Friday, July 13, 2012
July by the Numbers stays in the Soviet Union for jersey #13.
Having been founded in 1946, Sports Club of the Army Leningrad has competed at the highest level of Soviet and Russian hockey in every season of it's existence, save for three.
SKA Leningrad were relegated for the 1947-48 season, but earned an immediate promotion back to the top level in their first try. Their return to the top level did not go well, and the club was once again demoted to the second division, and again won the right to return to the top division for 1950-51. This time they were successful in staying up, and remained in highest level for the next 40 years.
An old badge for HC SKA Leningrad
Their first taste of success came in 1968 when they were a finalist for the USSR Cup, a season long knockout competition which ran concurrently with the league regular season. The club earned their first hardware in 1970, when they won their first Spengler Cup, defeating the Czechoslovakian team Dukla Jihlava.
The team repeated their Spengler Cup success with another victory over Dukla Jihlava in 1971 and then completed arguably the best season in club history with a bronze medal in the Soviet Championship League and a runner up finish in the USSR Cup.
Their next success would arrive with their third Spengler Cup victory in 1977 at the expense of Dukla Jihlava once again.
SKA Leningrad's next success in the Soviet Championship League came with another bronze medal after the 1987 campaign.
That success would have to suffice for some time, as the political upheaval which arrived with the dissolution of the Soviet Union would affect the club's finances and resources as the changes in Russian society and it's sporting landscape sorted themselves out over the early part of the 1990's. This instability saw the team relegated for only the third time in it's history, as they were relegated following the 1990-91 season.
Another affect the breakup of the Soviet Union had on the team was the name of their home city Leningrad changing back to it's historic, original pre-1914 name of Saint Petersburg in 1991. From then on, the club would now be known as Hockey Club SKA Saint Petersburg.
They team would rebound from their relegation in short order, returning to the top level after just one season. The league they returned to in 1991-92 was the renamed and reorganized International Hockey League, which would be renamed Russian Super League in 1999 when membership was once again open to teams from outside of Russia, such as those from Belarus and Latvia.
SKA Saint Petersburg would compete in all seasons of the RSL from 1996-97 through 2007-08 and then join the newly created Kontinental Hockey League for it's inaugural 2008-09 season and win the Bobrov Division in 2009-10 with Maxim Shushinski finishing second in scoring by a single point with 65 points, followed by teammate Alexi Yashin with 64.
The following October, SKA defeated the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL in an exhibition game in Saint Petersburg by a score of 5-3.
Tuomo Ruutu of Carolina tries to score on SKA goaltender
Evgeni Nabokov during their 2010 exhibition game
Their noteworthy season continued in December with the club defeating Team Canada to capture it's fourth Spengler Cup on New Year's Eve, five weeks before the club hosted the KHL All-Star Game at the Ice Palace, their home rink built for the 2000 World Championships.
Maxim Shushinsky accepting the 2010 Spengler Cup
The Ice Palace holds 12,300 fans and has hosted the IIHF European Champions Cup from 2005 to 2008. In 2011-12, SKA averaged 10,126 fans, becoming the first Russian club to average over 10,000 fans per game in a season. SKA also placed 6th overall in all of Europe behind teams from Switzerland, Belarus, two from Germany and Sweden.
Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 SKA Saint Petersburg Viktor Belyakov jersey. Despite having been broken up in late 1991, this jersey still carries influences from the Soviet Union with it's spartan design and prominent red stars.
The thin numbers with a clear drop shadow is classic early 1990's European style, but what really screams "European" about the jersey is the fold over dress shirt collar, more commonly found in Scandinavian countries. A sign of the changing economics of the times is evidenced by the sponsorship found along the waist, both front and back, which would only grow to be more prominent as time passed.
Fortunately for you our readers, the internet has yet to be able to transmit odors, because there is nothing in this world that smells quite like an old Russian game worn jersey, a remarkable stench that packs a pretty mean punch!
Belyakov was a center who played for SKA beginning in 1988-89 when the city was still known as Leningrad and remained with the club for 10 seasons through the change to Saint Petersburg, and the Soviet League evolving into the International Hockey League, the Russian Hockey League and the Russian Super League. He finished his career with two additional seasons with Sibir Novobirsk, helping them earn promotion from the Russian second division to the Super League for his final season of 2002-03.
Today's video segment is an lengthy interview, in English, with SKA's Alexi Yashin (and his wife) at the 2010 Spengler Cup that we feel is worth your time.
This next video is a report on SKA Saint Petersburg from just prior to the 2010-11 season.