Monday, January 3, 2011

On the Eve of Greatness

New Years Eve marked the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest games ever played on ice. The Red Army vs. The Montreal Canadiens at the Forum. The flow of that contest, combined with high levels of skill and determination on the part of both clubs, has made it a true classic. A delightful account of the game can be found  in Todd Denault's "The Greatest Game" (Friendly, ISBN 978-07710-2634-8).

There is a saying which goes like this "better later than never". This certainly can be said of the process of trying to bring these two clubs together. Back in February of 1961, came word that in the fall of 1960, the Soviet Hockey Federation issued an invitation to the Montreal Canadiens to play in Moscow.Speaking on behalf of the Federation was Yuri Bazhanov the Secretary of the organization. The competition would have been held in the spring of 1961.

The Soviet team would have been composed of players from various teams within the Soviet Union. The Montreal Canadiens were coming off a string of 5 Stanley Cups from 1955-56 to 1959-60. In 1960-61, Montreal failed to advance pass the first round under coach Toe Blake. Still, they had a powerful squad with names like Geoffrion, Beliveau, Moore, Harvey and Jacques Plante in goal.

One wonders how these two teams would have matched up in 1961. Would the Canadiens have skated to an easy victory, taking into account their line-up? We will never know, as the Canadiens declined the Soviet offer.

Good things come to those who wait. Like December 31, 1975.

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