first time, and in particular, they looked to Czechoslovakia.  The Czechs had been playing the Canadian form of hockey for decades, winning a European Championship back in 1911 when the country was still known as Bohemia.  They were also, it was generally acknowledged, sneaking up rapidly on Canada and the United States in terms of global hockey superiority.  Those factors, not to mention a recently-installed Communist government, made Czechoslovakia an ideal sparring partner for the USSR as it went about growing its national team.

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1947-48: Bobrov Arrives

2013 Russian stamp commemorating Vsevolod Bobrov.

 

A few posts ago, we took a two-part look at the inaugural season of the Soviet Championship in ice hockey, which took place in 1946-47 and saw Dynamo Moscow become the country’s first champions of the sport.  Time, therefore, to check in with Year 2, and see what transpired during the campaign of 1947-48!

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