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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hockey Classic Carries On in Tough Times

The smooth skating and sharp shooting of international hockey returns to Moscow on Tuesday when Canada and Czechoslovakia face off in the first game of the six-day Izvestia Cup ice hockey tournament.


In its 25th year, the tournament brings together top national squads from Europe and North America.


This year's tournament includes teams from Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Canada and two squads from Russia -- the Olympic and national units.


The squads and games will be divided between Moscow and St. Petersburg, with the winners in each city eventually meeting in Moscow for the championship.


The Moscow group consists of the Russian national team, coached by Boris Mikhailov.


Cast as primary contenders for the championship are Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia and the Russian national team.


Given the turbulent economic times, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation has come on board to help finance and organize the tournament traditionally put on by Izvestia.


"We live in a complicated time", said Vladimir Petrov, president of the federation. "Many of the Russian problems are reflected in the sphere of sports and especially hockey".


Financial difficulties have paved the way for richer clubs in the National Hockey League and Europe to snatch up top players and coaches, depleting the talent pool that once made the former Soviet Union the undisputed czars of ice hockey.


Several key players from the goldmedal winning Unified Team have already jumped ship for the NHL, leaving coach Viktor Tikhonov with big holes to fill.


The St. Petersburg group is stronger on paper, with the talented Swedish team leading the way. Germany is still a notch below the top teams but has been more competitive in recent years. The Russian Olympic team under Tikhonov should never be counted out, but probably will not be strong enough to beat the Swedes.


In Moscow, the Russian national team is fresh from tournament wins in Germany and Finland. They will be formidable opponents for the young Canadians and the Swiss. The Canadians have only beaten the Russians, or the former Soviets, once in 13 tries, winning the tournament in 1987. The battle in the Moscow group will probably be between the final incarnation of the Czechoslovaks and the Russians.


The winners of each group play Monday for the championship in Moscow while the runner-ups will play for third place in St. Petersburg.


All the games in Moscow will be played at the CSKA stadium, Leningradsky Prospekt, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tickets are already on sale, and cost up to 120 rubles at the kiosk in front of the arena.