Soviet Union national ice hockey team

The Soviet national ice hockey team (Russian: Сборная СССР по хоккею с шайбой) was the national ice hockey team of the Soviet Union. The team won nearly every world championship and Olympic tournament between 1954 and 1991 and never failed to medal in any International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tournament they competed in.

Soviet Union
Nickname(s)Красная Машина
(The Red Machine)
Most gamesAlexander Maltsev (321)
Top scorerAlexander Maltsev (213)
Most pointsSergei Makarov (248)
First international
 Soviet Union 23–2 East Germany
(East Berlin, East Germany; 22 April 1951)
Biggest win
 Soviet Union 28–2 Italy
(Colorado Springs, United States; 26 December 1967)
Biggest defeat
 Canada 8–2 Soviet Union
(Ottawa, Canada; 9 January 1986)
 Czechoslovakia 9–3 Soviet Union
(Prague, Czechoslovakia; 21 March 1975)
IIHF World Championships
Appearances32 (first in 1954)
Best result Gold (1954, 1956, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990)
Canada Cup / World Cup
Appearances5 (first in 1976)
Best result Champion (1981)
Appearances9 (first in 1956)
Medals Gold (1956, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988)
Silver (1980)
Bronze (1960)
International record (W–L–T)
Olympic medal record
Olympic Games
1956 Cortina d'AmpezzoSoviet Union
1960 Squaw ValleySoviet Union
1964 InnsbruckSoviet Union
1968 GrenobleSoviet Union
1972 SapporoSoviet Union
1976 InnsbruckSoviet Union
1980 Lake PlacidSoviet Union
1984 SarajevoSoviet Union
1988 CalgarySoviet Union
Canada Cup
1981 Canada
1987 Canada
1976 Canada
1984 Canada
World Championship
1954 Sweden
1963 Sweden
1965 Finland
1966 Yugoslavia
1967 Austria
1968 France
1969 Sweden
1970 Sweden
1971 Switzerland
1973 Soviet Union
1974 Finland
1975 West Germany
1978 Czechoslovakia
1979 Soviet Union
1981 Sweden
1982 Finland
1983 West Germany
1986 Soviet Union
1989 Sweden
1990 Switzerland
1955 West Germany
1957 Soviet Union
1958 Norway
1959 Czechoslovakia
1972 Czechoslovakia
1976 Poland
1987 Austria
1961 Switzerland
1977 Austria
1985 Czechoslovakia
1991 Finland

After 1991, the Soviet team competed as the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Olympics and as the Commonwealth of Independent States at the 1992 World Championship. In 1993, it was replaced by national teams for Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. The IIHF recognized the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union hockey federation and passed its ranking on to Russia. The other national hockey teams were considered new and sent to compete in Pool C.

The IIHF Centennial All-Star Team included four Soviet-Russian players out of a team of six: goalie Vladislav Tretiak, defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov and forwards Valeri Kharlamov and Sergei Makarov who played for the Soviet teams in the 1970s and the 1980s were selected for the team in 2008.[1]


Ice hockey was not properly introduced into the Soviet Union until the 1940s, though bandy, a similar game played on a larger ice field, had long been popular in the country. It was during a tour of FC Dynamo Moscow of the United Kingdom in 1945 that Soviet officials first got the idea of establishing an ice hockey program. They watched several exhibition matches in London, and National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell would later say that "This was the time when the Russians got the idea for their hockey team. The Russian soccer players were more interested in watching Canadian players play hockey than in soccer."[2] The Soviet Championship League was established in 1946, and the national team was formed shortly after, playing their first matches in a series of exhibitions against LTC Praha in 1948.[3]

The Soviets planned to send a team to the 1953 World Championships, but due to an injury to Vsevolod Bobrov, one of their star players, officials decided against going.[4] They would make their debut at the 1954 World Championships instead. Largely unknown to the larger hockey world, the team surprised many by winning the gold medal.[5]

Throughout the rest of the 1950s the World Championships were largely contested between Canada and the Soviet Union. That changed in the early 1960s. Canada won the gold in 1961, and after missing the 1962 tournament due to political issues, the Soviets would win the gold medal every year until 1972.[6] They faced perhaps their greatest upset at the 1976 World Championships; in their opening match against host Poland, the Soviets were defeated 6–4.[7]

In 1972 the Soviets played Canada in an exhibition series that saw the Soviet national team play a team composed of National Hockey League (NHL) players for the first time. Both the Olympics and World Championships did not allow professionals, so the best Canadian players were never able to compete against the Soviets, and in protest at this Canada had left international hockey in 1970. This series, known as the Summit Series, was a chance to see how the NHL players would fare. In eight games (four in Canada, four in the USSR), the teams were close, and it took until the final 34 seconds of the eighth game for Canada to win the series, four games to three, with one tie.[8]

At the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviets also had one of their most notable losses. Playing the United States in the medal round, the Soviets lost 4–3. This match, later dubbed the Miracle on Ice, was notable because it had the Soviets, recognized as the top international team in the world, against an American team composed largely of university-level players. The Americans would go on to win the gold medal in the tournament, while the Soviets finished with the silver, only the second time they failed to win gold at the Olympics since their debut in 1956.[9]

The reforms of the 1980s in the Soviet Union had a detrimental effect on the national team. No longer afraid to speak out against their treatment, players like Viacheslav Fetisov and Igor Larionov openly critiqued the management style of their coach, Viktor Tikhonov, which included being secluded in a military-style barracks for eleven months of the year. They also sought the chance to move to North America and play in the NHL, though the authorities were reluctant to allow this. Negotiations with the NHL began in the late 1980s over this, and in 1989 several players, including both Fetisov and Larionov, were permitted to leave the Soviet Union and join NHL teams.

Yuri Korolev was head of the research group for the national men's team from 1964 to 1992, and contributed to the team winning seventeen Ice Hockey World Championships and seven Winter Olympic Games gold medals.[10][11]

Soviet journalist Vsevolod Kukushkin traveled with the national team as both a reporter and an English to Russian translator. He had access to the team's locker room and the opportunity to speak directly with the players and be part of their daily life.[12] In his 2016 book The Red Machine, Kukushkin reported that the nickname for the Soviet national team came into usage during the 1983 Super Series, when a headline in a Minneapolis newspaper headline read "The Red Machine rolled down on us".[13]


Until 1977, professional players were not able to participate in the World Championship, and it was not until 1988 that they could play in the Winter Olympics. However, the Soviet team was populated with amateur players who were primarily full-time athletes hired as regular workers of a company (aircraft industry, food workers, tractor industry) or organization (KGB, Red Army, Soviet Air Force) that sponsored what would be presented as an after-hours social sports society hockey team for their workers in order to keep their amateur status.[14][15][16] By the 1970s, several national hockey federations, such as Canada, protested their use of the amateur status for players of Eastern Bloc teams and even withdrew from the 1972 and 1976 Winter Games.[17]


Leading scorers (Olympics, World Championships, Canada Cups, 1972 Summit Series)

  1. Sergei Makarov – 248 points
  2. Aleksandr Maltsev – 213+ points
  3. Valeri Kharlamov – 199 points
  4. Boris Mikhailov – 180 points
  5. Vladimir Petrov – 176 points

Olympic record

1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo7700409Arkady ChernyshevVsevolod Bobrov Gold
1960 Squaw Valley74214023Anatoli TarasovNikolai Sologubov Bronze
1964 Innsbruck88007311Arkady ChernyshevBoris Mayorov Gold
1968 Grenoble76104810Arkady ChernyshevBoris Mayorov Gold
1972 Sapporo54013313Arkady ChernyshevViktor Kuzkin Gold
1976 Innsbruck66005614Boris KulaginBoris Mikhailov Gold
1980 Lake Placid76106317Viktor TikhonovBoris Mikhailov Silver
1984 Sarajevo7700485Viktor TikhonovViacheslav Fetisov Gold
1988 Calgary87104513Viktor TikhonovViacheslav Fetisov Gold
1992 AlbertvilleAs Unified Team
1994 onwardsSince 1994 Soviet Union and Unified Team have been succeeded by  Russia

World Championship record

1954Stockholm,  SwedenGold
1955Krefeld / Dortmund / Cologne, West Germany Silver
1957Moscow,  Soviet UnionSilver
1958Oslo,  NorwaySilver
1959Prague / Bratislava,  CzechoslovakiaSilver
1961Geneva / Lausanne,   SwitzerlandBronze
1962Colorado Springs / Denver,  United StatesDNP
1963Stockholm,  SwedenGold
1965Tampere,  FinlandGold
1966Ljubljana,  YugoslaviaGold
1967Vienna,  AustriaGold
1968Grenoble,  FranceGold
1969Stockholm,  SwedenGold
1970Stockholm,  SwedenGold
1971Bern / Geneva,   SwitzerlandGold
1972Prague,  CzechoslovakiaSilver
1973Moscow,  Soviet UnionGold
1974Helsinki,  FinlandGold
1975Munich / Düsseldorf,  West GermanyGold
1976Katowice,  PolandSilver
1977Vienna,  AustriaBronze
1978Prague,  CzechoslovakiaGold
1979Moscow,  Soviet UnionGold
1981Gothenburg / Stockholm,  SwedenGold
1982Helsinki / Tampere,  FinlandGold
1983Düsseldorf / Dortmund / Munich, West Germany Gold
1985Prague,  CzechoslovakiaBronze
1986Moscow,  Soviet UnionGold
1987Vienna,  AustriaSilver
1989Stockholm / Södertälje,  SwedenGold
1990Bern / Fribourg,   SwitzerlandGold
1991Turku / Helsinki / Tampere,  FinlandBronze

Summit Series record

Canada Cup record

  • 1976 – Finished in 3rd place
  • 1981Won championship
  • 1984 – Lost semifinal
  • 1987 – Lost final
  • 1991 – Finished in 5th place

Challenge Cup and Rendez-vous vs. NHL All-Stars

  • 1979Won series
  • 1987 – Tied series

Notable players

Head coaches

Years Coach Achievements
1953Anatoli Tarasov
1953–1957Arkady Chernyshev1 Olympic gold medal, 2 World Championship gold medals, 2 World Championship silver medals
1958–1960Anatoli Tarasov1 Olympic bronze medal, 2 World Championship silver medals
1961–1972Arkady Chernyshev3 Olympic gold medals, 9 World Championship gold medals, 1 World Championship silver medal, 1 World Championship bronze medal
1972–1974Vsevolod Bobrov2 World Championship gold medals
1974–1977Boris Kulagin1 Olympic gold medal, 1 World Championship gold medal, 1 World Championship silver medal, 1 World Championship bronze medal
1977–1991Viktor Tikhonov2 Olympic gold medals, 1 Olympic silver medal, 8 World Championship gold medals, 2 World Championship silver medals, 2 World Championship bronze medals

The "Hockeyklubban" episode of the 1991 TV series Sunes jul features Sune dribbling away the USSR national team. The episode was recording during the team's training camp in Sweden.[18]

See also


  1. IIHF (2008). "Who are the best six of all time?". Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  2. Martin, Lawrence (1990). The Red Machine: The Soviet Quest to Dominate Canada’s Game. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. pp. 25–26.
  3. Martin. The Red Machine. p. 31–32.
  4. Martin. The Red Machine. p. 34.
  5. IIHF (2008). "Soviets hammer Canada, win gold at their first Worlds". Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  6. IIHF (2008). "1972 – Soviet streak of nine straight World golds ends". Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  7. IIHF (2008). "Poland scores biggest shocker in World Championship history". Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  8. MacSkimming, Roy (1996). Cold War: The Amazing Canada-Soviet Hockey Series of 1972. Greystone Books.
  9. Coffey, Wayne (2005). The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. New York City: Crown Publishers.
  10. "Yuri Korolev (RUS)". International Ice Hockey Federation. 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  11. Podnieks, Andrew (15 May 2011). "IIHF Hall of Fame welcomes six: Ceremonies also include Loicq winner Yuri Korolev". International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  12. "Всеволод Кукушкин: "У каждого игрока есть свое место в истории хоккея"". (in Russian). 1 March 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  13. Lysenkov, Pavel (4 May 2016). "Russian Hall of Fame: The house where the Big Red Machine lives". 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  14. IIHF (2008). "PROTESTING AMATEUR RULES, CANADA LEAVES INTERNATIONAL HOCKEY". Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  15. Coffey, p. 59
  16. "How the Russians break the Olympic rules". The Christian Science Monitor. 15 April 1980. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  17. "What the Olympic hockey tournament looked like before NHL participation". The Daily Hive. 3 April 2017.
  18. Johannes Nylander (10 December 2013). "Sören Olsson om Sunes jul" (in Swedish). Sveriges Television. Retrieved 12 April 2015.


  • Martin, Lawrence (1990), The Red Machine: The Soviet Quest to Dominate Canada's Game, Toronto: Doubleday Canada, ISBN 0-385-25272-2
  • Podnieks, Andrew; Szemberg, Szymon (2008), World of Hockey: Celebrating a Century of the IIHF, Key Porter Books, ISBN 1-55168-307-5
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