International Ice Hockey Federation

Does Russia have Toronto-itis?

Does Russia have Toronto-itis?

Historically a very unfriendly place to play

Published 27.12.2014 12:05 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Does Russia have Toronto-itis?
Russia celebrates a rare win in Toronto, beating Denmark 3-2 in a shootout on Friday afternoon. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
If Russia is going to win gold at this year’s U20, it will have to do something it hasn’t done much of in more than 40 years of hockey- win in Toronto.

Indeed, although Russia has a better record against Canada in Canada than in Russia, Toronto has been a hostile environment for both CCCP and the modern nation.

And perhaps the person to thank for all of this is Peter Mahovlich.

Recall it was the “Little M” who scored a glorious short-handed goal against Vladislav Tretiak in Game 2 of the Summit Series, on September 4, 1972, propelling Canada to a vital 4-1 victory. Two years later, at the WHA/Soviet Union Summit Series, Canada (a team made up of only WHA players) won at Maple Leaf Gardens by the same 4-1 score, its only victory in that series.

Cut ahead to the first Canada Cup in 1976. The Gardens hosted five games and the only time the Soviets played there they lost, to Canada, 3-1.

Playing in the North American pool of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Russia played twice, losing again to Canada, 3-1, before finally winning in Toronto, at the Air Canada Centre, defeating Slovakia, 5-2.

At the junior level, the results are just as overwhelming. Touring Russian junior teams have never played in Toronto since the series began in 2003, but Russia’s record against Ontario teams is four wins and 20 losses.

Ironically, many of Russia’s greatest victories in hockey occurred in Montreal, starting with the opening game of the Summit Series which set the tone for the most important eight games ever played in international hockey. In 1981, still smarting from an Olympic defeat in Lake Placid, CCCP crushed Canada, 8-1, in the championship game of the 1981 Canada Cup.

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As well, the Soviets won their only two games in Montreal at the 1976 Canada Cup and their only game at the 1984 Canada Cup. In 1987, the three-game Canada Cup finals between Canada and the Soviets was regarded as the greatest three games played. On cue, the guests won the opener - in Montreal - and lost the next two - in Hamilton!

Indeed, their first loss in Montreal came at the 1991 Canada Cup, 3-2 to Sweden, but they came right back and won their only game at the Bell Centre in the 1996 World Cup.

At the junior level, the 1978 U20 was played in Quebec, and Montreal hosted two games featuring the Soviets. They won both, including the gold-medal game, beating Sweden, 5-2.

As for touring junior teams since 2003? One game in Montreal, one win for the Russians, in 2004. And the other games in Quebec? They have a far more respectable record of 8-10.

So, in fact, yesterday’s tight 3-2 win over Denmark in a shootout was only the second win by a Russian team in Toronto in 42 years. They’ll have to come up with a few more W’s if they hope to get to the podium at the 2015 U20. They have the talent... if they can shake their historical case of Toronto-itis.


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