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They were great, but their equipment wasn’t too good

The Soviet Union win the 1966 world hockey championship the previous spring before playing a pair of exhibition games in Newfoundland. Beginning in 1963, the Soviets won nine straight world hockey titles. That’s Alexander Ragulin in the back row, the tallest player with the big grin.
The Soviet Union win the 1966 world hockey championship the previous spring before playing a pair of exhibition games in Newfoundland. Beginning in 1963, the Soviets won nine straight world hockey titles. That’s Alexander Ragulin in the back row, the tallest player with the big grin. - Canadian Press

Their superior skills aside, what George Spracklin remembers most about the Soviet Union national team and its visit to St. John’s in 1966 was the equipment the Russians wore.

Or more to the point, how shoddy it was.

“Man oh man, they had terrible equipment,” he recalls. “Imagine, they were that good playing in such poor equipment.”

The Caps and Soviets dressed in adjacent Memorial Stadium dressing rooms, on the side closest to Quidi Vidi Lake, separated only by a door.

“They all wanted our equipment,” he said. “I remember a couple trying to get into our dressing room and get sticks.

“I can still remember the stench of their equipment.”

Spracklin said it was learned after that the Soviets drank tea and Coke between periods. The team stayed at the old Newfoundland Hotel, and ate like kings.

As an RCMP officer — along with Caps teammate Paul Saulnier — Spracklin had some inside knowledge on the Soviet delegation that most didn’t.

“We were given a portfolio on these guys,” he said. “Remember, that was back in the Cold War, and these guys were all Red Army. And you knew some people who were around the team — not the players — were spies, people you were told to watch.

“They were quite the lads.”

robin.short@thetelegram.com

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