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Battling from 1954 to 2009

Ten landmark years in hockey's greatest rivalry

10-05-09
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Quebec City Quebec Canada
Last year's final was the latest great installment in this traditional rivalry. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHoF-IIHF Images.

BERNE – A rivalry doesn't just emerge overnight. Every time Canada and Russia face off for gold, players on both sides are intensely aware of the great, passionate games that their predecessors played, creating memories and legends that will never fade.

With any luck, Sunday's championship showdown for 2009 will be added to the list.

Here are 10 years that will always stand out in the history of the Canada-Russia hockey rivalry.

1954: Russia (as the Soviet Union) debuts at the IIHF World Championship and stuns everyone by knocking off Canada's favoured East York Lyndhursts 7-2 to win gold for the first time.

1963: The Soviets begin a run of nine straight world titles (including Olympics) in Stockholm, Sweden, beating Canada's Trail Smoke Eaters 4-2 in their last game.

1972: The eight-game Summit Series, played in Canada and Moscow, proves to be the most significant confrontation in international hockey history, pitting NHL pros versus state-sponsored amateurs. Canada rallies to win three straight games in Moscow, claiming the series on Paul Henderson's last-minute goal in Game Eight on Vladislav Tretiak.

1981: The USSR earns its most lopsided victory ever over Canada in major competition, thrashing the host team 8-1 in the one-game final of the second Canada Cup in Montreal. Sergei Shepelev scores a hat trick for the Soviets.

1984: Canada gets its Canada Cup revenge, eliminating the Russians in a thrilling semi-final on an overtime goal deflected in by Mike Bossy. Canada goes on to win the tournament, defeating Sweden in the final.

1987: In what many still refer to as the best hockey ever played, Canada and the Soviets go head to head in the best-of-three Canada Cup final. NHL superstars like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey take on the Soviet “Green Unit” with stars like Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, and Viacheslav Fetisov. The Soviets prevail 6-5 in Game One on Alexander Semak's OT winner, and then Canada reels off two 6-5 wins of its own on Mario Lemieux goals, the first in double overtime, the second on a late play beautifully set up by Gretzky.

1988: The Soviets claim gold in the first Olympic hockey tournament ever played in Canada, defeating the hosts 5-0 in their lone meeting.

1992: In the first (and only thus far) Olympic gold medal final game between Canada and Russia (playing here under the banner of the Unified Team), the Russians prevail 3-1. Current Russian head coach Slava Bykov scores the late winning goal.

2007: Canada claims gold with a perfect 9-0 record at the IIHF World Championship in Moscow. With Russia falling to Finland in the semi-finals, it marks the first time the Russians have ever lost a World Championship game (or not claimed gold) on the ice of their capital city, a streak extending back over four tournaments in 1957, 1973, 1979, and 1986.

2008: In the IIHF's centennial year, Russia celebrates by edging its archrival in the gold medal game on Canadian ice in Quebec City. The Russians come back from a 4-2 deficit to win 5-4 in OT on Ilya Kovalchuk's lightning-strike power play goal.

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