SIHR’s Behind the Boards

Watching the 1964 Olympic Hockey Final

SIHR’s Behind the Boards

Watching the 1964 Olympic Hockey Final

Bryan Lawrence
Posted December 21, 2014

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I recently had the opportunity to watch the final game of the 1964 Olympic Hockey tournament between Canada and the Soviet Union. Canada needed a win for the gold medal, a tie was enough to clinch for the Soviets. The broadcast was in Russian and the commentary seemed more conversational than play-by-play in nature so it took a while to determine who all the players were. Here is a list of the players from the game:

1 Broderick, Ken 1 Konovalenko, Viktor
1 Martin, Seth
2 O'Malley, Terry 2 Davydov, Vitali
3 Seiling, Rod 3 Ivanov, Eduard
4 MacKenzie, Barry 4 Ragulin, Alexander
6 Akervall, Henry 5 Kuzkin, Viktor
8 Bourbonnais, Roger 6 Zaitsev, Oleg
9 Dineen, Gary 7 Loktev, Konstantin
10 Johnston, Marshall 8 Alexandrov, Veniamin
11 Conlin, Paul 9 Almetov, Alexander
12 Swarbrick, George 10 Yakushev, Viktor
13 Conacher, Brian 11 Starshinov, Vyacheslav
14 Forhan, Bob 12 Mayorov, Boris
15 Begg, Gary 13 Firsov, Anatoli
16 Clancy, Terry 14 Mayorov, Evgeny
18 Cadieux, Ray 15 Volkov, Leonid

As usual, the Soviets used sets lines, in this case Loktev-Almetov-Alexandrov, Mayorov-Starshinov-Mayorov, and Firsov-Yakushev-Volkov. Zaitsev was the spare defenseman and did not see much ice time after receiving a second period penalty.

The Canadian lineup was harder to discern. It seems that both Rod Seiling and Marshall Johnston, two Canadians to have long NHL careers on the team as defensemen were both used as forwards for much of the game. In addition, defensive zone face-offs were taken mainly by defensemen Terry O'Malley and Barry MacKenzie, mimicking a strategy used by the Maple Leafs of the 60's. Common lines for Canada were Seiling-Dineen-Forhan, Swarbrick-Johnston-Clancy, and Conacher-Bourbonnais-Cadieux.

In keeping with another stereotype, the Canadians were more likely to use the dump and chase, whereas the Soviets carried or passed the puck into the zone almost exclusively. However, it should be noted that both Canadian goals came off the rush, from Swarbrick on a brilliant setup from Johnston in the first and then Bob Forhan doing a Rick Vaive impression down the wing in the second. The first two Soviet goals were the result of the Mayorov-Starshinov line hemming the Canadians in their own zone and setting up a play in close to the net. Indeed, a primary weakness for Canada in the game is that their defensemen were not "puck movers" in today's language and attempts to clear the zone were held in by the Soviet defense.

Ken Broderick and Viktor Konovalenko were the starting goaltenders and played reasonably well through two periods. Broderick was the backup to the late Seth Martin through most of the Olympics, but an injury against Czechoslovakia made Martin unavailable for the final game. Or so it was thought. Canada put Martin into the game at the start of the third period with the score 2-2.

In Road to Olympus, Soviet coach Anatoli Tarasov indicated that his instruction to the team was to hold back on shooting at Martin until they had a perfect chance as they wanted to strike before Martin was into the game1. Therefore I was quite surprise to see Martin play the puck twice in the first 15 seconds of the third period, including one point blank save on Anatoli Firsov. Indeed it appeared the actual instruction to the team was to attack as aggressively as possible before Martin got settled into the game. After Seiling had a good chance for Canada the Soviets rushed in with Veniamin Alexandrov finishing a beautiful passing play by Loktev and Almetov.

With the lead, the Soviets spent the rest of the first half of the 3rd period pressing to finish off the Canadians with Martin holding them off. After the teams changed ends halfway through the period the Soviets played more defensively to hold the lead. The Canadians appeared fatigued down the stretch and spent little time in the offensive zone let alone getting good chances to score. Nonetheless I found myself pulling for Canada to equalize down the stretch. This was strange, because of course the game occurred 50 years ago and there was little hope of the Canadians tying things up at this point. Moreover, even if they had tied the score, Canada needed a win for gold and therefore needed two goals against the highly effective Soviet defense.

One unusual postscript is that the Best Forward of the tournament was awarded to Soviet defenseman Eduard Ivanov. The story goes that the directorate went to the dressing room to present the award to Boris Mayorov and the coaches took it and gave it to Ivanov instead. I have read reports that Ivanov was used as a forward during the tournament and was given the award for his versatility. I cannot comment on the other games, but in this game he played fully on defense and did not stand out beyond his peers. My choice for star of the game would go to Boris Mayorov, as he often led the rush Team Canada had a very hard time checking him off the puck. It would seem that the directorate was reasonable in their choice for best forward. Other than the netminders, Terry O'Malley was among the strongest Canadians in the game.

This would be as close as Canada would come to a gold medal in Olympic play until the 1990's as most Olympic matchups from 1968 through 1988 had a men against boys feeling when the Soviets would meet the amateur Canadian National Team. 1964 would mark the 2nd Olympic championship for the Soviet Union and they would win 6 of the next 7 including the Unified Team win in 1992.

1 Anatoli Tarasov, Road to Olympus (Richmond Hill: Simon & Schuster, 1973, 98."

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