Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Soviet Union - 1984 & 1988
One on One Turning Point

Soviet Union - 1984 & 1988

11 DECEMBER 2012
Led by the "Green Unit" of Krutov, Larionov, Makarov, Fetisov and Kasatonov the USSR captured gold in 1984 and 1988.
Contrary to the opinions of many hockey fans in North America, the dominant hockey power in international hockey during the 1980s was the Soviet Union. Powered by the uncompromising KLM Line of Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov as well as Vladislav Fetisov, the Soviets won the 1981 Canada Cup, five gold medals in the World Championships (1981, 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1989) as well as silver in 1987 and bronze in 1985, and took Olympic silver in 1980, followed by Olympic gold medals in both 1984 and 1988.

Soviet defenceman Alexei Kasatonov paired with future Hall of Famer Vyacheslav Fetisov and helped his country capture back-to-back gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympic Games. (Photo: Russian Archives)
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia hosted the Winter Olympic Games of 1984. Once again, the controversy of what constituted amateur status surrounded the Games. Many questioned how the Soviet Union's finest players, amateur in name alone and tagged 'shamateurs' by North Americans, were allowed to compete while other countries were forced to send teams comprised of junior players. Nonetheless, that was the ruling of the era.

The Soviets rolled over their competition, scoring 58 goals and surrendering but 6. In the preliminary rounds, the Soviets decimated Poland 12-1, dumped Italy 5-1, pounded the home Yugoslavian team 9-1, beat West Germany 6-1 and then dropped Sweden by a score of 10-1.

In a complex tournament format, the top two teams from each group then played the top two teams from the other group once. Points from previous games against their own group were carried over, excluding teams who failed to make the medal round. When all was said and done, the first place team collected the gold, second place took silver and third was awarded bronze.

The Soviet Union's Vyacheslav Fetisov wore this jersey during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, AB. (Photo: Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Soviet dominance continued in the final rounds. The Soviet Union defeated Canada 4-0, shut out Czechoslovakia 2-0 and then slaughtered Sweden by a 10-1 count. As a result, the Soviet Union won the gold medal three wins and no losses with Czechoslovakia earning silver on a record of two wins and one loss and, with a win against two losses, Sweden took home the bronze.

The Soviets were paced by Nikolai Drozdetsky, who led the Olympics with 10 goals, and added two assists. Vyacheslav Fetisov finished sixth in Olympic scoring, with 3 goals and 8 assists through his team's 7 games. Viacheslav Tretiak was stellar in goal for the Soviet squad in 1984.

Vladimir Krutov of the Soviet Union would lead all scorers during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games with 15 points. (Photo: Hannu Lindroos/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Four years later, Calgary, Alberta played host to the Winter Olympic Games. 1988. Once again, the Soviets proved their dominance, with the KLM Line again delivering for the eventual gold medal champions.

Gunther Sabetzki, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced that hockey at the Olympics would be open to all professional athletes beginning with the 1988 Winter Games. While this allowed NHL players to participate in the Olympics for the first time, timing did not allow most NHL players from competing, as the Olympic Winter Games were held in February, the same time as the second half of the NHL schedule, and teams were not prepared to release players integral to their playoff run to the Olympic Games.

The preliminary rounds proved little challenge for the Soviet Union. They blanked Norway 5-0, pounded Austria 8-1, edged the United States 7-5, doubled West Germany 6-3 and then soundly defeated Czechoslovakia 6-1.

The Soviet Union gather for a team photo after capturing the gold medal at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, AB.
(Photo: Hannu Lindroos/Hockey Hall of Fame)
In the final round, the top three teams from each group played the top three teams from the other group once. The points from previous games against their own group were carried over, once again excluding teams who failed to make the medal round.

The Soviet Union shut out Canada by a 5-0 score, hammered Sweden 7-1 but were handed a surprise loss to Finland in a hard-fought 2-1 game. Nonetheless, the Soviets won their second consecutive gold medal, winning 4 and losing one in the final round. Finland took second place and the silver while Sweden collected the Olympic bronze.

Three Soviets finished one-two-three in Olympic scoring. Vladimir Krutov led all scorers with 15 points (6 goals and 9 assists) in 8 games. Igor Larionov and Vyacheslav Fetisov tied for second with matching records of 4 goals and 9 assists for 13 points. Sergei Makarov finished sixth with 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points.

As further proof of the Soviet's dominance in hockey during that decade, the IIHF Centennial All-Star Team, collected from a poll that included 56 experts from 16 countries, included three players who played for the Soviet Union during the 1980s: Vladislav Tretiak was named top goaltender while Vyacheslav Fetisov was added on defence and Sergei Makarov at forward.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.