- higher position in the group
- higher number of points
- better goal difference
- higher number of goals scored
- better 2009 IIHF World Ranking
Thursday, February 4, 2010
When the Soviet Union won the 1954 World Championships in their first ever international tournament, they shocked the hockey world.
Canada had reclaimed the world title in 1955 and the two countries were set for a showdown at the 1956 Winter Olympics, which were held in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy and also counted for that year's World Championship.
Canada moved through Group A with a 3-0 record with wins over Germany (4-0), Austria (23-0) and hosts Italy (3-1), while the Soviet Union finished atop Group C with a pair of wins over Sweden (5-1) and Switzerland (10-3) as both teams moved into the Final Round along with the United States, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Germany.
On January 30th, both teams got off to the desired starts with Canada winning 6-3 over Czechoslovakia and the Soviets beating Sweden 4-1.
The next day the Soviets put some distance between themselves and Canada with a 8-0 defeat of Germany while Canada lost to the United States 4-1, allowing the USA to keep pace with the Soviets at the top of the standings.
The United States put pressure on the Soviets by winning their third game in three days by downing Sweden 6-1.
February 2nd saw the Soviet Union regain a tie with the USA with a 7-4 win over rivals Czechoslovakia and Canada pummeled Germany 10-0.
The following day Canada remained two points back of the top spot with a 6-2 win over Sweden and the key matchup between the Americans and Soviets went the way of the Soviets 4-0, setting up their awaited showdown with Canada on the final day of the tournament on this date in 1956.
The standing then stood at the Soviet Union at 4-0 for 8 points, and both Canada and the United States at 3-1 tied with 6 points. The United States took care of their part with a 9-4 win over Czechoslovakia and Canada needed a win to keep their gold medal hopes alive.
The decisive game was played outdoors in front of a sell-out crowd of 12,700 spectators. The first period was played scoreless although Canada dominated the action. After controlling play again in the second, Canada was stunned when Yuri Krylov drew first blood for the Soviet Union with a goal at 6:20 of the second. The score remained through the completion of the middle period, but the Soviets put themselves in a strong position just 37 seconds into the third period to take a 2-0 lead.
Soviet goaltender Nikolai Puchkov held the Canadians at bay for the remainder of the game as the Soviet Union won the game, despite being outshot 23-9, to complete the Final Round, and the tournament, undefeated to capture their first Olympic gold medal.
With their victory on the last day the United States earned the silver medal while Canada was awarded the bronze, it's lowest placing since hockey became and Olympic sport in 1920.
The Soviet victory was the beginning of an era of dominance that would stretch from 1956 to 1992, as the Soviets took home gold every four years, except in 1960 and 1980 when the United States won on home soil, to capture eight out of ten championships.
Today's featured jersey is a 1956 Soviet National Team Genrikh Sidorenkov jersey as worn during the 1956 Winter Olympics when the Soviet Union won their first Olympic gold medal.
This jersey was the one chosen by Russia to wear as their throwback style for the 2008 World Championships, when each country wore a jersey from their past as part of the IIHF 100th Anniversary celebrations on May 2, 2008 in a 7-2 win over Italy. A jersey that was inexplicably never sold at retail despite being worn by NHL stars Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk plus the rest of the 2008 gold medal winning Russian squad that certainly would have guaranteed enough sales to justify putting this strikingly beautiful jersey into production.
Sidorenkov was a nine time member of the Soviet National Team who scored 15 goals while playing defense in 107 games. He was a Soviet All-Star in 1959, 1960 and 1961. In addition to his time with the National Team, he also played in 310 games, scoring 42 goals, in the Soviet League with the Soviet Wings (1948-1951), CSKA Moscow (1951-1962, 1964-1966) and SKA Leningrad (1962-1964).
He was inducted into the Soviet Hockey Hall of Fame in 1956 when he received the Merited Sports Master Award. In addition to his gold medal in 1956, he also won a bronze medal at the 1960 Olympics. At the World Championships, Sidorenkov won a gold medal in 1954, silver in 1957, 1958 and 1959 and a bronze in 1961.
Today's video selection features the gold medal game from the 1956 Olympics, as the Soviet Union takes on Canada in black and white, followed by the previous contest versus the United States followed again by the game against Canada in glorious living color! We love the number of players wearing stocking caps on the ice and also take notice of the goaltender Puchkov wearing blue hockey pants in contrast to the rest of the team all wearing red ones.
Dasherboard: Tomorrow begins our team by team look at the twelve countries participating in the upcoming 2010 men's Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver.
We will be looking at the teams by their groups, in ascending order of their current IIHF World Rankings, starting with Group C.
This year's format for the Olympics is a bit complex in places and somewhat difficult to explain quickly and easily, but it does have some ramifications on how the early part of the tournament will be played that we feel is important.
The format calls for three groups, A, B and C, which consist of four teams each, playing a round robin of just three games in the Preliminary Round. At the conclusion of the Preliminary Round, all the teams will be ranked 1-12, in order of;
The top four teams will then receive byes into the Quarterfinals with the remaining eight teams, ranked 5-12, being paired off in the Secondary Round, which consists of four knockout games to be played on February 23rd, with the winners advancing to the Quarterfinals against the top four teams, which will be played the very next day, February 24th.
The discrepancy between there being three groups but four byes into the Quarterfinals is an unfortunate choice of format, which was chosen to compress the tournament into a shorter time frame than the 16 team, four group format of the World Championships.
Regrettably, the format of the tournament is stacked against the weaker teams, like Norway, as the top teams will be looking to pour it on in the preliminary round since the short schedule of just three games in the Preliminary Round puts a greater emphasis on goal differential which will undoubtedly be a factor to determine who gets the coveted bye into the Quarterfinals between the three second place finishers, as well as the most favorable matchup in the secondary round on February 23rd for a berth in the Quarterfinals.
In plain English, expect the top team in each group to finish the preliminary round with a 3-0 record and second place teams in each group to finish at 2-1. Therefore, the all-important tie breaker then becomes goal differential, encouraging, if not requiring, the top countries to kick the living snot out of the weaker ones.
For example, assume the United States, the Czech Republic and Finland each finish second in their groups with a 2-1 record. It will be in the United States best interest to try to pummel Norway 10-1 in the hopes that a +9 difference in goals will be enough to overcome the Czech's ability to pound Latvia and Finland's ability to crush Germany, since the one team able to outscore the other teams in it's group by the greatest margin, will get an all important extra day off heading into the Quarterfinals before having to face one of the other two who will have just played an extra game the day before.
The way the tournament is structured, and the resulting emphasis on goal differential, is unfortunate in the way it rewards the team who can clobber the weaker ones the most, which flies in the face of the sprit of goodwill, sportsmanship and Olympic ideals.
It's really too bad that the Olympic tournament is not in the 16 team format of the World Championships, where the second round of the tournament is an additional round of group play for all surviving teams, without the incentive of byes presented which only encourage greater lopsided scores as a way to earn the byes offered in the Olympic format.
The same argument also applies to the winners of each group. Assuming they all go 3-0, their tiebreaker will also be heavily weighted toward goal differential, with the team achieving the best differential drawing the weakest opponent of the three during the Quarterfinals, which now means two teams each looking to clobber Norway, Lativa and Germany in the Preliminary Round. Say, for example all the team's advance except for one upset. A better goal differential would mean the difference between playing Latvia instead of Finland in the Quarterfinals based primarily on your ability to score 14 times against Germany a week earlier.