Generation lost as Czechoslovak team is jailed for treasonCzechoslovakia won the 1947 and 1949 World Championships and lost the 1948 Olympic gold to Canada only on goal difference. These results helped establish the nation as the clearly superior team in Europe, but it was their own government that proved to be the players’ greatest nemesis around this time. On 11 March 1950, just before the national squad was about to board a plane for Great Britain to defend its World Championship title in London, the players were handcuffed by the national state security police and taken to jail. Seven months later, on 7 October, the players appeared in court on charges of treason. The security police presented “intelligence information” about plans by the players to defect in London. The players pleaded not guilty, but their fate was pre-determined by authorities. Some 12 members of the national team were sent to jail, many for several years. Most were released after five years, but their lives and families were shattered. See this article about IIHF Hall of Fame member Bohumil Modry with research from his daughter. Shattered was also a great hockey team. Czechoslovakia would have to wait 23 years, until 1972, before it won another World Championship gold medal.
Protesting amateur rules, Canada leaves international hockeyCanada was selected to host the 1970 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Winnipeg and Montreal were named the host cities, but these plans changed during the IIHF’s Congress in March 1969 in Stockholm. Canada wanted a serious discussion about defining amateur and professional, and the discussion continued at the semi-annual Congress in the summer in Switzerland. It was decided at the time that Canada could use nine semi-pros in competition for the coming year, as a trial, but things changed again in December after Canada finished an impressive second at the Izvestia tournament using only five semi-pros. At another meeting in January, the IIHF reversed its decision and decreed Canada could use only amateur players. On 4 January 1970, Canada responded by withdrawing from all international hockey. It did not play at the next seven World Championships or two Olympics, but by the time it did return, in 1977, it was permitted to use any player from any league it so wished. It was the darkest period in IIHF history, but out of the abyss came new light and a greater level of international hockey.
Soviet legend and star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak retires at age 32After winning gold with the Soviet Union at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, goaltender Vladislav Tretiak could count three Olympic gold, one Olympic silver, 10 World Championship gold, and two more silver and a bronze at the Worlds. He had done it all many times over. He had also been drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1983, and made no secret at home that he wanted to be allowed to play in the NHL. Soviet authorities refused, and Tretiak retired. He could not force the authorities to release him, but on the other hand the authorities could not force him to play. His last game came at a small tournament called the Sweden Cup. He played on 12 April 1984, in a 7-2 loss to the Czechs after having secured first place. At the end of that game, he skated off the ice, and never played again.
Vezina trophy winner Pelle Linderbergh dies in a car crash10 November 1985 was a dark day in the annals of hockey. In the early hours of that Sunday, Swedish goaltender Pelle Lindbergh crashed his car into a wall, a crash that was precipitated by alcohol. He died on the spot, at age 26, just a few months after having won the Vezina Trophy with Philadelphia as the best goalie in the NHL. He was the first European to win one of the game’s most coveted trophies. Lindbergh had spent years establishing himself as one of the best goalies in the world, playing at the 1979 and 1983 World Championships, the 1980 Olympics, and 1981 Canada Cup. He styled his play after Bernie Parent and finally established himself as the team’s number-one goaltender in 1984, taking the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals the next spring against Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers. Lindbergh and teammates were out on the town during a bit of a break during an otherwise hectic schedule near the start of the 1985/86 season, but after leaving a nightclub after drinking he got into his Porsche and tried to drive home. Four days later, when the Flyers played their first game after the tragedy, it was Bernie Parent who held the eulogy for Lindbergh at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
West Germany's Miroslav Sikora's eligibility overturns preliminary round standingsThe 1987 World Championship in Vienna was the most controversial and disrupted tournament in IIHF history. West Germany named 30-year old forward Miroslav Sikora to its team. Sikora was a native Pole and represented Poland in minor junior international competition. But when he came to the World Championship, he was a naturalized German citizen and eligible to play for his new country. Or, so the Germans thought. West Germany had a good start in the tournament, defeating Finland 3-1 in the third game. Sikora had a goal, but the Finns filed a protest after management produced documents which showed that Sikora had, in fact, represented Poland in the inaugural 1977 World Junior Championship in Czechoslovakia. The Finns demanded that their 3-1 loss be overturned because West Germany had used an ineligible player. When the IIHF Council sided with the Finns and revoked the two points from West Germany, the incensed Germans took the case to the district court of Vienna. In the meantime, no one was certain what were the real standings in the tournament – the one with West Germany getting their points from wins against Finland and also later against Canada, 5-3 (Sikora had one goal and one assist in that game) – or the one with the score reversed to 5-0 for Finland and Canada (the standard score of a forfeited game) as ruled by the IIHF.
In the end, the court overruled the IIHF Council. One week after the original Finnish protest – and only one day before the medal round was scheduled to begin – the IIHF had to adjust the standings according to the court’s decision. The West German team was allowed to keep its points from the wins with Sikora, but the player was also ruled ineligible and had to leave the tournament after four games.