Category Archives: International Hockey

The Stockholm Prison/Hotel Stop

In early September of 1991, my first wife and I and our two kids stopped in Stockholm for a few days on our way to Leningrad, Russia. (St. Petersburg).

If my math is correct, it was 26 years ago. Time flies, as they say.

We stayed in a nice little hotel in Stockholm which was a converted old prison, so our rooms were prison cells.

The 1991 Canada Cup was underway back home, and I was in the lobby of this unique hotel and saw a Swedish newspaper with a picture of Mats Sundin and a big headline that mentioned “Canada”. So I asked the girl at the counter if she would please tell me what the headlines said.

She looked kind of embarrassed and told me that Mats Sundin says Sweden will have no trouble at all with Canada.

Canada ended up clobbering Sweden in this semi-final game 4-0 and maybe Sundin learned then that you don’t make predictions like this.

The game was Sept. 12, 1991. I know this and the score because I googled it.

This is the prison in Stockholm that became a hotel and those are my kids up there. My son’s a Habs fan and my daughter hates hockey. The other person is my ex-wife who stopped liking me and we split up in 1993.

The Soviet Union at this time was in the throngs of collapse, a truly historic time, and there were warnings by government officials to stay away. I also remember being told by a Swedish fellow at the hotel that Russia was way too volatile to visit. But we went in anyway, stayed with a Russian family, which was almost unheard of in those days, and had an incredibly fascinating time. But that’s another story.

The Canadiens Helped The Smoke Eaters

It all started when I saw an old clip on YouTube of the 1960 Chatham Maroons playing the U.S.S.R. on Russian television.

Even though the T.V. screen in that video below says 1963, it was actually Nov. 26, 1960 when the Maroons senior squad met Moscow Select in Russia and were bombed 11-2 by the home team.

Chatham had won the Allan Cup the previous spring by taking out the Trail Smoke Eaters in four of five games, and the Ontario squad played two exhibition games months later in Moscow, winning the first contest 5-3 before this 11-2 slaughter.

Unfortunately, Chatham opted out of representing Canada in the 1961 World Championships in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland due to lack of funds, and were replaced by the runner-up Smoke Eaters, who would end up winning the gold medal and gaining legendary status in the process.

I also discovered more to this story, after chatting with the daughter of the then-Smoke Eaters president, who was also the high school principal in Trail at the time.

The Smoke Eaters worked hard to go to the Worlds after Chatham bowed out. Players took out personal loans, and the team wrote to all six NHL teams hoping for some sort of financial help.

But it was only Montreal that stepped up to the plate, with the Molson family, owners of the Canadiens, giving Trail $1000, which was a fair amount of coin in 1961 (equal to $8000 today), and the Habs providing some serious hockey equipment.

The other teams, the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Black Hawks, were cheap bastards.

Topping it all off was Cominco, the gigantic smelter plant in Trail where most or all of the Smoke Eaters worked, who gave the players’ families weekly stipends while the team was in Europe.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled Habs slump.

Below, Chatham in Russia against Moscow Select, and below that, the final game of the 1961 Worlds, when the Trail Smoke Eaters blasted the Soviet National Team 5-1.


My Russian Poster, Signed By…..


I’ve been to several games in St. Petersburg over the years, before the KHL was born, and when the best Russian hockey was played in the Superleague (at that time called the International Hockey League).

One of the games I was at featured St. Petersburg SKA vs. the powerhouse Moscow Red Army squad, coached by legendary taskmaster Viktor Tikhonov.

This large 2’x3′ poster was on the wall of the Yubyleny Sports Palace, where the game was played, and one of the employees said I could have it after I asked politely.

It reads, among other things:

Season Opener
Friday September 9 St. Petersburg SKA – Kasan Etel
Sunday September 11 SKA – Moscow Red Army

That Sunday afternoon I got the poster signed by not only Tikhonov but also by 1972 Summit Series stars Boris Mikhailov (who was coaching SKA), and Viktor Kuzkin, who captained the ’72 squad and was sitting right behind me in the stands.

It’s also signed by Alexander Kharlamov, son of the iconic Valeri Kharlamov. Alexander was playing for Red Army at the time and wore number 17 like his dad once did.


Below, Victor Tikhonov signing away. That’s me in the striped shirt, with my back to the camera. (Taken by Lucy’s son Denis).


Dave Bidini’s Book, Which Mentions…..

Toronto author, musician, and media personality Dave Bidini wrote a book in 2012 about the 1972 Summit Series titled ‘A Wild Stab For It – This Is Game Eight From Russia’, and included in it is a small piece about my wife and I.

And although my wife is mostly known as Luciena, her birth name is Ludmilla, as you see here in the book. She also goes by Luda, Lucy, and Luce.

Pages shown with kind permission from the author:

Game 8 – Four And A Half Rubles

Because we’re in September………

From my collection, a ticket stub from the final game of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The one that would forever change Paul Henderson’s life.

Four and a half rubles in 1972 was the equivalent of just over three cents. Cheap like borscht. Cheaper than borscht.

Have you ever been to a hockey game that cost three cents?

ticket stub


They Wanted To Meet Rocket


When the Soviet all-stars, selected from various Moscow clubs, made their historic visit to Canada in November of 1957, their main requests were to see an NHL game and meet Maurice Richard.

They took in a game between Chicago and the Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens, and hoped that the Rocket would visit them in Ottawa on November 6 when the Soviets would play the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, “if the Rocket is fit to travel” they added.

I don’t know why the Rocket wouldn’t be fit to travel on November 6th. He hadn’t been injured and I think he’d played all 14 games to that point. But he sure wasn’t fit just seven days later when he severed his Achilles tendon in a game against Toronto and was gone for three months.

He’d only see action in 28 games that season, mostly because of this serious injury, and  that, along with the fact that he was now 36-years old, combined to make for a dismal season. Two years later he would hang ’em up for good.

And as far as I know, the meeting with the Russians in Ottawa didn’t happen, which of course hurt the already delicate Cold War situation (just joking). 🙂

Here’s a photo from my scrapbook, showing the Rocket just seconds from having his Achilles tendon sliced.


Take That, Mats

My first wife and I and our two kids were in Russia in September of 1991, the same time the Canada Cup was being played back home. It was my first of six trips to Russia, and of course, because it was the first, it was the most magical.

We watched several Canada Cup games in our friends’ Leningrad home that fall, and it was simply a wonderful and fascinating experience. Not a lot of North Americans had seen the inside of Russian apartments at that time, it was at the beginning of the Soviet Union’s ultimate collapse, and here we were, in a home filled with Russian friends young and old, with plenty of laughter, food and drink, and with them and us wondering what each other was saying as we toasted each other or when a goal was scored on the little TV.

But this isn’t about Russia.

On our way to Leningrad we had made our way through Sweden and Finland, and I’d bought the comic book below while in Stockholm. It mentions the Canada Cup on the cover, but on the inside pages there seems to be nothing about the tournament, unless you count the Mats Sundin photo.

Mats, who had just completed his rookie season in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, was playing for his native Sweden in the 1991 Canada Cup, and was quoted in the local paper, with a huge headline, as how he and his Tre Kronor pals would have absolutely no problem with Team Canada. (I know because I asked the lady at the hotel desk to translate).

But they did have a problem. Canada kicked Mats’ Swedish team’s ass twice – 4-1 in round-robin, and 4-0 in the semi-finals, before taking out the Americans in two game straight to hoist gold.

Take that, Mats. Don’t poke the bear.





Jean and His Buddies

Below, a photo that was once part of Jean Beliveau’s personal collection, and which now sits in my home in Powell River.

It’s Jean in the stands at Luzhniki in Moscow in 1972, flanked by two Soviet stars, the legendary Valeri Kharlamov and lesser-known Vladimir Vikulov.

Vikulov was no slouch, having been the leading scorer in the 1972 Soviet Championship League (34 goals), and was a pivotal guy with numerous medal-winning Russian squads back in the day.

He was the one who took the ceremonial faceoff against Phil Esposito before game one of the Summit Series in Montreal.

When I was in Russia years ago I was told that Vikulov was going through hard times after retiring from hockey, which is sad but not all that surprising.  Only a few from that legendary 1972 squad, guys like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Yakushev and a handful of others, did well over the years and enjoyed fine lifestyles, while many struggled in their personal lives in the years that followed.

This skilled right winger, who played in six of the eight Summit games, notching two goals and one assist, and who also played in the 1976 Canada Cup, died in August of 2013.

A Very Impressive Fellow

Last Friday I spent several terrific hours at the home of Jean-Patrice Martel, a renown hockey historian, author, former president of SIHR (Society for International Hockey Research),  contributor to Habs media guides, and a huge Beatles buff.

A truly nice fellow who lives just twenty minutes from me, and who kept me captivated all evening with his varied experiences and his amazing knowledge of hockey.

Jean-Patrice also gave me a copy of his fairly recent collaboration with Swedish hockey historians Carl Giden and Patrick Houda titled “On the Origin of Hockey”, and which I’ll dive into as soon as I finish my Knuckles Nilan book I borrowed from the local library.

I’d like to say thanks to this very impressive man for inviting me into his home.

A May 24, 2014 National Post review of “On the Origin of Hockey” can been seen right here. And if you’re wondering where hockey with skates and sticks originated, Jean-Patrice and the Swedes have traced it all the way back to 18th century England.

On the Origin of Hockey cover - medium.jpg