Big sports, like show business, have never been without scandals. That goes for hockey as well. There have been many scandalous events in the history of hockey, from fights to walk-offs. This article highlights some of them.
Tarasov led CSKA away to the locker room because of a canceled puck
May 1, 1969. Another season of the USSR Championship was coming to an end. As per the rules of the 1968/1969 season, 6 teams qualified for the second round, including Anatoly Tarasov’s CSKA and Nikolai Karpov’s Spartak. For more hockey news and stories, check out our website –
The second round was a round-robin. The gold medal went to the team that took first place based on the results of the stage matches.
By the last faceoff of the season between CSKA and Spartak, the Army team was only one point behind the former Spartak leaders. That meeting decided the fate of the gold medals. CSKA needed only victory for the championship.
Tarasov’s team had trouble with the game from the beginning: By halftime, they were already trailing 2-0. Only at the beginning of the third period did CSKA open the scoring.
We should remember that back then the third period was divided into two halves, as after 10 minutes of play there was an obligatory pause, during which the goal line had to be changed. That rule was the cause of the scandal.
At the very end of the first half, CSKA on the power play managed to get their second goal, scored by Petrov. At that moment, the clock read 9:59, but the timer showed 10:01.
Tarasov, of course, wasn’t happy. His yell, “The goal was right!” addressed to the referees (the match was officiated by Yury Karandin and Mikhail Kirillov) and the timekeeper, resounded loudly around the stadium, but this could not change the referees’ minds.
Then the CSKA head coach took the unusual step of taking the team to the locker room and refused to return until Petrov’s goal was validated. It wasn’t just the stubbornness of the CSKA coach that made things so difficult. Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was present at that game.
For thirty-seven minutes Tarasov was persuaded by various officials, but he was adamant. Only a call from Brezhnev, tired of waiting, was able to convince the coach to get the team back on the court. Interesting fact: Brezhnev, despite his love for CSKA and his ability to influence the game, did not ask for the goal to be counted.
The game continued, but CSKA failed to turn the tide and even conceded the third goal. Spartak won the championship, and after the game, Tarasov was deprived of the title of Honored Master of Sports and Coach of the USSR, although these regalia were returned six months later. This incident can be read about in many blogs, and the controversy about the conflict has not subsided to this day.
A fight between the Soviet and Canadian youth teams in Piešťany
Almost all hockey fans know about this legendary fight, where the Soviet side fought the famous future Mogilny, Fedorov, and Malakhov. This event took place at the World Youth Championship in the Slovak city of Piešťany.
The Soviet national team approached the tournament with an impressive medal haul, winning 10 gold and 2 bronze medals in 13 Championships (including 3 Unofficial Championships from 1974-1976). The Canadians had more modest results: they won 2 gold, 4 silver, and 3 bronze medals in the same 13 tournaments.
Therefore, the tournament organizers had placed the USSR-Canada match in the very last round, hoping to organize a kind of final of the championship. Unfortunately, the match was not final; it was not even finished.
The Soviet Union national team had a very unsuccessful year: only two of their six matches were won, and even then they were Poland and Switzerland, two of the underdogs of the tournament. By the time they played Canada, the Soviet team could not climb higher than sixth place, while Canada was fighting for first place. To do so, they had to win their last game by at least 3 pucks.
Tempers flared even before the game started: the Canadians, as recalled by Vadim Musatov, the USSR national team defenseman, were already provoking the Soviet ice hockey players during the warm-up, and in the locker room Anatoly Tarasov, specially invited for that occasion, made the ice hockey players “feel that they were ready for war”. The match was crucial for the Union team.
Already from the first period on, skirmishes erupted: a Soviet hockey player poked his opponent with his stick, or Theo Fleury, who scored Canada’s first goal in the game, used an imaginary machine gun to shoot the Soviet team’s bench.
The game was very rough on both sides, but the game advantage was for the Canadian team: by 27 minutes, the score was 4-2 in favor of the North American team. At this point, the fight happened.
There were several explanations for the brawl. According to Vadim Musatov, the fight was started because the Canadian hit the Soviet goalkeeper Ivannikov who was covering the puck with a trap. The Soviet five players stepped in for him, and then the fight started team against team. Another explanation explains it more or less the same way, only the fight began when a Canadian player poked a Soviet player, which led to his fall, after which other hockey players stood up for his teammate.
Almost all the hockey players were involved in the fight. The fight was fierce, with sneaky blows from both sides. The Canadians mostly won the fight because of their greater experience in fighting, which the Soviet hockey players did not have at all.
They tried to stop the fight, but too late. The referees could not break up and reassure the hockey players in time, so we had to switch to more drastic measures. First, the lights were turned off at the stadium, but that couldn’t do anything. In the end, the organizers had to call the police, who escorted the teams to different hotels and sent them back to their countries the next morning. The results of the match were annulled and the teams were disqualified. Canada lost its shot at the championship.
Subsequently, the sides blamed each other for organizing the fight. The referees first blamed the Canadians, then the coaches of both teams.
Back home, the Canadians were hailed as heroes for defeating the goddamn communists. The Toronto Maple Leaf’s owner even cast gold medals for them and presented them to the team. The Soviet team was greeted very coldly. The hockey players were treated to a brawl with Soviet hockey veterans, deprived of their bonus and the promised trip to Japan.
The roughest matches of the roughest team in the KHL
Vityaz is now an average KHL mid-tier team, but it wasn’t always like that. In the league’s early days, Vityaz, then based in Chekhov, was the league’s nightmare. Roughness permeated every game, but even among those games, games against Avangard, then the most critical opponent for Vityaz, stood out.
The conflict between the clubs began on September 20, 2007. Vityaz was considered a club that could beat up any opponent, but Alexander Svitov, who had recently transferred from the NHL to the Omsk club, debunked this myth by defeating Darcy Vero, the main teammate of Vityaz, in a fight.
The Chekhov team’s ego was trampled. Since then, every Vityaz teammate felt it was his duty to fight Svitov, or sometimes just the occasional player from Omsk.
Perhaps this would have passed quickly, but tragedy struck: On October 13, 2008, Avangard player Alexei Cherepanov died at Vityaz’s home arena during a game. There was no ambulance at the stadium, and the other arrived without the necessary working defibrillator. In many ways, it was this loss of time that caused the hockey player’s death.
Many believed that if the necessary equipment had been available at the stadium, Alexey could have been saved. Because of this, many blamed the Chekhov team for the man’s death. Such accusations were supported not only by Omsk fans and escalated the conflict between the clubs.
The explosion occurred on January 9, 2010. At that time, Vityaz was playing against Avangard in Chekhov. The fight happened on the opening kickoff: Darcy Vero collided again with Alexander Svitov. It is not known for certain who provoked the fight, as both sides blamed each other.
At the beginning of the match, the teams played only 3 minutes, after which a new scuffle started because of a power grab by Svitov on one of the Vityaz players, but already in the 5-on-5 format.
Referees were able to stop the scuffle and imposed penalties, but after 7 seconds, another fight broke out, only in the format 4 on 4. Again the stop, again penalties, again a throw-in. After 3 seconds, the scrimmage began again, this time with a 4-on-3 scrimmage in favor of the Czechs. To level the playing field, a player jumped off the bench. After that play, everyone jumped off the bench and into the fray. In the end, the refs ejected nearly everyone, leaving no one left to play. The referees stopped the game.
In total, both teams accumulated 840 minutes of penalties during the game, setting an all-time world hockey record. Both teams were handed a forfeit and a fine: Avangard was fined a million rubles and Vityaz was fined 4 million rubles. Vityaz also received a warning: the club would be expelled from the KHL if the match was disrupted again. However, that didn’t stop a similar incident almost a year later in Omsk, but that’s another story.