Twenty-five years ago, in 1987, our National Men’s Team captured the prestigous Izvestia Cup. Our unforgettable victory took place in Moscow over the Christmas holidays. There seems to be nothing quite like an international hockey tournament to stimulate nationalistic emotions within the people of Canada. Emerging with an unexpected victory at the 1987 Izvestia Cup on Russian soil, against a powerhouse team, was truly a great moment in Canadian hockey history. At least, that is how we as players felt then and still do today. Sean Burke put on a performance for the ages in goal, and Ken Berry scored two key goals in the third period to seal the 3-2 win. As it was my third Izvestia tournament, I remember really looking forward to hearing our national anthem at the closing ceremonies, instead of the Russian anthem. Unfortunately, they never had a recording of our national anthem, so we had to listen to the Russian anthem again! I guess they didn’t expect us to win!
Here are some more memories of the 1987 Izvestia Cup, from some of my Team Canada teammates, our head coach Dave King and Globe and Mail reporter Eric Duhatschek:
“When I think back on Izvestia in 1987, I think about how it felt at the time as a young player playing in communist Russia against the mighty Red Machine, and how it feels now 25 years later. I can vividly recall the smells and sounds in the arena, and how in between periods we were served hot tea. The crowd sitting in wooden seats all dressed in greys and blacks and whistling their disapproval at their Russian stars, realizing they might actually lose in their homeland to a bunch of unknown Canadians. I can still see Ken Berry scoring from long range and the immediate thought that we were going to have to hold on for dear life to win the game. There were six Canadian goalies in that third period, as every player blocked shots and sacrificed to keep the puck out of our net. I remember thinking that the Green Unit, as their big five were known, never seemed to leave the ice and every time I looked up they had the puck. And then I remember the euphoria of our dressing room and the faces of guys that had worked so hard for this moment. We all knew we still had to beat the Finns to win the tournament, but how could anyone stop us if we just beat the most feared team in the world?
Today, I mostly remember the guys I got to share the experience with. Dave King was the biggest reason we even had a chance to beat a team like that, and I am lucky to still be working with him. I am thankful for being able to play with Andy Moog, who was a great mentor. I have kept lasting friendships with Sherven, Cote, Habscheid, Charron, Karpan, and often think of teammates like Zalapski, Stiles, Berry and the others that I haven't seen in years but will always have a strong bond with.
Our victory on Russian soil in 1987 may not go down as the greatest Russian/Canadian hockey moment in the eyes of most fans, but to our group of guys we all can look back and say that we beat the mighty Red Machine in their own backyard, when they were at their best. Not many teams can ever say that.”
~ Sean Burke, goaltender
“In 1972, my brother Gary and I went to Moscow to watch the final four games of the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series. I was 16 at the time, and marvelled at the amazing skills that the Russians showed against our Canadian players. To think that I could be playing in Luzhniki Stadium 15 years later wearing the red maple leaf was unfathomable. What an experience to be part of a young team of amateur players who could beat the mighty Russians in their own rink. A memory that we will remember forever!”
~ Randy Gregg, defenceman
“We were the heavy underdogs, and no Canadian team had ever won a single game on Russian soil since the 1972 Summit Series. Many years later, when I was coaching in Russia, I sat down with Viktor Tikhonov in Moscow and asked him what he considered (to be) the best team he had ever coached. He answered the 1987-88 team! Well, we beat that team in its own backyard. Sean Burke played so well, all the pressure rode on his shoulders.
I mean, we had a great bunch of guys, very fit, worked real hard, but Sean Burke was the key. If he had a great game, we had a great game. It was the height of communism, before the Iron Curtain fell, and the atmosphere in the building was electric. As I look back, it was a major accomplishment for the players, a magical moment and one of the most memorable moments in my career.”
~ Dave King, head coach
“What I remember most about the win was a player named Gord Sherven, who’d brought a bottle of champagne into the dressing room to celebrate the win – and then fumbled with the foil and the cork, as if he wasn't used to celebrating such unexpected victories. I also remember sitting in the Luzhniki Arena, two scoreboards – one in English, one in Cyrillic – time winding down, Canada ahead, the Russians pressing and the legendary Russian coach Anatoli Tarasov walking out of the building, supporting himself on a cane. He paused in the hallway where the players jointly enter the arena, glanced at the score, glanced at the Russian bench, shook his head – sadness? disgust? I couldn't tell – and then slowly disappeared into the tunnel, just as the game clock wound up to 20:00.
I remember Sean Burke playing dazzlingly well in goal – he was Canada's answer to Tretiak in 1972 – and Zarley Zalapski playing the most inspired defence I ever saw him play, before or after, and Kenny Berry, one of the most modest and self-effacing players I've ever met, scoring the two key goals in the victory. I've long maintained this was Canada's Miracle On Ice – winning, on the road, against a Russian team that played three 6-5 games against the Canadian team of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Dale Hawerchuk three months earlier. A special, if underappreciated moment in Canada's hockey history.”
~ Eric Duhatschek, journalist, The Globe and Mail