Olympic Champion Gusev passes
by Andy Potts|23 JUL 2020

Olympic champion Alexander Gusev has passed away, it was reported by his former club CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

The defenceman, part of the 1976 Soviet team that won gold in Innsbruck, was 73 years old.

As a lynchpin of the Soviet blue line in the 1970s, Gusev won two World Championships (1973, 1974) as well as that Olympic gold. He was also part of the Summit Series of 1972 and 1974 – and in a rare interview he talked about how he felt the Soviet players claimed a moral victory from that epoch-making match-up with Canada’s top pros.

“It feels like today, not many people remember the Canadians who played in the Summit Series,” he told Sport Express in October 2013. “Yet even now, everyone remembers our names and faces. Memories of [the Canadians] are all left in 1972. Back then, they were angry as hell. Clark deliberately took a swipe at Kharlamov, right where he knew there was no padding. They had to get him out of the game at all costs. Whereas I’m pretty sure I never hurt anyone. Well, maybe someone lost a tooth somewhere.”

Gusev, who rarely gave interviews, was speaking shortly after the premiere of ‘Legend #17’, a biopic of Valeri Kharlamov released in the build-up to the Sochi Olympics. The two players were close friends, emerging into the CSKA team together and going on to star for the Soviets. The pair bonded when they were sent to CSKA’s farm club, Zvezda Cherbakul in the South Urals, and helped the provincial team to win promotion to the second tier of the Soviet Championship. Gusev recalled how, after winning the championship, he and Kharlamov were carried through the streets by celebrating fans – a party only halted by the fact that, at the time, the town had no restaurant open to continue the revelry.

Great player, modest man

Boris Mikhailov, a team-mate of Gusev’s for club and country, paid tribute to his colleague in an interview with the TASS news agency.

“Gusev was a key figure on the blue line. We played together on the same line-up for more than one season. He could pick out a killer pass, finish off a play with his shot, he had great vision on the ice, superb technique, and he wasn’t afraid to play hard when he needed to,” Mikhailov said.

“He was always a calming presence, the opposition respected him because he didn’t let anybody take liberties; he would always come to the aid of his comrades. Off the ice, he was a modest guy, he never pushed himself forward, but he was always ready to help out his friends.”
Gusev’s international career came to an abrupt halt in 1977. The Soviets could only take bronze at the World Championship in Vienna, twice defeated by Sweden, and head coach Boris Kulagin was replaced by Viktor Tikhonov. Tikhonov also took the reins at CSKA, and quickly decided that Gusev, aged 30 at the time, was one of the older players he wished to replace.

Gusev briefly played in the second tier with SKA MVO Lipetsk, before going to SKA Leningrad for his final season in 1978/79. At CSKA, and for the Soviet Union, he was replaced by Vladislav Fetisov, who also became a star defenceman and a close friend.

“It’s really sad,” Fetisov told Nation News on Wednesday. “Gusev was a great hockey player and good friend of mine. You don’t get guys like him anymore.”

As well as his success in international hockey, Gusev helped CSKA to seven Soviet titles and three Soviet Cup triumphs. After his playing career ended, he had five seasons on the coaching staff at SKA MVO Kalinin in the lower levels of Soviet hockey. Even in his later years, he continued to skate for the Soviet Hockey Legends veteran team.

Details of the cause of Gusev’s death and news about the funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.