Sam Pollock envisioned an international hockey league where European clubs would compete with NHL teams for the Stanley Cup. This obviously never happened, but he was sort of on the right track because of all the various Canada Cups and Super Series that developed over the years.
But the Canada Cups etc, as tremendous as they were, were strictly exhibition games. World-wide league play just seems too grand, too overwhelming for a sport that embraces change almost as slowly as baseball. The Stanley Cup has never been, and probably never will be, fought for by a team across the Atlantic. Theory-wise, it could be a good idea, but in practical terms, it seems it’s completely out in left field.
I suppose it’s impossible because of all the Europeans playing in the NHL now. You can’t really send them home to play for league teams in their countries, can you. If it somehow did come to pass, it would involve some serious travelling and jet lag, that’s for sure. And the travel budget would drive general managers to drink. But then again, maybe the Leafs would finally have a chance if they wound up playing the Vienna Boys Choir in the final.
Above are Russian pins from the 1976 Super Series, when Red Army and Soviet Wings came over to play four games each against various NHL clubs. And this is the series that included the sensational Montreal Canadiens-Red Army New Year’s Eve 3-3 tie, and the infamous leaving-the-ice by Red Army in Philadelphia.
Really though, my point is if you look at these pins, you can kind of envision what it would look like with European teams being in bed with the NHL. You know, the match-ups and logos and such? At least I think you can envision it. Maybe it’s just me.
If you haven’t already seen my own personal connection to Sam Pollock, click this and have a look.
And in case you’re interested, the ’76 Super Series went like this:
Red Army 7, Rangers, 3.
Red Army 5, Boston, 2
Philadelphia 4, Red Army, 1
Montreal 3, Red Army, 3
Soviet Wings 7, Pittsburgh 4
Buffalo 12, Soviet Wings 6
Soviet Wings 4, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Soviet Wings 2, New York Islanders 1