Why are Canadians viewed as weird

Kochta: The draw against the Canadian professionals was a success

Canadian and European ice hockey were two different worlds until the 1970s. Canada is considered the motherland of this sport, and the “maple leaves” viewed the rest of ice hockey quite disparagingly. For several decades, Canadians paid little attention to World Championships and Olympic Games. For this reason, they were usually only represented by amateurs at the competitions of the world association IIHF. That changed in 1972 when they agreed the so-called Summit Series with the then subscription world champion, the Soviet Union. The Canadians competed with their best NHL professionals at this ice hockey summit. They wanted to finally show the state amateurs from the USSR who really has the world's best ice hockey to offer. In the series, four encounters between the two teams were held in Canada and another four in Moscow. And it quickly became clear that the Soviets were more than a match. They only lost the game in Toronto in Canada, and after their opening win in Moscow they were close to winning the series. However, the Canadians won the three remaining games in Moscow with one goal difference each and thus the series with 9: 7 points. After the last comparison in Moscow, the Canadian professionals then met the then world champion Czechoslovakia in Prague. Jiří Kochta also played for the host's team. The now 70-year-old has revived his memories of the game for Radio Prague:

Mr. Kochta, on September 30, 1972 you competed with the Czechoslovak national team for the first time against the professionals from Canada. What memories do you have of this game?

“That was a pretty difficult task for us because we only completed a short training camp in preparation for this encounter. The Canadians, on the other hand, were in full rhythm, they had previously played four games at home and four in Moscow against the Soviet Union. They also played two games in Stockholm against Sweden. So we played against the Canadian professionals without any real match practice. The game ended 3: 3, that was a success for us. "

The meeting in Prague was historic because it was based on the so-called Century Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. The Canadians usually only competed with amateurs at major international tournaments, but now with their best professionals. They wanted to demonstrate to the Soviets how to play top ice hockey, but then the Soviet players won twice in Canada ...

“At a World Cup, the Canadians always had five or six professionals in their squad, but none of their top stars were among them. But suddenly this series came about between Canada and the Soviet Union, which also surprised us in Czechoslovakia. For the Canadians, the Soviets were the enemy to be defeated. On the other hand, they rated us a little weaker. But that was okay, after all, the USSR became world champions almost every year. And the Soviets played really well. The referees, on the other hand, did not always whistle correctly against Canada, because there were already some brutal fouls. The Canadians narrowly won the series and were accordingly happy. In terms of play, however, they weren't much better than the Soviets. "

Then there was a clash between Czechoslovakia and the Canadian professionals. You said that Czechoslovak ice hockey was not as valued as the Soviet one. Did this give you and your teammates additional motivation to show the Canadians? After all, you just became world champions 45 years ago ...

“Of course that spurred us on. A year earlier, at the 1971 World Cup in Switzerland, we showed that we can be expected. Against the Soviets we won there and drew once. So we wanted to prove ourselves against the Canadians. The game in Prague was a great game and the Great Sports Hall in the Holešovice district was of course sold out. The subsequent meeting with the Canadians in the Park Hotel was also nice. Then you got to know completely different people, because in private the Canadians are quite relaxed, so completely different than on the ice. When they slip into their ice hockey equipment, they have no mercy. For them, only victory counts and nothing else. That is the mentality of the Canadians, the Europeans do not have one. "

How was the game seen by the local sports community? Kind of like a Czechoslovak ice hockey holiday?

"Definitely, if only because the Canadians competed with all of their top stars, as long as no one was injured (e.g. Bobby Orr, editor's note). I have to say, however, that many of the Canadians I met at a World Cup performed as well as the pros. Most of them weren't lucky enough to play in the NHL. But for us it was an experience to be able to play against these top stars. They appeared to us like supermen who, in their subconscious, perhaps believed that they could conquer us with ease. But it was not like that. Because they had to realize against the Soviets that it is not so easy to beat a top European team. And it was the same against us. The Canadians were very surprised by us. So after the game they would have loved to have taken some of us to the NHL, including me. But unfortunately that was not possible at the time. "

At that time, in the countries of the then Eastern Bloc, people played ice hockey as so-called state amateurs. That means you trained and played like a professional, but you weren't allowed to migrate and join teams from capitalist countries. Do you regret it today that you basically lived in the wrong time back then?

“Unfortunately, yes, because we actually lived like professionals and didn't have to go to work. In contrast to other European countries such as West Germany, Switzerland or Sweden. That made a difference, because we actually trained more than the Western and Northern European competitors. But it was crazy that we couldn't even do trial training in the Soviet Union. For example, Holík, Nedomanský, Pospíšil, Machač and me were invited by CSKA Moscow, but those responsible in Czechoslovakia did not allow it. That was funny, as it was said at the time that we were socialist brother countries. The opportunity to move abroad came later, but we were already 33 or 34 years old. And that's actually too late. "

One final question about the game: you had given Czechoslovakia a 3-2 lead in the 43rd minute. They were close to victory, but only four seconds before the last siren, Serge Savard scored to make it 3: 3. Why wasn't it enough to win?

“There was another face-off, and it was agreed that I would do it. I was already ready, but suddenly Vladimír Martinec comes and tells me that we will change again and that he will go to the bully. Coach Pitner ordered it that way. Unfortunately, Vladimír didn't have that much experience with the face-off and promptly lost it. So there was another shot from the blue line that made it 3: 3. It was a bit sad for us not to have won. On the other hand, the 3: 3 was a success against these Canadian professionals. "

Jiří Kochta acquired his good knowledge of German as a long-time player and coach in the German ice hockey Bundesliga. However, many ice hockey fans in this country remember the duel between the Czechoslovak national players and the Canadian professionals very fondly. Martina Schneibergová, a current editor of Radio Prague, is one of them:

“You have waited a long time for a game like this, because it was the first time that the Canadian professionals from the NHL have come here. Everyone was curious about how they play because back then there was no way to see them play on TV or even hear from them. The day before the game and on the day of the game itself, the sports hall and the Parkhotel were besieged by autograph collectors. However, we were very surprised at how nice the Canadians were and how they look. For example, they all had long hair, which our players were not allowed to have. That was really an experience for the whole year. "

Martina was 15 years old at the time. She still associates this ice hockey game with one of the most beautiful experiences of her youth:

“I even got three ice hockey sticks from Pat Stapleton, the captain of the Canadian team. I have also written to a few Canadian players and they have sent me personal photos in their NHL team uniforms. At the grammar school we should describe the most beautiful recent event. For me, of course, this was the meeting with the Canadian ice hockey players and the game itself. And that's what I described. The teacher was quite amazed at my essay at the time. "