Tuesday, January 5, 2010
In anticipation of tonight's 2010 World Junior Tournament Championship Final between host Canada and the United States, we take a look back at perhaps the most famous, and notorious, moment in World Juniors history, for on this date in 1987, "The Punch-up in Piestany" took place.
The scene was the final game of the 1987 World Junior Tournament in Piestany, Czechoslovakia. At the time the format of the tournament was a round-robin phase, with the final standings determining the medalists.
Canada brought a 4-1-1 record into the final game, while their arch-rivals the Soviet Union were out of medal contention at 2-3-1 and could only hope to spoil Canada's chance at the Gold Medal.
To capture the gold over Finland, the Canadians needed to beat the Soviets by five goals to equal Finland's record of 5-1-1 but surpass them on the tie-breaker of goal differential. Had Canada won by less than 5, silver would have been theirs and even a loss still would have seen them take home the bronze.
Going into the game, the Canadians were worried about the choice of the inexperienced Hans Ronning as the referee, and sought to have the assignment changed due to an earlier incident in the tournament which involved a pre-game fight between the Canadians and Americans in which Canadian Captain Steve Chaisson was ejected by Ronning, who was not even present on the ice at the time, thus barring Chaisson from the game versus the United States plus their following game against Sweden.
The opening faceoff of the game was met with elbows and a retaliatory cross-check, neither of which were penalized and set the tone for the escalation of hostilities that were to follow.
Five minutes into the game, Theo Fleury scored for Canada and celebrated by sliding across center ice on his knees, using his stick as a machine gun, "firing" at the Soviet bench. The first period would concluded with Canada ahead 3-1, slashes going uncalled and tempers getting short.
By the halfway point of the second period each team had another goal, making the score 4-2 in favor of Canada. With two players in the penalty box for each team following a scuffle, two players collided after a faceoff, Everett Sanipass and Sergei Shesterikov, and a fight broke out between the two of them. Things got worse when Pavel Kostichkin hit Fleury with a two-handed slash, which lead to a second fight breaking out. Things then escalated to the point that all the players on the ice were brawling, but what really sent the situation spiraling completely out of control was when Evgeny Davydov left the Soviet bench to come to the aid of a teammate.
This opened the floodgates, as nearly all the players from both benches spilled onto the ice, and a dozen separate fights broke out, Greg Hagwood's nose was broken by a head-butt and Stephane Roy was beaten by two Soviet players. This was in part due to two Canadians, Jimmy Waite and Pierre Turgeon remaining on the bench.
Unable to control the situation, Ronning and his linesmen left the ice and tournament officials famously turned off the arena lights in a desperate attempt to end the brawl.
Eventually the combatants tired themselves out and the fighting ceased, but by that time the IIHF ordered the game suspended and then held an emergency meeting, with the nine delegates voting 8-1 to expel both teams from the tournament, costing Canada a medal of any sort.
With the expulsion of Canada and the Soviet Union, Finland took home the gold, with Czechoslovakia and Sweden being awarded the silver and bronze.
The Canadians were extended an invitation to join the tournament banquet and medal ceremony, but stated they were not interested. Officials responded by ordering Canada out of the arena within a half-hour and they were subsequently escorted out of Czechoslovakia by armed soldiers!
Charges flew in the aftermath, as Alan Eagleson claimed the voting would have been different if the Soviets were in line for a medal as well, while Don Cherry suggested the brawl was a deliberate Soviet conspiracy to get Canada disqualified.
The event spawned our all-time favorite hockey quote ever:
"You don't like to see 20 kids punching 20 other kids.
It's not a disgrace. It's hockey." - Michael Farber
The events of that day have been chronicled in the book, When the Lights Went Out.
Speaking of books, Theo Fleury has a biography out, Playing With Fire.
Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1990-91 Soviet Red Army Pavel Kostichkin jersey from his days in the Soviet Hockey League. Kostichkin was eventually drafted in the tenth round by the Winnipeg Jets in 1988, but spent his career in Europe, outside of a season with the Moncton Hawks of the AHL. He would eventually play in leagues in Russia, Denmark, Finland and Belarus, before retiring in 2005.
This jersey is the cornerstone of the Third String Goalie Collection and always the first one mentioned when we are asked to name our favorite. With it's bright colors, hammer and sickle logos and name on the back in Cyrillic, it's a prime example of what a hockey jersey should look like and represents the most powerful club in hockey outside of North America.
Bonus Jersey: We are also featuring a 1997-98 Calgary Flames Theo Fleury jersey, Kostichkin's counterpart in the Piestany brawl.
This jersey features the Game ONe Japan patch worn during the season opening games in Tokyo, Japan in 1997.
Our video selections today feature the brawl between Canada and the Soviet Union, followed by Don Cherry's postgame comments and then the debate between Don Cherry and Michael Farber which spawned out favorite quote.