flyers and soviets, 1976: when al capone’s mob ambushed the bolshoi ballet dancers

Impe-ish: A 2013 sale of hockey memorabilia by Montreal’s Classic Auctions featured a selection of Ed Van Impe’s cherished mementoes from Philadelphia’s famous 1976 encounter with Moscow’s Red Army. Included in Lot #18 was a game program and a copy of the NHL’s official scoresheet. Also, as seen above: the wristwatch that Van Impe received as a gift from the Soviets, along with an 8 x 10 photograph of Kharlamov prone on the ice in the moments after Van Impe hit him in the game’s first period. They all could have been yours, though they’re not: they sold to somebody else for the princely sum of US$242. (Photo: Classic Auctions)

Impe-ish: A 2013 sale of hockey memorabilia by Montreal’s Classic Auctions featured a selection of Ed Van Impe’s cherished mementoes from Philadelphia’s famous 1976 encounter with Moscow’s Red Army. Included in Lot #18 was a game program and a copy of the NHL’s official scoresheet. Also, as seen above: the wristwatch that Van Impe received as a gift from the Soviets, along with an 8 x 10 photograph of Kharlamov prone on the ice in the moments after Van Impe hit him in the game’s first period. They all could have been yours, though they’re not: they sold to somebody else for the princely sum of US$242. (Photo: Classic Auctions)

It’s 40 years since the Montreal Canadiens and CSKA Moscow — the legendary Central Red Army — played what lots of people say was the best hockey game ever. Todd Denault wrote a whole book to that effect, and more: in The Greatest Game, he argues that their 3-3 tie on New Year’s Eve of 1975 actually saved hockey from the violence and cynicism that was dragging it under, reminding us all what a beautiful game it is while redeeming and returning it to righteousness.

If that’s the case, hockey and Central Army both had a short detour they had to follow first, south, to Philadelphia, home of the reigning Stanley Cup champions. While the game in Montreal may have showed hockey in all its competitive finery, the Soviets’ meeting on Sunday, January 11, 1976, with the Flyers is remembered for its bruising and bitterness — not to mention the fact that the game was very nearly abandoned midway through the first period.

Two enhanced Soviet teams had arrived in North America before Christmas that winter on a much anticipated exhibition tour of NHL cities: the Super Series. Krylya Sovetov — the Soviet Wings — were bolstered by four of Moscow Spartak’s best players, and their tour saw them beat Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the New York Islanders before they lost to the Buffalo Sabres.

To a roster that already featured names like Kharlamov, Tretiak, Petrov, and Mikhailov, Central Army added a pair of Dynamo Moscow ringers, Alexander Maltsev and Valeri Vasiliev. Their swing started with a win over the New York Rangers before the game in Montreal, which they followed with a win in Boston over the Bruins.

The Russians had a few days free in Philadelphia before Sunday’s game with the Flyers. On Friday, January 9, the Flyers gave them lunch. Saturday many of the players went to see Jaws. Ahead Sunday’s afternoon game, there was a kerfuffle involving signs in the Spectrum protesting the Soviet government’s treatment of Jews, a threat of Russian withdrawal — but NHLPA executive director Alan Eagleson talked to Flyers’ president Ed Snider and had the signs removed.

Once the hockey got going, rancor ruled. If you don’t recall, maybe we’ll let a few headlines from next morning’s (North American) papers frame it for you:

Flyers Whip Reds, No. 1 in the World

Russians Cry Uncle As Flyers Fly, 4-1

Reds Balk, Take Loss

Grumbling Soviets Fall To Flyers

Philadelphia defenseman Ed Van Impe was, if not the star of the show, then certainly its accelerant. Released from the penalty box where he’d been serving a first-period tripping call, he made a beeline for Valeri Kharlamov, whom he belted. Referee Lloyd Gilmour looked, but called no penalty. Stephen Cole describes the scene in his latest book Hockey Night Fever (2014): “Kharlamov squirmed, tried to get up and then collapsed.”

Army coach Konstantin Loktev called his goaltender, Vladislav Tretiak, to the bench. Cole says the idea was to give Gilmour time to reconsider. Instead, the referee assessed Army a minor for delay of game. Exit the Soviets withdrew to their dressing room in a snit.

The delay that followed lasted nearly 20 minutes. Furious negotiations ensued, with NHL president Clarence Campbell joining Eagleson and Snider in discussions with Vyacheslav Koloskov, head of the Soviet hockey federation, and Loktev. The story that’s popularly told is that the Soviets returned because they were told that they wouldn’t be paid if they refused to finish the game, but that, as we’ll see, has been persuasively denied by several of the principals involved. One version has Snider telling the Soviets they’ll have to reimburse the fans in the building: that sound more likely.

Once the game resumed, the Flyers went ahead 3-0 on goals by Reggie Leach, Rick MacLeish, and Joe Watson. Victor Kutergin scored for Army before Larry Goodenough added another Philadelphia goal in the third.

That’s the story, pretty much, in sum. Here following, a detailed account of the game (and its acrimony) as those who took part saw it, with quotes culled verbatim from contemporary accounts in newspapers and magazines as well as from books published later — sources below — starting off with a few choice cuts from the roast-beef luncheon the Flyers hosted on the Friday ahead of the game.

Fred Shero, Philadelphia coach

We welcome this great Russian team to the cradle of liberty. We have the two greatest teams in the world, and we hope the teams conduct themselves in a professional manner.”

Konstantin Loktev, CSKA coach

I hope it will be an enjoyable game for the fans.

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Fred Shero

It was the biggest game in Flyers history. We had to win or else.

Konstantin Loktev

This is just a friendly game.

Fred Shero

They are experts at retaliating when the ref’s not looking. They spear, they hook. The same way they play soccer over there … bloody murder.”

Jay Greenberg, Philadelphia Daily News

Bobby Clarke, whose vicious slash had put Soviet star Valery Kharlamov out of the 1972 series, was asked to reflect on his lingering status as villain in the USSR. “It wasn’t premeditated,” said the Flyer captain. “He had speared me and it wasn’t a clean series from the start.

“I don’t care. I hate the sons of bitches, anyway.”

Vladislav Tretiak, Red Army goaltender

Even during the reception, two days before the game, they made it perfectly clear that they had no intention of associating with the Soviet players. The Stanley Cup winners demonstrated their highly unfriendly, if not hostile attitude. Nobody came over to welcome us. Even the local press was shocked by such blatant inhospitality.

Mel Bridgman, Philadelphia centreman

We had pep talks in our dressing room from the strangest people. Clarence Campbell couldn’t stand us, the way we played or anything about us … He was in there telling us we represent the NHL and all the rest and ‘Go and play your game.’ And we did.

Fred Shero

We’re in a weird position. All year long people keep telling us that we’re bad for hockey, bad for the NHL, bad for Canada because we’re too rough. Now we’re supposed to save the game for the NHL, for Canada, for everyone. Hah! For the first time we’re the good guys.

Ross Lonsberry, Philadelphia left winger

You know, I woke up on Friday night from this dream and I was in a cold sweat. We were behind 5-1 late in the second period. So I went back to sleep to get back to the dream and I succeeded. We came from behind to win.

Peter White, The Globe and Mail

Flyers were playing on high emotion, which was helped before the game by the preliminaries. They must surely have startled the Russians; they saw nothing like it in three previous games against NHL teams. The lights were dimmed for introductions with big spotlights picking up the players. A recording of Kate Smith singing God Bless America was picked up by the crowd, which belted out the song along with her. Moreover, it was in the Spectrum that the Russians were first booed.

Fred Shero

I told them to hold the puck for a face-off if they didn’t have a good shot. They’re not very good at face-offs, anyway.”

Roger Kahn, The New York Times

The Soviets began with a razzle-dazzle Icecapadeski in their own zone, which the Flyers ignored. Then, as they tried to move, the Flyers, notably Terry Crisp, forechecked beautifully. Up ice, the Flyer defensemen took their customary inhospitable view of rival forwards. The Soviets could control neither the puck nor the flow of the game. They had got off two shots to the Flyers’ 12, when Ed Van Impe dumped Valery Kharlamov.

Jay Greenberg

Philadelphia started hitting.

“It wasn’t planned,” said Tom Bladon later. “We were just wound up because of the pressure on us. I think it was more emotional than anything.”

Reggie Leach, Philadelphia right winger

Bodies started flying in every direction, and not all of the hits were clean.

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Joe Watson, Philadelphia defenceman

The way we figured it, we had to hit the Russians and hit them again every time we had the chance. If you let them skate around and play dipsy doodle with the puck, they’ll kill you. If you hit them, though, they’ll play just like any ordinary hockey team.

Mark Mulvoy, Sports Illustrated

For the first 10 minutes on Sunday the Flyers did not just hit the Soviets, they assaulted them. Dave (Hammer) Schultz rubbed his glove in Boris Mikhailov’s face. Andre (Moose) Dupont waved his stick under Mikhailov’s nose. Ed (Zorro) Van Impe tattooed the stomachs of Alexander Maltsev and Boris Alexandrov. Bill Barber rearranged Valery Vasiliev’s helmet. And Clarke reintroduced his hockey stick to Valery Kharlamov’s ankle. Clarke had damaged that ankle in the Team Canada-Soviet series of ’72. “They didn’t like it,” Watson said.

Dave Anderson, The New York Times

The temperature inside the Spectrum was as chilly as the atmosphere, as if somebody had left a window open in Siberia somewhere. The chill developed into a freeze when the Soviet team returned to its dressing room for 16 minutes during a scoreless first period in a protest of the Flyers’ tendency to use their (a) shoulders, (b) elbows, (c) sticks, (d) all of the above.

Ed Van Impe, Philadelphia defenceman

I had just come out of the penalty box. He was looking down to pick up the puck. And when he looked up, I was there.

Reggie Leach

Eleven seconds after he returned to the ice, he elbowed Kharlamov, who was streaking down the right side, and the star player fell to the ice. It seemed like someone had shot the guy with a gun. To this day, Eddie says Kharlamov ran into his elbow!

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Ed Van Impe

It was a sucker pass. I could see the play developing. The winger made a sucker pass and Kharlamov had to turn his head to get it. I remember watching it, almost in slow motion. And the same time the puck connected with Kharlamov, I connected with him and flattened him. I just wanted to welcome him to Philadelphia.

Lloyd Gilmour, NHL referee

It was a helluva check — a clean check.

Ed Van Impe

I bumped him pretty good, but I don’t think he was hurt as all that, rolling around looking dead.

Gene Hart, Philadelphia TV broadcaster

Kharlamov went down as if he’d been shot, and while it may have been a hard check, it wasn’t that hard! In fact, Bill Barber had earlier dealt a tougher blow to one of the Soviet defensemen along the boards, without causing any such theatrics.

Clarence Campbell, NHL president

They used the pretext of the injury to Kharlamov but I noticed he played on the next shift and started the second period. I didn’t see anything wrong with him.

Robin Herman, The New York Times

The Soviet walkout was prompted by the attack of Ed Van Impe, a Flyer defenseman, who knocked down Valery Kharlamov, a key Soviet Olympic forward, from behind. No penalty was called by Lloyd Gilmour, the referee, and Konstantin Loktev called in his goalie. The referee then meted out a delay-of-game penalty against a delay-of-game penalty against the Russians and Mr. Loktev ordered his team to the dressing room.

Dave Anderson

Some of the Russians later contended that Van Impe had slugged him with his gloved hand.

Ed Van Impe

It was my right shoulder.

John Robertson, The Kitchener Record

Bob Cole, broadcasting the game for Hockey Night in Canada, could hardly believe what was occurring. “They’re going home!” he kept repeating.

Ed Van Impe

If he had done that to me, I would’ve just gone to the bench. It was ridiculous to take the team off the ice.

Fred Shero

I wasn’t sure they would come back at first, I really wasn’t.

Bill Barber, Philadelphia right winger

I really thought they might be leaving.

Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia centreman and captain

I knew they’d come back, because they wanted the money.

Clarence Campbell

I don’t think they intended to leave the ice permanently. The Soviet coach reacted precipitously but his point of view wasn’t even support by the chief of his own mission. Their argument was that the Flyers’ team as playing too rough.

The Toronto Star

Moments after the Soviets walked off the ice in a pique over a penalty, there was Canadian Howie Meeker on the screen saying that if they didn’t return to play, “we should never allow them back in this country again.”

Alan Eagleson, NHLPA executive director

I feel it was an emotional move by Loktev who’s an emotional coach.

Konstantin Loktev

When Eagleson and Campbell came, I told them we wouldn’t go back because of the rough tactics. I could have sent younger players on the ice and it wouldn’t matter if they fought or not. I said to Eagleson, maybe we should have an agreement before the game. If we kept out Mikhailov, Petrov and Kharlamov, and Shero kept out Leach, Clarke and Barber, it would be fair. They couldn’t get hurt. But if we did that, the fans would be booing.

Alan Eagleson

It’s not hard to understand. Remember there was an emotional coach not to mention myself in 1972 who walked out in Russia. It took me a lot longer to settle then.

Scotty Morrison, NHL Chief of Referees

They told us they wanted to take their players back to the Soviet Union in one piece, not on stretchers. As far as I was concerned, they were trying to intimidate Gilmour into calling a one-sided game.

Dave Anderson

In the negotiations the Russians requested that their two-minute penalty for delay of game should be erased, but Campbell remained firm.

“You can’t change the rules,” said the one-time military attorney at the Nuremberg trials, “in the middle of the game.”

Scotty Morrison

They wanted a guarantee of no fighting the rest of the game, and they wanted us to rescind that delay-of-game penalty. No way.

Frank Orr, The Toronto Star

Campbell said no mention was made to the Soviets of withholding their $25,000 per-game take from the eight-game series.

Ed Snider, Philadelphia president

I think I made it obvious they wouldn’t get a nickel from our club if they pulled out of the game. I think they understood that.

Clarence Campbell

Never did I mention the money angle. Somebody on the periphery mentioned it, that’s all.

Ed Snider

Then I was the guy on the periphery. I told them they weren’t going to get paid unless they finished the game.

Konstantin Loktev

Wrong. We had received all the money on the first day we arrived in North America, before the series started. So how could they not pay us?

Vladislav Tretiak, Red Army goaltender

Only after prolonged assurances on the Flyers’ part that the game would be played according to the rules, did our team decide to go back on the ice. We returned, totally frustrated. Everything was turned inside-out; we did not play, we merely skated.

Moose Dupont, Philadelphia defenceman

Those guys are actors. I think he was playing Hamlet or something the way he went down.

Fred Shero

There are many ways to play the Russians. We just decided to let them do all the fancy skating they wanted to do, as long as we broke up the plays. I told the guys, don’t shoot unless you’re going score.

Reggie Leach

Seventeen seconds after play resumed, I tipped a rebound into the corner of the net. That opened the floodgates.

Fred Shero

They do a lot of unnecessary skating. They do a lot of retreating, hoping to get one man to leave his position. But we wouldn’t be enticed out of position. It takes patience to beat them. Bobby Clarke knew that from having played for Team Canada against the Soviets in the 1972 series, and he told our forwards.

Reggie Leach

In the second period, Joe Watson moved in from the blue line and tapped in a rebound. Joe was not what you’d call a rushing defenseman; his goal may have set Soviet hockey back 40 years.

Rick MacLeish, Philadelphia centreman

They just kept looking for the perfect opportunity. Even in the last five minutes they just kept circling. Either they have a lot of patience or they just can’t adjust.

Dave Anderson

When the game ended, the Flyers and Russians shook hands, as they had after the introductions when they exchanged gifts.

“Somebody told me we got little pennants and pins,” Clarke said, “I don’t know. I haven’t looked at them.

In keeping with the NHL tradition, the Soviet Army players each received a lucite plaque with the Flyers’ crest on it.

Reggie Leach

The dressing room was packed after the game and we celebrated as though we had just won the Cup. We had proven that we were the best hockey team in the world.

Fred Shero

My reaction? I feel the same way we did when we beat Boston [for the Stanley Cup in 1974]. I don’t feel anything. Ask me tomorrow.

Dave Anderson

At his locker Bobby Clarke wore a rosette of blood on his forehead, a souvenir of Viktor Kutergin’s stick.

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Bobby Clarke

It was an accident. He came right over and apologized when it happened.

Gary Dornhoefer, Philadelphia right winger

If it wasn’t for Tretiak, we’d have hit double figures.

Rick MacLeish

He’s big and he covers so much territory.

Tom Bladon, Philadelphia defenceman

They were scared.

Moose Dupont

They look like amateurs. They’re not so great. They looked like fools today.

Jimmy Watson

I’ve never been so happy. This compares with winning the Stanley Cup.

Vladislav Tretiak

No Red Army player wanted to play against the Flyers. Each of us could have been hit from behind, cross-checked, kicked — what kind of sport was this?

Reggie Leach

Despite the sour grapes, you had to respect the Soviet team.

Bobby Clarke

This doesn’t prove Canadian hockey is better than theirs. It just means the Flyers are better than their best. I’m sure next time they’ll have adjusted.

Terry Crisp, Philadelphia centreman

They try to make the picture play at the blueline. I don’t understand it. Any coach I’ve had warned against it. The best thing about this game is that we showed them some who think their system is best that it’s not the be-all and end-all.

Fred Shero

We beat a helluva machine. Ninety-nine per cent of the National Hockey League didn’t think we could do it.

Vladislav Tretiak

Could anyone consider it a fair victory?

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Bob Kelly, Philadelphia left winger

Funny thing about those Russians, you run at ’em but they won’t retaliate with a good old-fashioned fight. Instead, they’ll spear you or kick you or jab you. Now which is better? That kind of crap or just dropping your gloves and having a standup fight?

Tim Burke, The Montreal Gazette

Don Saleski, the big winger who played the best game of his career will go along with Kelly. Showing a great ugly welt on his chest, he said, “That came from that little sawed-off runt number 11. Just after Joe Watson’s goal he gave me the worst spear I ever got in my life. It was so hard that his stick broke.

Milt Dunnell, The Toronto Star

Fred Shero, a student of the Soviet style of play, had the warriors beaten before they stepped on the ice. From his analysis of their films, he had noted the reluctance of the Ruskies to give up the puck. Their game is puck control.

So Shero flooded the centre ice zone with checkers. Their instructions were that the first man to emerge from the Soviet zone could be ignored as a likely sniper — also the second man to handle the puck.

Concentrate on that third man.

Thus Shero was able to practically destroy the intricate the intricate Russian passing game — which was what Canadians admired most. In the physical hockey which the Flyers play, the Soviets were wheelbarrows against tanks.

Konstantin Loktev

We have never played against such animal hockey tactics. We have the Olympic Games coming up and we didn’t want to risk injuries to our players. We are not frightened by the Philadelphia players but nobody likes to have their teeth missing or have damage done to other parts of the body.

Reggie Leach

Of all the top players on that team, Kharlamov is the one who stood out. He was a small guy. He wasn’t the fastest player and he didn’t have the heaviest shot, but he was a real magician with the puck. It’s too bad he never had a chance to play in the NHL. He would have taken a beating but I think he would have done well despite that.

Joe Watson

The only way that goal was in because it deflected off my ankle.

Tim Burke

It was typical of the Flyers’ magnanimity that when they were informed of Red Army Coach Konstantin Loktev’s comments that they were “animals,” captain Bobby Clarke, wearing six stitches under his blood-caked hair, replied: “I guess he meant we were like Russians bears, eh?”

Joe Watson

Sure we play it rough, but taking the body is part of the game. I don’t see why we’re criticized so much in Canada because, let’s face it, we won on discipline.

Ed Van Impe

Yeah. Look, I know the Russians don’t like the stuff, but that’s the way we play in North America. It’s our game and, if they don’t start laying on the body themselves, they should stay home.

Bob Kelly

We just let them pass in their own end as much as they wanted. We just stood there and waited, and they were beautiful to watch. We had the best seats in the house.

Konstantin Loktev

I felt that, even if we won the game with Philadelphia but returned home with injuries, there would be some kind of punishment.

Ed Van Impe

It was a good hit, I thought. I certainly didn’t hurt him because he didn’t miss a shift.

Bobby Clarke

Intimidation doesn’t work in a one-game shot.

Konstantin Loktev

In the long run I had to take such players like Aleksandr Maltsev and Kharlamov from the ice because it was doubtful what could happen to them in the last seven minutes of the game.

Roger Kahn

Near the end, the Russians were reduced to purposeless skating. One grabbed, then cursed an official. Another slashed a bloody cut in Bobby Clarke’s scalp.

Alan Eagleson

When they talk of animal hockey, they’re preaching the party line. Flyers play hard and tough but it wasn’t dirty hockey. They’re an aggressive team.

Konstantin Loktev

If we played the Flyers seven games, anybody could win.

Roger Kahn

Was Van Impe’s bodycheck illegal? Did Victor Kutergin mean to cut Clarke? Hockey is a rough, existential game and intimidation is a part of it, as surely as the ice is hard.

Fred Shero

I suppose we can call ourselves the champions of the world — for a few days at least. But what if we lose to Kansas City next week? Will they be the champions then?

Bobby Clarke

Obviously the Russians are a great hockey team. However, they don’t go for body checks and board checks.

The Globe and Mail

Fred Shero was holding a press conference after Flyers had defeated the Central Red Army yesterday when Flyer President Ed Snider ran into the room.

“Forget the interviews,” Snider said. “Freddie, that was the greatest coaching job ever in the history of hockey, I love you Freddie, you’re fabulous.” The Snider marched out, leaving Shero with his mouth open.

Vladislav Tretiak

This club was the absolute champion of the world — in penalties. Even among the professionals, the Flyers were considered to be monstrously brutal.

Konstantin Loktev

The Philadelphia team worked very well together and it is obvious they have a coach who uses very progressive methods. We knew they were a strong team which can play any type of hockey. They are noted for their vicious acts on the ice but they do not need to play that way.

Chuck Burghardt, The Morning Record

Why are the Soviets big babies?

Fred Shero

The Army players just didn’t want to battle us physically in the corners and that’s where games are decided. They bailed out often, rather than having a good joust with our players for the puck.

Dave Anderson

The triumph of terror over style could not have been more one-sided if Al Capone’s mob had ambushed the Bolshoi Ballet dancers.

Fred Shero

The NHL and Canadians have to be aware that we are not automatically the best. We have to be prepared to learn from others, like the Russians and Europeans. We have to take the best of their game and work at improving the game of hockey.

Joe Watson

For guys like me, this was the greatest game of our careers. Other guys on the club are great, and they’ll get a chance, probably, to play those guys again. But I’m just an ordinary player, and for me it was my only chance. That’s why it’s the height of my career.

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Jimmy Watson

I’m not being overdramatic when I say that this surpasses everything. I think we did a lot for our team, for the league, and for Canada’s national pride.

Larry McMullen, The Philadelphia Daily News

If the Russians are upset by anything that happened in Philadelphia, it has to do with the Canadian way of life.

Vladislav Tretiak

The coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, Fred Shero, came to Moscow sometime later to study our hockey methods. He tried to present the Flyers’ victory over us in Philadelphia as well-deserved. His reasoning totally lacked any objectivity. “The Philadelphia Flyers,” he was quoted as saying, “are not a group of gangsters. We are the best hockey team in the world. We were criticized for being the best team. We simply have more guts than any other team.”

That frankly bragging monologue of Fred Shero did not get a warm reception in Moscow.

Vladislav Tretiak

He claimed that the Russians were totally confused by Philadelphia’s disciplined and patient hockey. Perhaps we were confused, but it was due to other reasons. We didn’t know before that a pack of barbarians could put on skates and get away with hunting hockey players in front of thousands of spectators.

I may sound overly agitated about these events. Of course, we had seen the dirty play of professionals before, in 1972 as well as in 1974. But what happened in Philadelphia was an apotheosis of professional hockey thuggery. Even now, I cannot think about it without shuddering.

Serge Savard, Montreal defenceman

What happened in Philadelphia was a disgrace.

Bobby Clarke

They’re an excellent team when they have the puck but they have a lot to learn about what to do when they haven’t got it.

Clarence Campbell

We certainly expected the Russians to defeat our mediocre teams. As far as I am concerned, the critical result of the series was that they did not defeat any one of our top three teams — Philadelphia, Montreal or Buffalo.

Boris Kulagin, Soviet Wings coach

I feel confident that the Soviet Central Red Army team played eight games against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Flyers would lose the series.

Clarence Campbell

Who the hell did they beat? As of noon yesterday, Montreal was first in our league. They didn’t win but anybody who saw that game — and that includes the Soviets — agreed that the Canadiens gave them a hell of a beating.

Philadelphia is second in our league. They beat the Russians. Buffalo is third in our league. They beat the Russians. Boston is fourth, Islanders are fifth, Chicago is seventh, New York Rangers are 11th and Pittsburgh is 12th. Who the hell did they beat?

The Globe and Mail

Shero, who kept his eyes shut behind sunglasses as he spoke, also said North America still produces the “greatest individual players in the world.”

Fred Shero

But it was costly, because it probably cost us the Stanley Cup. I noticed something missing from our team after that game. We had defeated the best in the world.

Vladislav Tretiak

Despite the loss in Philadelphia, we won the Super Series with two wins, a tie, and a loss.

Stephen Cole, Hockey Night Fever

With no interpreters, league officials or Soviet gatekeepers in attendance, [several Flyers] knocked on the Russians’ dressing-room door.

“They were drinking straight vodka and beer,” Joe Watson would remember decades later. “So we drank vodka and beer with them.”

Coda (1)

Leaving Philadelphia behind, the Soviet tour wasn’t quite finished: for their final act, on Tuesday, January 13, the two touring teams played one another in a Landover, Maryland, exhibition that ended in a suspiciously even 7-7 tie. For Clarence Campbell, it only proved the basic uselessness of the Russian product. “The Soviets have a very skillful and fundamentally sound game but it wouldn’t sell tickets in North America and it wouldn’t win in the NHL. Do you want to see this every night? Ever see harness racing? When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Headed for a (much superior) NHL game in Washington, the Montreal Canadiens shared a Landover hotel with the Soviets on their final night. That’s how Al Strachan of The Gazette happened on this encounter:

Central Army coach Konstantin Loktev spotted Scotty Bowman in the lobby and, with an interpreter in tow, came over to say goodbye.

Loktev thanked Bowman for his team’s performance and assured him as far as the Russians were concerned, the Canadiens were the best team in the world. “We want to play you again,” Loktev said.

Bowman, meanwhile, did his best to be diplomatic.

“I’d love to do what you did in Philly,” Bowman said, in reference to Loktev pulling his team off the ice. “I’ve felt like it lots of times. But they’d suspend me for life if I did it.”

Coda (2)

Lawrence Martin, The Red Machine:

Shortly after landing in the Soviet capital, Loktev was informed that he was to meet with [Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev at a session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the 300-member chief policy-making body in the Soviet hierarchy. Loktev arrived with his explanation ready. He was going to point out that, had he not staged his dramatic walkout, the Soviet Union might have wound up with its top stars maimed, right before the Olympic Games.

But he didn’t know that Brezhnev was such a hockey dove. The General Secretary didn’t want to know why he led Central Army off the ice, but the very contrary — why he didn’t stay off the ice, why he didn’t forfeit the game altogether, why he didn’t pack up on the spot and fly to the Motherland.

Loktev wasn’t sure how to respond to the question, so he threw it back in Brezhnev’s court. “When he asked me why I decided to continue the game, I replied that it would have been very simple for me not to do so. I suggested to him that all he had to do was call Philadelphia, tell me to stay in the dressing room, and I would have stayed there.”

 

[Sources]

Newspapers + Magazines

Associated Press, “A Meal on Ice,” The Evening Independent, January 10, 1976

Associated Press, “Flyers ‘Intimidate’ Soviets,” The Spokesman-Review, January 12, 1976

Associated Press, “Russians Cry Uncle As Flyers Fly, 4-1,” Ocala Star-Banner, January 12, 1976

Dave Anderson, “A Hockey Lesson For Dr. Kissinger,” The New York Times, January 12, 1976

Mike Avenenti, “Flyers Defeat Soviets, 4-1,” UPI, Ludington Daily News, January 12, 1976

Christie Blatchford, The Globe and Mail, January 13, 1976

Tim Burke, “Flyers Salvage Canada’s Pride,” Montreal Gazette, January 12, 1976

Tim Burke, “Flayers paint Hockey Masterpiece, Destroy Myth of Soviet Superiority,” Montreal Gazette, January 12, 1976

Tim Burke, “Wrapping Up The Leftovers from Super Series Classic,” Montreal Gazette, January 14, 1976

Chuck Burghardt, “Big Babies,” The Morning Record, January 15, 1976

Russ Cohen, “Spectrum: A Special Rink,” The Hockey News, November 3, 2008

Milt Dunnell, “Russians Flunk Aptitude Tests,” The Toronto Star, January 12, 1976

Mark Mulvoy, “This Was Détente, Philly Style,” Sports Illustrated, January 19, 1976

Frank Orr, “‘Animal Hockey’ Soviets’ Excuse For The Walkout,” The Toronto Star, January 12, 1976

Frank Orr, “Flyers’ Shero Is Sunday’s Hero As Philly Champs of the World,” The Toronto Star, January 12, 1976

Frank Seravalli, “35 years ago today, Broad Street Bullies ran Soviet Red Army out of the Spectrum,” philly.com, January 11, 2011

Al Strachan, “Soviet-Style Game Wouldn’t Sell Here,” Montreal Gazette, January 13, 1976

Al Strachan, “For A Short Road Trip, It Was a Long Haul,” Montreal Gazette, January 14, 1976

Peter White, “Confrontation: Flyer Defence Monkey Wrench in Army Attack as Stanley Cup Champs Score Rare NHL Win,” The Globe and Mail, January 12, 1976

“Coach Overreacted To Tense Situation Pulling Players Off, Eagleson Claims,” The Globe and Mail, January 12, 1976

“Flyer Head Shocks Shero: Snyder [sic] Does What Army Couldn’t Do,” The Globe and Mail, January 12, 1976

 Books

Stephen Cole, Hockey Night Fever: Mullets, Mayhem and the Game’s Coming of Age in the 1970s (2014)

Todd Denault, The Greatest Game: The Montreal Canadiens, The Red Army, and the Night That Saved Hockey (2010)

Jay Greenberg, Full Spectrum: The Complete History of the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club (1996)

Reggie Leach, The Riverton Rifle: My Story (2014)

Lawrence Martin, Red Machine (1990)

Vladislav Tretiak (translated by Sam and Maria Budman), Tretiak: The Legend (1987)

(Hockey cards courtesy of Hockey Media)