Friday, December 4, 2015

1980 Soviet Union National Team Sergei Starikov Jersey

Born on this date in 1958 in Cheylabinsk, Soviet Union defenseman Sergei Starikov began his carer with Traktor Cheylabinsk in the Soviet second division in 1975-76. He also made his international debut in the European U18 Junior Championships.

He moved up to the senior Traktor team in the Soviet Championship League for the 1976-77 season and played in his first World Juniors, where the Soviet Union won the gold medal with a perfect 7-0 record in what was the first recognized IIHF World Junior Championship.

Starikov returned to Traktor for the 1977-78 season and won a second consecutive gold medal at the 1978 World Juniors. He would play a third season for his hometown Cheylabinsk, scoring 6 goals and 14 points in 44 games of the much shorter Soviet schedule of games, his first season of scoring double digit points. In a sign of what was to come, Starikov was chosen as a member of the Soviet Union National Team for the squad that took on the NHL's best in the 1979 Challenge Cup in Madison Square Garden, a three game series won decisively by the Soviets with a 6-0 shutout in Game 3. That spring, he would make his senior level World Championships debut with a single game at the 1979 Worlds as the Soviets would win the gold medal as hosts in Moscow.

As was often the case in Soviet hockey, Starikov's high level of play caught the attention of those in charge, and for the 1979-80 season, Starikov became a member of the famed Central Red Army (CSKA Moscow), winning his first of ten consecutive Soviet League championships after enjoying his first 10 goal season. He also made his Olympic debut at the age of 21, younger than many of the American "students", but had the unfortunate timing to be on the losing side of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, as the Soviets came home with an unappreciated silver medal. Many blamed Starikov for his role, as Mark Johnson's tying goal happened after the puck bounced off his skate to Johnson.

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The 1980 Soviet Olympic Team

Starikov retained his place with CSKA Moscow for 1980-81 and 1981-82, winning his second and third Soviet league titles, but the fallout from the loss at the 1980 Olympics cost him his place on the national team for the next two years.

Still, he persevered and a third season with CSKA saw him set a new personal best with 6 goals and his first 20 point season, his highest in the Soviet league. That led to a recall by the national team and he suited up for the 1983 World Championships, where he scored 5 points, including a goal, as the Soviets won gold in West Germany.

For the 1983-84 season, Starikov nearly duplicated his offensive output while setting a career high with 11 goals on his way to 18 points. That season also saw him return to the Olympics for the 1984 edition in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, where the powerful Soviets returned to their dominating ways en route to a gold medal. Later that fall, Starikov added to his international resume when he competed for the Soviet Union at the 1984 Canada Cup tournament.

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The 1984 Olympic gold medal winning Soviet Union

Another year, another Soviet championship for Starikov and CSKA following the 1984-85 season followed by a bronze medal at the 1985 World Championships, while 1985-86 saw a return to normalcy, as Starikov was able to "win the double" with his seventh Soviet championship followed by a World Championship gold medal as the Soviets claimed the championship as hosts in Moscow once again.

Starikov had a busy 1986-87 season, as he played another full season for CSKA, for whom he was extremely durable, and then was chosen for the roster for the national team who took on the NHL All-Stars at Rendez-vous 87 in Quebec, a two game series split by the two sides. Starikov then played in his final World Championships that spring, finishing with a silver medal thanks to losing to Sweden via a tie breaker of goal differential.

The 1987-88 season saw the customary Soviet League title capped off by an Olympic gold medal at the 1988 Games in Calgary, the final one for the Soviet Union and Starikov's second.

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The 1988 Olympic gold medalists from the Soviet Union

The storms of change were on the horizon but Starikov had one final season to play for Red Army in 1988-89 as the club won its 13th consecutive title and tenth for Starikov after his arrival in Moscow back in 1979.

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Starikov won ten championships with Red Army

For the 1989-90 season, the 31 year old Starikov, along with Red Army teammate Slava Fetisov, became only the second and third Soviet players allowed to leave the Soviet Union to play in the NHL, as they joined the New Jersey Devils.

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Starikov's arrival with Fetisov made big news in North America

"It was a big surprise. Everything happened so quick," Starikov recalled. "Slava called me after Viktor Tikhonov released me from the team and Slava asked me if I wanted to come to the NHL and play for the Devils. I told him I wasn't drafted, but he said, 'Tell me now if you want to come.'

"I thought about it for five minutes and I said to Irina, my wife, 'Why don't we go and try?' Those were tough days in the Soviet Union. Lou Lamoriello cam to Mosco and did a great job. He got visas for us."

The two players were released from their Russian commitments in May of 1989 and they signed with the Devils in June.

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Fetisov, Lamoriello and Starikov as the Russians are introduced as Devils

Starikov did not fare particularly well with the transition to the culture shock of not only the smaller rinks and style of play in the NHL, but simply adapting to life in the United States.

"Social life and hockey, too. Every step was like a surprise," he said. "Unfortunately my back was hurt. In December I went to the Devils farm club in Utica and played there for two years. And I knew Alexei Kasatonov was coming. It looked like too many Russian defensemen on one team."

His time in New Jersey was brief, playing just 16 games, registering a lone assist, before being sent down to the Utica Devils of the American Hockey League, where he played well, scoring 8 goals and 19 points in 43 games.

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Starikov during his brief time with the Devils

He returned to Utica for the 1991-92 season, where he saw action in 51 games. For the 1991-92 season, he found a place with the high scoring San Diego Gulls along with IHL scoring leader and fellow Russian Dmitri Kvartalnov. Starikov had by far and away his highest scoring season of his career, scoring 7 goals and 31 assists for 38 points, nearly double his best Soviet season in 1982-83 of 20 points.

He would play one final season with San Diego in 1992-93, but was limited to just 9 points in only 42 games before retiring at the age of 34.

His final Soviet League totals were 510 games played, 58 goals and 144 points and ten championships. Internationally, he would win 2 World Junior gold medals, 3 World Championship gold, one silver and one bronze medals and 2 gold and one infamous silver Olympic medals.

After coaching in the KHL for several seasons, Starikov returned to New Jersey in 2013 and recently became a coach for South Brunswick High School in November of 2015.

Today's featured jersey is a 1980 Soviet Union National Team Sergei Starikov jersey as worn during the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

This style of Soviet jersey saw them through several of their highest profile competitions, as it debuted in September of 1976 and would be worn for several tours of North America, the 1976 Canada Cup, the 1979 Challenge Cup, the 1980 Olympics, the 1981 Canada Cup championship and another tour of North America in 1983.

Of note, the jersey shown here was worn as wardrobe in the filming of the 2004 movie "Miracle" about the United States upset of the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics. Starikov's thoughts on the movie? "I know how it ends," he said. "It does not end good."

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Bonus jersey: today's bonus jersey is a 1986 Soviet Union Sergei Starikov jersey, as the Soviets arrived with a striking new design unlike anything in the history of their national team, dating back now 35 years.

Attention getting enough was the prominent white stripe running down each arm, which served as a background to highlight the Adidas stripes, but what really made this a stunning departure from any prior Soviet jersey were the bold, asymmetrical white triangles which simply screamed "LOOK AT ME!" in a way no Soviet jersey had ever dared before.

The "double triangle" look was completed with CCCP in a bold, modern font tightly spaced in a way that made it appear very aggressive. A true high point in the history of international jerseys, and brought to you by a no more unexpected and shocking source than the normally staid Soviet Union!

This exact jersey style had an all too brief lifespan, being worn only for the notorious 1987 World Junior Championships in December of 1986, stretching into January of 1987, when on January 4th, the Soviets and Canadians engaged in the bench clearing brawl in the final game of the tournament, now named the "Punch-up in Piestany".

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Starikov discusses the fallout from losing to the Americans during the 1980 Olympics on Igor Larionov's radio program along with his daughter Alyonka Larionov.

Next, Starikov assists on Sergei Kapustin's opening goal of Game 2 of the 1979 Challenge Cup, which the Soviets would go on to win.

Finally, Starikov is honored by CSKA and a smiling coach Tikhonov, who have clearly put any old differences aside.

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