Friday, December 22, 2006


The Punch Up In Piestany

Has it already been 20 years?

At the 1987 World Junior Championships in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, Team Canada (in white) and Team U.S.S.R. (in red) engaged in one of the ugliest incidents in the history of hockey. Canada was up 4-2 in the 2nd, needing to win the game by five goals to ensure winning the Gold medal (the Russians were out of medal contention). It apparently all started when Russian player Pavel Kostichkin slashed Theoren Fluery, and a fight broke out (it looks to me like a hit in the corner is what starts it all). That fight was followed by other fights, until the benches cleared and an all-out brawl ensued. The fighting went on for about twenty minutes, despite the lights being turned off in the stadium. Both teams were disqualified from the tournament, and Canada missed out on the Gold medal.

Hockey Canada has Team Canada's roster from the tournament, which included future NHLers Fluery, Brendan Shanahan, Luke Richardson, Steve Chiasson, Greg Hawgood, Glen Wesley, Chris Joseph, Mike Keane and, of all people, Pierre Turgeon ( I just can't picture him throwing haymakers, no matter how hard I try). Pat Burns was an assistant coach. There's also some great footage of Don Cherry and Michael Farber arguing over who was to blame for the brawl, with Barbara Frum watching, in the CBC archives.

Mirtle has also pointed out the publication of a book on the incident, called When The Lights Went Out. I will most certainly be picking up a copy. I'm interested in hearing the Russians' side of the story, for one (in Canada, the story has always been that the Russians "started it" by leaving the bench first). I'd bet a bunch of money that Keane and Fluery were doing a disproportionate share of shit-disturbing, myself. I'd also like to know who was on that Russian team (Fedorov and Mogilny, I believe, and you can hear Don Whitman saying that Keane is beating the snot out of Valeri Zelepukin), and how the hell major injuries were avoided, especially in the dark.

I watched the game live, with my father, and I'll never forget it. I was 12 at the time. It's surreal to look at it all now. It's like a scene right out of Slap Shot, a bizarre manifestation of the Cold War. It just went on and on and on. The crowd goes from frenzied approval to disgusted in a matter of minutes. The officials clearly had no idea what to do. Many of the players are so tired they just stand and watch, or leave the ice for a rest before coming back on. It's just crazy. Like Whitman says, "you just don't see this in international hockey."

*My apologies if the YouTube clip is missing. It keeps popping in and out of existence. YouTube seems to be having some difficulties today. You might have to refresh a couple times to see it.


of all people, Pierre Turgeon ( I just can't picture him throwing haymakers, no matter how hard I try)

He wasn't too thrilled about it, by the sounds of it:

All but one player on the Canadian bench follows and the ice is covered with squared-off combatants.

The one who doesn't join in was Pierre Turgeon, who a few months later would be drafted first overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Head coach Bert Templeton later orders him onto the ice.


I'm also intrigued by the suggestion that the Russians "started it" on purpose, because they were out and didn't want Canada to win.

That was just incredible, and I don't mean that in a good way, more like I never thought I would see such a thing.

I have to admit, that was the first time I saw that footage, most likely a result of living in Central Florida in 1987 and hockey coverage of any kind was far and few between.

I will be picking up the book that chronicles that event.

That is surreal. Having been 4 at the time I hadn't seen the footage until YouTube came and illuminated this dark chapter in junior hockey.

I had always heard that it was the Russian's plan to keep Canada from picking up the Gold.

I will definitely be reading Joyce's book as soon as I can get my hands on it.

The whole Russian conspiracy thing got a lot of play back then, iirc.

Different days for sure.

Benchclearing brawls.

That's some crazy shit.

I'd be interested to know what roles certain players played, like which ones kept fighting, which ones tried to be peacemakers after ten minutes of whaling away at the opposition, which players were the first off the bench, that sorta thing.

I suppose the book probably answers alot of those questions.

I suppose the book probably answers alot of those questions.

Mirtle and I should hit Gare Joyce up for a commission. I've already bought the book because of Mirtle, and I'm sure a few others will now buy the book because of this post.

Hockey authors, send me free copies of your books!

Pierre Turgeon always was a pussy.

Embarrassingly, I had absolutely no idea there was a book coming out.

I had no idea, either, and if there is one thing I know in this life, it is books. I picked it up last night, and am about fifty pages in already. So far I would say Joyce is making the disqualification out to be a greater injustice than it actually was/is, but other than that I'm loving it.

I remember that year as extremely bittersweet for hockey (same age as Andy). The brawl, and that seven game cup series that we won against Philadelphia and Hextall. I was just reading that he got the Conn Smyth that year and yet never won the cup in his playing career.

Anybody else remember Grapes handing some of our boys medals on Coach's Corner. I read somewhere that Harold Ballard (otherwise the worst bastard to ever be involved in the NHL) paid for the medals. Any truth to that?

Yup. Ballard had special medals made for the players, and had them recieve them before a game at MLG.

Harold Ballard had a heart? My whole belief system has just been thrown out of whack.

I watched this game live as well, with a lot of interest because 2 guys from our local junior team were on the Canadian team. I was also about 12, and it sticks in your memory, for sure. Whether the Russians "started" it or not, Canada and Russia deserved to be booted out, it was unbelievable that the fighting went on that long.

You wanted someone from the Russian side to speak up? OK, here I am. Like you I was 12 at the time. I also have this whole game on a CD and watched it many times. There is absolutely no doubt at all as to who started this whole mess. It was that little puke Theo Fleury who always started shit like this in games vs. the Soviet Union and then let others finish it.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is just simply not being objective and has been listening to way too much of that moron Don Cherry. If you watch the video it is clear to see that Fleury hits a Russian player from behind in the corner (like a dirty little puke that he is), Kostichkin responds with a slash and Fleury jumps him. Other Russian players interfere and then all hell breaks loose.

The suggestions that this was some kind of conspiracy to keep Canada from winning the gold medal are ludicrous and only a warped Canadian mind could come up with such horseshit. Just like the suggestions that Canada was not treated fairly by the IIHF. Both teams got suspended and it was the only decision IIHF could have possibly made under the circumstances. The only reason you people whine to this day that it was unfair and that there was some Russian conspiracy is because you had a chance to win the gold medal.

The fact is that IIHF had no choice but to suspend both teams from the tournament and if there was no gold medal on the line all this horseshit wouldn't even come to your minds. Also, the fact is that the score was 4-2 at the time which was not enough for Canada to win the gold. That right there kills any argument that you Cherry brainwashed jackasses have.

So there. Now you have the Russian perspective that you wanted. Also remember this - Russians are not the ones who like to fight. Canadians are the ones who made fighting and overall jackass behavior part of hockey.

Now I know I'm gonna get flamed and I'm outnumbered, but I don't really give a rat's ass. You wanted a Russian perspective and you got it. Have fun now.

Just to finish up I wanna say that I really miss the Canada - Soviet hockey rivalry. It was by far the best in all of sports. We really used to hate each other with a passion. I still like the intensity of Russia - Canada games now, but it's not the same now that many Russians are playing pro or junior hockey in NA. Many are now buddies which is nice, but in terms of rivalry it takes away the raw hate we used to have for each other. We were real enemies and it made for some fun viewing.

One last thing. Don Cherry is the biggest douchebag ever. For someone who's supposedly so tough he sure dresses like a faggot.

Don Cherry awarded the boys his own gold medals? Ha-ha! That is the most hilarious thing I've ever heard and it cements what I said before. He's a douchebag. I have a suggestion, every time you DON'T win some international tournament make your own gold medals and award them to yourselves. Because I mean how could Canada not win gold every time? You must have been robbed by IIHF, officials, there was some conspiracy, etc. I don't even know why IIHF bothers holding these international tournaments. They should just skip all the trouble and award gold medals to the Canadians at the same intervals that these tournaments are held.

dude, sorry, but we're better at hockey then you guys, don cherry is one of the greatest coaches in the world and gives us canadians comic relief, if nothing else.
we're not brainwashed by him.
we would have gotten gold - you guys were playing like shit, all we needed were another few, and it was only the second period or something wasn't it?

I do agree with you though, on fleury - he was a bit of a dirty fucker, though he was kinda clutch for us.

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