Monday, April 25, 2011
Widely considered one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey history, Vladislav Tretiak was born on this date in 1952.
An unknown 20 year old, Tretiak was the starting goaltender for the Soviet National Team as the historic 1972 Summit Series began in Montreal. Since the Canadian scouts had only seen him play once, a dismal performance in which he allowed eight goals against due to excessive celebrations at his bachelor party the night before, he was dismissed as no threat to the best professionals Canada had to offer.
Two Canadian goals before the game was seven minutes old only seemed to reinforce the scouts opinion on Tretiak, which would soon change. The Canadians would manage just one more goal for the remainder of the contest as the Soviets came alive and pummeled the startled Canadians 7-3.
His continued outstanding play in the first half of the series earned him a tremendous amount of respect and admiration as the Soviets showed that they were able to compete with the Canadians. Eventually Canada would prevail in the series by the slimmest of margins, but Tretiak's reputation had been cemented by his play in the series.
Although he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1983 , it was at a time when Soviet players were not allowed to leave for the NHL. Tretiak would spend 15 full seasons playing for Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA), or as more commonly known, the "Red Army".
During his 15 seasons in the Soviet Hockey League, Tretiak and Red Army would win the championship 13 times and finish runners up the other two. Tretiak was also named the First Team All-Star Goalie 14 consecutive seasons and league MVP five times. Outside of the Soviet Union, Tretiak and the club would take home the European Cup 13 times.
Internationally, Tretiak's resume would show three Olympic gold medals (Japan in 1972, Austria in 1976 and Yugoslavia in 1984), ten World Championship gold medals (1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 & 1983) and gold medals in the European Championships nine times. In addition he would be named the winner of the Golden Hockey Stick as the most outstanding player in all of Europe in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
He would also participate in two Canada Cups, earning a bronze with a depleted squad in 1976 and gold in 1981 when he was named the tournament's MVP. His final goals against average in 98 international games was an outstanding 1.78.
Another career highlight for Tretiak is the 1975-76 Red Army tour of North America when the Red Army faced off against various NHL club teams, the first time any Soviet club team had faced off against clubs from the NHL. Red Army came away with dominant victories over the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins and a notorious loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the most memorable game was a New Year's Eve contest against the Montreal Canadiens, that season's eventual Stanley Cup Champions, which ended in a 3-3 tie with Montreal outshooting Red Army 38-13 in a game considered by many to be one of the greatest games ever played.
After his early retirement in 1984 at the age of 32, ranked as #37 in the Top 100 Stories of the Century by the International Ice Hockey Federation, due to his desire to wanting to face a new challenge of playing in North America and the Soviet authorities refusal to grant him permission and the strain of the eleven month a year commitment required by the Soviet hockey system plus friction with his coach Viktor Tikhonov, Tretiak would finally make his way to North America in 1990, having been hired by the Chicago Blackhawks as their goaltending coach.
He would become the first Soviet-trained player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989 and the first European player voted in without ever having played in the NHL. His induction would be ranked by the IIHF as #55 on Top 100 Stories of the Century. In 2000 he would be voted the Best Russian Hockey Player of the 20th Century as well as being named the goaltender for the IIHF Centennial All-Star Team, a tremendous honor of he highest caliber, as only one player at each of the six positions would be named to this most exclusive team. Tretiak would be elected as the head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation in 2006.
The many highlights of Tretiak's career appear over and over again of the IIHF list of the Top 100 Stories of the 20th Century. The Soviets victory over Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup ranks as #9, the New Year's Eve game with Montreal #23, the shock opening game of the 1972 Summit Series as #3 and the Soviets victory over the NHL All-Stars in the 1979 Challenge Cup as #36. Even the defeats of the Soviets during the Tretiak era were so uncommon that they merit recognition on the list as well. A loss to Poland in 1976 was #39, the conclusion of the 1972 Summit Series was #2, the loss to the USA in the 1980 Olympics was #1, their loss to the Czechs in 1972 was #5 and in 1974 was #67.
Today's featured jersey is a 1972 Soviet Union Vladislav Tretiak jersey as Tretiak wore in the 1972 Summit Series. It is unusual in that it is a heavy-weight knit sweater with felt letters and numbers.
This photograph was taken by the author and features several additional items from the Third String Goalie memorabilia collection.
Today's first video is his introductory video from Tretiak's Hall of Fame induction.
Here are highlights from the memorable game between the Red Army and the Montreal Canadiens on New Year's Eve in 1975.