BERNE, Switzerland – Goaltending icon Vladislav Tretiak looks forward to the inaugural Victoria Cup and he is sure that this will not be your normal pre-season exhibition game. “The New York Rangers represent the NHL and Metallurg Magnitogorsk carries the expectations of Europe. This feels like 1975 all over again,” says Tretiak.
IIHF.com sat down with Vladislav Tretiak just after the conclusion of the IIHF Semi-Annual Congress in Montreux, Switzerland. Just an hour’s drive north from the gorgeous town by Lake Geneva is the capital Berne, where on Wednesday October 1 the New York Rangers will take on Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the inaugural Victoria Cup, a matchup created to pit the European club champion against an NHL challenger.
The day before, the Rangers will play Swiss club SC Bern in an exhibition game. Both games will be played in the 17,100 capacity PostFinance Arena.
Tretiak looks forward to the event, both as a hockey fan but also the president of the Russian Ice Hockey Association.
“We need games like these and we need a continuous exchange on the club level between NHL teams and the best clubs from Europe,” said Vladislav. “This is what the fans want to see and this is what develops the game. I remember 1975 how the inaugural Super Series changed the approach of both the NHL and the Soviet clubs. It was so important.”
Tell us what you remember from the 1975 series between your CSKA Moscow and the NHL clubs?
Well, this was just three years after the 1972 Summit Series between the Soviet Union and Team Canada. So they knew about our strength and we also knew what to expect, but only to a certain extent. There is a big difference between club hockey and national team hockey. I know that many North American experts said that the Soviets have a great national team, but that on the club level the NHL is superior. Well, we showed that we were not that bad on club level either.
I recall three games the most; the opener at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, the famous New Year’s Eve game against the Montreal Canadiens and our final game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The funny thing is that just a week ago or so I watched the game against the Rangers on video with my grandchildren. This was a historic game, the first time a European club played against an NHL team. It was huge for us, at the legendary Madison Square Garden in downtown New York. It was a tough game in the beginning, they scored first, but then we got seven straight goals and we won finally 7-3.
The game at the Forum against the Canadiens was a classic, 3-3. Many people still say that this was maybe the best club game ever played. I had a really good game and this is a night I will never forget. The 4-1 loss to Philadelphia you couldn’t call a hockey game. They just wanted to rough us up. You remember the Flyers from the 70s, don’t you? We also beat the Boston Bruins during the tour.
Back to the present; how do you think that the Victoria Cup game will turn out considering that Metallurg has been on ice since July 15 and they have already played ten league game, while the Rangers are still in their pre-season and they have been on ice just ten days or so?
It will work both ways. Yes, the Rangers will be far from top shape, but on the other hand they will be fresh and there will be many players who will be very eager to show that they belong on the roster. The Metallurg players should be very well conditioned and they will be at top speed, but our league this year is very, very energy-consuming with lots of travel. They play basically every day and they travel a lot. So we will see who will actually be more fresh.
How do you think that the Rangers will approach the game?
Believe me, I know the North American mentality after having worked for many years with the Chicago Blackhawks as a goaltending coach. They will not want to lose the game. Lot’s of professional pride, you know.
How do you think that the game will be played?
It will be a very close game. Whoever wins this, I predict a one-goal win. It will be tough and competitive. I just hope that we won’t have any fights.
Oh, so you think it could turn out that competitive?
Yes, I am afraid so. But I hope not.
Do you think so because of the recent tensions in the relationships between the NHL and the KHL?
No, not at all. The players play, they are not politicians. But remember, this is the first game between an NHL club and a Russian team for 17 years. This is the ultimate rivalry in hockey, NHL vs. Russia. Nobody wants to lose. It’s prestige on the line. So nobody should be surprised if at some point emotions take over.
What do you think about the future of the Victoria Cup?
This exchange must continue and even if we may not agree on all issues like transfers, it shouldn’t and mustn’t affect our sports relations. What we do here is developing the game and opening new horizons to hockey fans. We had real tensions in 1972 and 1975 but we still decided together to stand above political issues and play hockey. The same should apply here.
By IIHF.com staff