Friday, February 13, 2015

Red Army Movie Green Unit Week - 1983-84 Soviet Central Red Army Viacheslav Fetisov Jersey

In honor of the US release of the documentary feature film "Red Army", which had it's widespread release yesterday and continues nationwide over the course of the next month (click here for the schedule of cities and dates), we are have featured each member of the fames Soviet Central Red Army Hockey Club's famed "Green Unit" of forwards Sergei MakarovIgor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov and defensemen Alexi Kasatonov and Viacheslav Fetisov.

Red Army poster photo RedArmyMovieposter.jpg

Fetisov made his debut for CSKA Moscow in the Soviet Championship League in 1978-79 and scored 29 points in 29 games as a defenseman. Three years later Fetisov would earn the honor of being named the 1982 Soviet Player of the Year. Four years later he would again be named the Soviet Player of the Year. In all, the would play 11 seasons with CSKA Moscow, more commonly known in North America as the Soviet Central Red Army Club.

Fetisov CCCP photo FetisovCCCP.jpg

In each of his 11 seasons with Red Army, they would win the Soviet Championship League title, eight of those as a member of the famed Green Unit, which was completed in 1981 with the arrival of Larionov to complete the KLM line while centering Makarov and Krutov in addition to Fetisov and his defensive partner Kasatonov.

Soviet Green Unit photo SovietGreenUnit.jpg
The Soviet Union's legendary Green Unit

Prior to joining the senior Red Army Club, Fetisov represented the Soviet Union at the European Junior Championships, earning Top Defenseman at the 1976 tournament, in which he won the first of his many international gold medals. He also won gold at the 1976 World Junior Championships the same year, a feat he repeated in 1977 with gold medals in both the European and World Juniors, where he was named Best Defenseman.

1978 saw his third consecutive World Junior gold and second Best Defenseman award. Later that year Fetisov won his first gold medal with the Soviet National Team at the World Championships. Fetisov was also a member of the Soviet squad that was upset at the 1980 Olympics in the "Miracle on Ice", which eventually earned a silver medal. Another gold at the World Championships arrived in 1981 followed by winning the Canada Cup later that year. Two more golds followed in the 1982 and 1983 World Championships before his first gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

1985 saw a bronze medal at the World Championships break the string of golds. Order was restored in 1986 with a gold.

Slava Fetisov 1986 World Championship

Fetisov next played for the Soviet Union in Rendez-vous '87, a two game series that took the place of the usual NHL All-Star Game in 1987. The conclusion of the series led to a memorable jersey moment, as Fetisov and Wayne Gretzky swapped jerseys, a common practice among European soccer players.

Gretzky Fetisov jersey swap RV87

A silver medal followed in the 1987 World Championships before Fetisov would take part in his second Canada Cup tournament later in the year. The 1988 Winter Olympics saw Fetisov win a second Olympic gold medal in Calgary. His sixth World Championship gold came in 1989.

Fetisov CCCP photo fetisovCCCPK.jpg

At this point in Fetisov's career, he had 11 Soviet Championships, a pair of Player of the Year awards, two European Junior golds, three World Junior golds, six golds, one silver and one bronze medal at World Championships, a Canada Cup championship and two Olympic gold medals and one silver, but there was one championship trophy he was not eligible to compete for - the Stanley Cup.

Around the time of the 1989 World Championships, Sergei Priakin, considered expendable by the Soviet National Team, was allowed by Soviet authorities to play for the Calgary Flames in the NHL. Looking to escape the rigid Soviet system and the iron hand of coach Viktor Tikhonov, whose 11 month a year training schedule had grown more than tiresome, the now 31 year old Fetisov also requested to be allowed a move to the NHL.

He met with great resistance at first, but with a new policy of openness now taking hold in the Soviet Union, as well as the Soviet officials desire for an influx of cash, Fetisov, along with seven other players, were allowed to leave for North America, with the stipulation that they continued to compete internationally for the Soviet Union.

Originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1978, Fetisov's name was put back into the draft in 1983 when he was selected by the New Jersey Devils. The new Soviet players had an immediate impact on the NHL, even as they dealt with various instances of culture shock and a less than warm welcome by Canadians who felt their jobs were being taken.

"For the first 25 games or so, my partners didn't understand my style and I didn't understand the style of the NHL, but we all learned a lot and I thought I had a very good second half," said Fetisov. "It was tough to get out of the country, to fight against a Communist system. And it was tough when I got here (the NHL) for a couple years," Slava admitted. "Many times I would think, 'Why am I here; why did I do it?' I was a big player in Europe and people knew me. Here, all of a sudden, I had to struggle. But I keep telling myself I have to fight through this stuff."

Fetisov Devils photo FetisovDevils.jpg

Fetisov scored a career high 42 points during his first North American season, while compatriot Makarov was named the recipient of the Calder Trophy.

The move to North America had great meaning to Fetisov, beyond just the opportunity to earn a larger paycheck. "It was a victory against a whole system," Fetisov said. "It was not easy. You always have to fight for everything and I fought for everything I have in hockey. I also won the biggest fight away from hockey. That was the fight against communism, the fight for freedom of choices."

In keeping with the agreement, following the Devils elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Fetisov won his seventh and final gold medal at the 1990 World Championships.

1990 Soviet Union WC gold team photo 1990SovietUnionWCgoldteam.jpg
The gold medal winning 1990 Soviet Union National Team, the seventh World Championship gold of Fetisov's career

Fetisov would play four additional seasons for New Jersey, as well as his final appearance for the Soviet Union in 1991 World Championships where he would the second bronze medal of his career, before a move to the Detroit Red Wings during the 1994-95 season.

Once in Detroit, the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to Fetisov's former club, the Devils. In 69 games with Detroit the following season, Fetisov would equal his NHL career high with 42 points. Additionally, the Red Wings would again make a strong playoff push, eventually losing in the Conference Finals to the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche. Prior to the start of the following NHL season, Fetisov would conclude his international career by playing for Russia for the first and only time at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

It all came together for the Red Wings in 1997, as Fetisov, as part of the famed "Russian Five", won the 1997 Stanley Cup with a four game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Russian Five
The Russian Five of the Detroit Red Wings

The victory made him and long-time teammate Larionov the only men to have ever won the Stanley Cup, the World Championship, an Olympic gold medal, the World Junior Championship and the Canada Cup. The Canada Cup evolved into the World Cup of Hockey, and Joe Sakic and Scott Niedermayer joined the two Russians as winners of the five most important championships in the world of hockey.

Following the Stanley Cup victory celebrations in 1997, Fetisov was involved in a limousine crash which ended the career of teammate Vladimir Konstantinov and quite nearly cost him his life. Fetisov escaped with relatively minor injuries and continued his playing career, which included an emotional repeat championship for the Red Wings in 1998, which cumulated in a memorable scene on the ice as a wheelchair bound Konstantinov was included in the Stanley Cup presentation following the Red Wings victory. It would be the final game of Fetisov's NHL career.

Fetisov Konstantinov 1998 photo FetisovKonstantinov1998.jpg
Fetisov sharing the Red Wings Stanley Cup victory with Konstantinov following what would be the final game of his career

He would retire with 367 games played in the Soviet Union, scoring 339 points, and 546 games in the NHL, mainly due to the much longer NHL schedule despite playing two seasons more in the Soviet Union, in which Fetisov scored 228 points.

Fetisov has won numerous awards in his home country, including the Order of Lenin in 1988 and even had an asteroid named for him!

In the world of hockey, Fetisov was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. "I just couldn't believe it when they called me," said Viacheslav. "It's a great honour. You play all your life to get the recognition and it feels great, especially being a Russian-born hockey player and spending most of the best years back in Europe. It's a great honour to be in same category as other legends. I have achieved everything I dreamed of in my childhood," said Fetisov.

In 2008, Fetisov was named to the IIHF's International Centennial All-Star Team, which named but five players to create the finest starting lineup of the century, with Fetisov receiving 54 of a possible 56 votes, with no other player earning more than 38.

Today's featured jersey is a 1983-84 Soviet Central Red Army Viacheslav Fetisov jersey as worn during the season in which he set a career high with 49 points, a feat made all the more impressive when taking into account the 44 game season played in the Soviet Union, compared to the 82 game season in the NHL.

This jersey is a striking example of a Soviet club team jersey, with the added flash of the stars running down the arms and the red, white and blue color scheme when compared to the spartan red and white jerseys worn by the Soviet Union national team.

The Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA) was the dominant team in the Soviet League, exploiting every advantage the system offered them to acquire the best players in the land, which resulted in an absurd run of dominance that saw Red Army (as they were often referred to in North America) win 32 Soviet League championships (including 13 in a row from 1977 to 1989), 12 USSR Cups, 20 IIHF European Champions Cups and one Spengler Cup, with Fetisov participating in the majority of those successes.

 photo SovietRedArmy83-84jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1990 Soviet Union National Team Viacheslav Fetisov jersey. This vibrant style was worn during the final days of the Soviet Union, and in fact carried over into the early days of the new Russia National Team with the CCCP lettering either missing or crudely screened over with "Russia". It was notable for the increased use of yellow, as the vast majority of Soviet national team jerseys were limited to red and white.

In 1990, the Soviet Union would win the final of it's 22 World Championship gold medals and seventh of Fetisov's career.

Soviet Union 1990 jersey photo RussiaCCCP1989WCF.jpg
Soviet Union 1990 jersey photo RussiaCCCP1989WCB.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1991-92 New Jersey Devils Viacheslav Fetisov jersey as worn following Fetisov's being granted permission by the Soviet authorities to become one of the earliest Soviet players to compete in the NHL. The Devils wore red and green jerseys for their first 11 seasons in New Jersey until changing to red and black jerseys beginning the following season, which would be Fetisov's  fourth with the Devils.

The 1991-92 Devils jerseys can be instantly recognized by the NHL 75th Anniversary patch worn on the all the players jerseys that season.

 photo NewJerseyDevils91-92jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Super extra bonus jersey: Today's super extra bonus jersey is a 1996 Russia National Team Viacheslav Fetisov jersey as worn by Fetisov during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

With his migration to the NHL and the playoff success of first New Jersey and later Detroit, Fetisov was often occupied with the Stanley Cup playoffs, making him unavailable for the annual World Championships, but with the World Cup taking place in September prior to the NHL regular season, the 1996 World Cup would be the only time in his career he would skate for the new Russia National Team after the breakup of the Soviet Union following his years of stalwart service for the previous Soviet Union National Team through 1991.

Russia 1996 jersey photo Russia1996jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video segment includes the goals from the thrilling final game of the 1987 Canada Cup, which features the Soviets wearing today's featured jersey.

Here is footage from the Slava Fetisov Farewell Hockey Game which took place in Russia. See if you can recognize any NHL stars in the footage.

In this brief highlight, Fetisov slices and dices Team Canada and scores easily after a coast to coast rush.

We conclude today with a tribute video to Fetisov, which includes some amazing footage of his time in the Soviet Union, much of which we have never seen before as well as some of the original red and green New Jersey Devils jerseys. Highly recommended, but perhaps with the sound off...

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


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