Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Soviet Union - 1963-1971 World Championships
One on One Turning Point

Soviet Union - 1963-1971 World Championships

Valeri Kharlamov of the Soviet Union in action against Finland at the 1970 World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden.
(Hannu Lindroos/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) stages an annual World Championships, an event first officially held at the 1920 Summer Olympics. From that year through 1968, the Olympic tournament doubled as the World Championship for that particular year. The first World Championships held as a separate event was held in 1930.

Canada was the first World Championship powerhouse, winning the event twelve times between 1930 and 1952. The Soviet Union first participated in the tournament in 1954 and quickly rivalled Canada for supremacy. In fact, from 1963 through 1971, the Soviet Union was by far the most dominant team, winning the World Championship nine years in succession.

The Soviet Union celebrating after capturing gold at the 1971 World Championship. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
The 1963 World Ice Hockey Championships was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The Soviets took the gold medal by winning six and losing one, and dominating the competition, outscoring their opponents 44 to 10. Sweden took the silver and the Czechoslovakian team was the bronze medal winner.

Their only loss was to the host Swedish team, a 2-1 loss, but that was overshadowed by victories over Finland (6-1), West Germany (15-3), East Germany (12-0), Czechoslovakia (3-1), the United States (9-0) and Canada (4-2). Canada was represented by the Allan Cup champion Trail Smoke Eaters, although this would be the final time they would send the Allan Cup champion.

World Championship Ice Hockey
program from 1971.
The 1964 World Championships was tied to the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. The winner of the tournament was credited with both Olympic gold and the World Championships gold medal. That victory went to the Soviet Union once again, with Sweden taking the silver and the Czechs winning bronze.

The Soviets went undefeated, winning all seven of their games and outscoring the competition 54 to 10. They rolled over the opposition, beating the United States 5-1, the Czechs 7-5, Switzerland 15-0, Finland 10-0, Sweden 4-2 and Canada, represented by a national team created by Father David Bauer, fell to the Soviets 3-2.

Alexander Maltsev of the Soviet Union. (Russian Archives)
The Soviet Union was led by the powerhouse trio of Vyacheslav Starshinov, Boris Mayorov and Viktor Yakushev, all of whom scored identical records of 7 goals and 3 assists for 10 points. Curiously, the tournament's Best Forward award was presented to Eduard Ivanov. The award was originally to go to Mayorov, but Soviet coaches decided to award Ivanov, instead. Even more peculiar was the fact that Ivanov was a defenceman!

The World Championships were held in Tampere, Finland in 1965. The Soviet Union once again went without a loss, running the table with seven straight victories to collect the gold medal. The team from Czechoslovakia took silver and the Swedes won bronze.

The Soviets defeated Finland 8-4, Norway 14-2, East Germany 8-0, Sweden 5-3, the U.S. 9-2, Czechoslovakia 3-1 and Canada 4-1, outscoring their opponents 51 to 13. Vyacheslav Starshinov was selected Best Forward at the tournament in 1965.

Alexander Ragulin of the Soviet Union.
(Russian Archives)
The 1966 World Championships took place in Yugoslavia, with the Soviet Union earning gold, Czechoslovakia silver and Sweden the bronze. The Soviets went undefeated, but this time, their record included a tie along with six wins.

Poland went down to defeat 8-1, the United States by an 11-0 score, East Germany 10-0, Finland 13-2, Canada 3-0 and Czechoslovakia 7-1, as well as a 3-3 tie with Sweden, to show 55 goals for and just 7 allowed.

Alexander Ragulin was named the tournament's Best Defenceman and the Best Forward award was presented to Konstantin Loktev.

In 1967, Vienna, Austria hosted the World Championships, and for a fifth straight year, the Soviet Union won the tournament. They ran the board once again, winning all seven games and outscoring their opponents 58-9. Sweden finished second and Canada third, for the bronze.

Alexander Yakushev of the Soviet Union training during the off-season with teammates. (Russian Archives)
The Soviets beat Finland 8-2, the U.S. 7-2, East Germany 12-0, West Germany 16-1, Sweden 9-1, Canada 2-1 and the Czechs 4-2.

The tournament named Vitaly Davydov the Best Defenceman, while Anatoli Firsov was recipient of the Best Forward honour.

As was the case in 1964, the Winter Olympics doubled as the World Championships in 1968. The Soviets again dominated, capturing gold, while the Czechs took the silver and Canada won bronze. The tournament was played in Grenoble, France.

The Soviet Union defeated Finland 8-0, East Germany 9-0, the U.S. 10-2, West Germany 9-1, Sweden 3-2 and Canada 5-0, suffering their only loss through seven games to Czechoslovakia by a 5-4 count. The Soviets scored 48 goals, allowing just 10.

Anatoli Firsov was named Best Forward once again, leading all scorers through the prestigious tournament with 12 goals and 4 assists for 16 points in 7 games.

The 1969 World Ice Hockey Championships were played in three locations. Stockholm, Sweden hosted the Pool A teams, while Ljubljana, Yugoslavia hosted Pool B and Pool C was hosted by Skopje, Yugoslavia. The tournament was originally scheduled to be played in Czechoslovakia, but because of the Soviet invasion of their country, they declined to host.

Boris Mikhailov of the Soviet Union.
(Russian Archives)
For the seventh consecutive year, the Soviet Union won the tournament, but on this occasion, they had serious competition in the form of Sweden. Both teams earned identical records of 8 wins and 2 losses, but the Soviets outscored opponents 59 to 23 while Sweden scored 45 versus allowing 19. Goal differential gave the gold medal to the Soviet Union with Sweden relinquished to silver. Czechoslovakia won the bronze.

Ironically, it was the Czechs who gave the Soviets both of their defeats, 2-0 and 4-3. But the Soviets won their remaining eight games, including two wins against Sweden (4-2 and 3-2), two wins against Canada (7-1 and 4-2), two victories over Finland (6-1 and 7-3) plus an 8-4 win over the United States.

Anatoli Firsov, with 10 goals and 14 points, was named the tournament's All-Star at left wing.

The Soviet Union took the eight consecutive World Championships in 1970, outscoring the competition 68 to 11 and winning nine, losing but one. The loss came to Sweden (4-2), who went on to collect the silver. It was Czechoslovakia who skated away with bronze.

Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov and Valeri Kharlamov of the Soviet Union. (Russian Archives)
Pool A took place in Stockholm, Sweden, with the B and C Pools held in Romania. The tournament was scheduled to be held in Montreal and Winnipeg, but a dispute over allowing professional players in international tournaments left Canada withdrawing from not only hosting, but also from competing in international hockey. They didn't return to international competition until 1977.

The gold medal was awarded to the Soviets after wins against Finland (2-1 and 16-1), East Germany (12-1 and 7-1), Poland (7-0 and 11-0), the Czechs (3-1 and 5-1) and a victory over Sweden (3-1) to go with the loss.

The tournament awarded the Best Forward to Alexander Maltsev. Soviets named to the All-Star Team were Viktor Kovalenko in goal, Anatoli Firsov at left wing and Maltsev at right wing.

The last of the ninth tournament victories took place in Switzerland, with World Championships games held in both Bern and Geneva. Again, the Soviets dominated, beating West Germany 11-2 and 12-2, Finland 8-1 and 10-1, the United States 10-2 and 7-5 and the Swedes 6-3. The Czechs, who finished with the silver, gave the Soviets the stiffest competition, beating them 5-2 and tying another game 3-3. Sweden was awarded the bronze medal. Through their run, the Soviet Union outscored the other squads 60 to 17.

Again, Anatoli Firsov dominated, leading all tournament scorers with 19 points (10 goals and 9 assists), and was not only named Best Forward but found a spot as the All-Star left winger. He was joined by Soviet forwards Vladimir Vikulov on the right side and Alexander Maltsev at centre.

While hockey may have been born in Canada, several countries were quick to adopt the game, and the Soviet Union was one of the first to not only embrace hockey, but to refine it for their purposes, and nowhere is this more evident than in their dominance of hockey through the 1960s.

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