Storied Canada-Russia rivalry begins next chapter at World Cup of Hockey – USA TODAY
TORONTO â Most Canadian senior citizens can probably tell you where they were when man first walked on the moon in 1969 and whenÂ Paul Henderson scored the goal to defeat the Soviets at the 1972 Summit Series.
Thatâs why the Canada vs. Russia World Cup of HockeyÂ semifinal Saturday night (7 p.m., ET, ESPN) has extra layers of hype. The USA is Canadaâs No. 1 hockeyÂ rival now, but the Russian rivalry is Canadaâs most storied one.
âItâs a rivalry thatâs been around for a long time,â said CanadianÂ center Sidney Crosby. âI think it means (it will be) an intense, emotional game. Two proud nations when it comes to hockey.â
The Soviets dominated international hockey throughout the 1960s, but the conventional wisdom of the day was that it would be a different story if they faced NHL players. When they finally matched up in the eight-game Summit Series split between Canada and Russia in 1972, it took a memorable Henderson goal to give the NHLers a 4-3-1 series win. That’s how the rivalry was born.
âEverybody who has played the game has seen the highlights, and knows what this rivalry means,â said Canadian forward Corey Perry. âItâs going to be fun.â
The World Cup of Hockey started as the Canada Cup in 1976.Â TheVladislav Tretiak-led Sovietsâ win at the 1981 Canada is among the Russiansâ many important hockey triumphs.
At the 1987 Canada Cup, the Canadians defeated the Soviets 6-5 on a Wayne Gretzky-to-Mario Lemieux scoring play with 1:26 remaining in regulation.Â Â âI think that stands out in everybodyâs mind,â Crosby said.
The Canada vs. Russia rivalryÂ today is epitomized by the Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.
âItâs Canada vs. Russia,â said Ovechkin, a Russian forward. âItâs not two players.â
But nobody would be happier winning this game than Ovechkin. He has proven his pride in his country several times overÂ by playing for Russia atÂ the World Championships whenever he has been asked. He told ESPN recently that he would play for the Russians at the 2018 Olympics even if the NHL doesnât give its blessing for players to go.
The Canadians (3-0-0) have looked dominant in this tournament, while the Russians (2-1-0) are coming off a 3-0 shutout of Finland, though they have given up too many scoring chances in three games.Â .
“Two teams with a great history,â Ovechkin said. âItâs going to be hard because we play here in Canada.â
Canada beat Russia 7-3 in the quarterfinals at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But the last time the two teams met in Canada in a game of this importance was at the 2008 World Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Russia won that gold medal game 5-4. SomeÂ players on the current Canadian team were on that team.
âI remember the celebration â it was not fun to watch, especially on home ice,â said Canadian forwardÂ John Tavares.
Tavares thanked the reporter for resurrecting that memory. âIâll be thinking about that (in Saturdayâs game against Russia),â he said.