Monday, February 9, 2015

Red Army Movie Green Unit Week - 1996-97 HC CSKA Moscow Alexei Kasatonov Jersey

The move "Red Army" documents the most successful dynasty in sports history, the Soviet Central Red Army Hockey Club, winners of 32 Soviet League Championships in the 42 years between 1948 and 1989, including 13 consecutive from 1977 to 1989, 12 Russian Cups and 20 European Champions Cups. Additionally, the majority of the roster traditionally made up the Soviet Union National Team, which won 22 World Championships and 7 Olympic Gold Medals.

Red Army poster photo RedArmyMovieposter.jpg

During the 1980's, the driving force on the ice was the five man group known as The Green Unit which consisted of forwards Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov and defensemen Alexei Kasatonov and Viacheslav Fetisov.

Green Unit photo GreenUnit.jpg
Kasatonov, Makarov, Larionov, Krutov and Fetisov

The Soviet five man units were in contrast to the North American practice of having three man forward lines and separate two man defensive pairs which were not linked to any particular of a team's forward lines' rotation on the ice.

The Green Unit was coached by the legendary Viktor Tihonov, whose all-powerful, dictatorial style brought the team great successes, but at the cost of the freedom of his players, who were required to not only train, but live in the team's training base for 11 months out of the year.

The Green Unit is the predecessor to the later, but better known "Russian Five" of the 1997 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, which consisted of forwards Larionov, Sergei Fedorov and Slava Kozlov with Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov on defense

The focus of the film is seven-time World Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time Stanley Cup champion and Canada Cup winner and Soviet National Team captain Fetisov, who resisted the control of Tikhonov and sought to change the system from within all while refusing to take the quick way out by defecting as others had done. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the creative, free flowing style of the Soviet team while living under a repressive political system in contrast to the North American teams had all the personal freedoms one could hope for but played a rigid style of hockey with a heavy dose brutality.

Red Army opened in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on January 23rd, in San Francisco and Washington D. C. on January 30th, Chicago on February 6th and will open in San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm, Phoenix and in the New York and Los Angeles areas this Friday, February 13th.

The movie will also open in Denver, Atlanta, St. Louis, Buffalo (2/20), Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Kansas City (2/27), Tampa, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (3/6), Columbus (3/13) and Indianapolis (3/27) among many, many other smaller markets between February 20th and March 27th.

In honor of the wider US release of Red Army beginning this Friday and continuing nationwide over the course of the next month, this week we are featuring each member of the Soviet Central Red Army Hockey Club's famed "Green Unit", beginning with defenseman Kasatonov, who was born in 1959 in what was then known as Leningrad in the Soviet Union.

Kasatononv played seven seasons in the NHL following a 15 year career in the Soviet Elite League, which began with SKA Leningrad in 1976-77. He would play for SKA for two seasons after which he moved to CSKA Moscow, known more commonly as the Red Army Hockey Club, who were able to collect all the best players in the Soviet Union through their power to make the players they desired members of the Soviet Army and assign them to the army sports club's hockey team as part of their military duty.

This loophole also allowed the Soviet veterans to continue to play together in the Olympics as amateurs, as they were not technically paid to play hockey, but were paid as soldiers in the military, much to the annoyance and frustration of the Canadians, whose players to paid directly as professional athletes, and therefore not eligible to compete in the Olympics after the conclusion of their junior careers.

Kasatonov played for CSKA Moscow from the 1978-79 season through 1989-90, winning 11 consecutive Soviet League Championships from 1979 to 1989 and 12 consecutive European Cups. While a member of Red Army, he scored a high of 18 goals in 1984-85 and a best 27 assists and 39 points in 1981-82 in a league where the season was between 40 and 50 games long.

Alexi Kasatonov
Kasatonov with CSKA Moscow

As a member of CSKA Moscow, he was also a long-time member of the Soviet National Team, which naturally was primarily comprised of players from the most dominant club in the land.

Kasatonov CCCP photo KasatonovCCCP.jpg
Kasatonov in the mid 1980's on the Soviet National Team

While playing for his country, Kasatonov won gold medals at the World Championships in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1989 and a silver medal in the 1980 and gold medals in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics as a member of the famed "Green Unit".

Soviet Green Unit
The "Green Unit"

Following the conclusion of the 1989-90 Soviet season, Kasatonov was allowed to join the New Jersey Devils of the NHL, where he would be reunited with former Red Army teammate Fetisov for the second half of the NHL sechedule. Kasatonov's first NHL season comprised 39 games in which he scored 6 goals and 21 points while acclimating to life in North America, which was often a difficult proposition for Soviet players in those days.

Kasatonov Devils photo KasatonovDevils.jpg
Kasatonov now in the NHL with New Jersey

The NHL game agreed with Kasatonov though, and he scored 41 and 40 points the next two seasons while playing 78 and 76 games, with 14 additional playoff games added on, for a total of 168 over two seasons, when compared to the perhaps 120 he was accustomed to. He was limited to 64 games and saw his point total drop precipitously to just 17 in 1992-93, which saw the 34 year old left unprotected in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft and subsequently claimed by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Kasatonov played 55 games for the Mighty Ducks and appear in the 1994 NHL All-Star Game prior to being traded to the St. Louis Blues in late March of 1994 wher he would play just 8 games with the Blues.

He returned to CSKA Moscow for nine games during the work stoppage of 1994, and once the NHL season began, he began play with the Boston Bruins, with whom he had signed as a free agent. The following season Kasatonov played 19 games with Boston and 16 games with Providence of the AHL.

He returned to Russia for one last season with Tikhonov's new club, the similarly named HC CSKA Moscow in 1996-97 before his retirement as a professional.

HIs final NHL totals were 38 goals and 122 assists for 160 points in 383 games, and combined, he scored 200 goals and 627 points in 1128 games.

Kasatonov was named a "Honored Master of Sport" in Russia and was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009.

Alexi Kasatonov
Kasatonov's induction to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009

Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 HC CSKA Moscow Alexei Kasatonov jersey. This jersey is from Kasatonov's final season when he returned to Russia following the conclusion of his NHL career. Note the name on the back in Cyrillic lettering.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the government funding of the once all-conquering CSKA Moscow disappeared and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL entered into a business partnership with the club, which was often referred to as "the Russian Penguins" during this time period as a penguin was integrated into the club's identity.

After two seasons of attempting to run the once mighty Soviet club with their NHL marketing savvy, the Russians figured they had learned all they needed to know, and felt they could run the show themselves without having to give Pittsburgh a 50% cut of the profits. The North Americans were only too happy to head home, having had enough close calls with the meddlesome Russian Mafia, who not only kicked the team's sponsors out of their "Super Boxes", but were responsible for the assassinations of as many as three of the team's staff!

In 1995-96, all the multinational sponsors pulled out, CSKA were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round and the team had the water and electricity turned off before being locked out of their own arena. In the upheaval afterwards, long-time CKSA head coach Tikhonov was ousted and responded by forming his own, incredibly similarly named team, HC CKSA Moscow!

While the original CSKA Moscow "Red Army" club returned to their previous star logo, the upstart new HC CSKA Moscow adopted the "Russian Penguin" identity as their own, creating much confusion among jersey collectors, as the Penguin logo was used for eight consecutive seasons, but by two separate, but nearly identically named clubs.

The CSKA Moscow "Russian Penguins" jerseys were red with black and white trim. The HC CSKA Moscow "Russian Penguins" jerseys were also red with black and white trim with LG sponsorship and the letters XK (Cyrillic for HC to differentiate themselves from CSKA Moscow) added to the upper chest of the penguin logo before a change to red jerseys with blue and white trim as shown in today's featured jersey.

After six seasons of two separate "Red Army" clubs, they were merged for the 2002-03 season, bringing to an end the use of the Russian Penguins logo.

Russian Penguins 96-97 jersey
Russian Penguins 96-97 jersey

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1993-94 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Alexei Kasatonov jersey as worn during the Mighty Ducks inaugural season in which Kasatonov played 55 games before being traded to the St. Louis Blues.

Mighty Ducks 93-94 jersey
Mighty Ducks 93-94 jersey

In today's video segment, a look at Kasatonov's career and his life after retiring from hockey, which includes coaching hockey in America.

Here, Kasatonov discusses the "Miracle on Ice" 25 years later.

Finally, while playing for the Soviet National Team, Kasatonov scores against Grant Fuhr and the NHL All-Stars during Rendez-Vous '87.

Finally, the trailer for the movie "Red Army", opening in theaters across the United States soon.


1 comment:

  1. I thought the ESPN documentary dropped the ball a little. They mentioned how Kasatonov didn't support Fetisov's bid to get released from his military contract, but didn't make the connection that those two guys became teammates again in New Jersey. I guess that didn't go over so well. Fetisov could have had his own documentary, there's more to the story.


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