INNSBRUCK – It all came down to the teeth.
Maxim Tretiak, grandson of legendary Soviet and Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, began his own hockey career as a skater. Choosing to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and move to goalie, however, wasn’t a decision made from any family pressure. It was more about the look:
“When I was small I asked my grandfather at our country house: ‘You played hockey, how come you still have all your teeth in your mouth?’ ” said Maxim. “My grandfather replied ‘I had a mask on so I got to keep all of my teeth,’ I liked this and so I decided to switch to goaltending.”
Good idea Maxim.
Forty years after Tretiak Sr. suited up in Montreal in Game 1 of the 1972 Series vs. Team Canada, his grandson will now don the pads against Canada in Russia’s opening game of the 2012 Youth Olympic Games Friday in Innsbruck.
The similarities between grandfather and grandson are easy to see. 15-year-old Maxim plays for CSKA Moscow, the team with which his grandfather carved out his illustrious professional career. Going into tomorrow’s game against Team Canada, Maxim will wear his grandfather’s No. 20 for Russia.
His grandfather, a three-time Olympic gold medallist and 10-time world champion, first introduced himself to Canadians in Montreal during Game 1 of the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. The Russians’ sensational 7-3 victory in that game kicked off what was to be the most memorable hockey series of all time and a clash which defined the start of modern hockey.
Vladislav also led the Russians to Olympic gold in 1972, 1976 and 1984. Coincidentally, he won his second out of three Olympic medals in Innsbruck 1976.
But his best games were all in Montreal at the legendary Forum. First the Summit Series, then the 1975 New Year’s Eve game between CSKA Moscow and Montreal 3-3 (where “Red Army” was outshot 38-13 and Tretiak of course was the first star of the game). At the 1981 Canada Cup final at the Forum (Soviets 8 - Canada 1), Tretiak’s play cemented his iconic status. When the IIHF had hockey experts around the world vote for the IIHF Centennial All Star Team in 2008, Tretiak was named goaltender by a huge margin.
It’s a long shadow to be playing under, especially when you’re playing hockey for the same two teams where your grandfather achieved his legendary status. But Maxim is aware of his heritage, and having a Hall of Fame goaltender as a grandfather has its bonuses, especially now that Maxim sits between the pipes.
“He helps a lot, giving me advice during training camps and pre-season camps, though I don’t like it too much when he comes to watch the games,” he said.40 years after his grandfather Vladislav Tretiak faced Canada in the Summit Series, Maxim Tretiak will challenge the Canadians at the Youth Olympics. Photo: Ben Mackey
Well, if Russia makes it to the Gold Medal game at the Youth Olympics on January 22, Maxim will have his granddad in the stands, whether he likes it or not. Vladislav, nowadays the President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, will travel to the Tyrolean capital immediately after attending the KHL’s All-Star Game in Riga on January 21.
“It is a great responsibility to keep up the family name, and he helps with that. Before I came here, his advice was simple: Don’t worry, just find your game and play your game the way you play it.”
There is also one goal that his grandfather never achieved; a career in the National Hockey League. But Maxim is not concerned about that just yet.
“My first objective is of course to win these Olympic Games,” he said. “The next objective is to gain a stable place on the Russian national team and in CSKA, then to play in the World Junior championship.”
In Vladislav’s opinion, the sky’s the limit for his grandson:
“Maxim is a hard worker and he has talent. He is good goaltending material, and of course he wears jersey No. 20 like his granddad (laughs).”
“He has potential to be better than I was. Maxim picked up hockey when he was five, I started to play when I was eleven. That’s a big difference.”
Maxim also got a taste of playing against professionals at an early age. At a charity game between former Soviet and NHL greats, the first to be played in Moscow’s Red Square, 10-year-old Maxim went in the game midway through the second period and played six shutout minutes.
“First of all that was very scary, I faced a couple of shots but I was terrified facing off against these incredible players,” he said.
Since then, he has played in a number of international tournaments around the world, and now will be getting his first Olympic experience this month in Innsbruck.
Will it be his last? Judging from his genes, don’t count on it.
Russia, Canada, USA, Finland and host Austria take part in the boys (U16) tournament at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games.
for the tournament schedule.
for the Youth Olympic Games page on IIHF.com, with schedules, rosters, statistics, game stories, etc.