Twenty years of Soviet Hockey: 1962 - 1982
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02-15-2012, 05:18 AM
I voted for Kodos
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: West Egg, New York
Repost of what I wrote in the draft thread:
Based on what I have found, I think Triffy's analysis was most likely right on. Balderis seems to have been a player who would hold the puck and try to carry a line when on weak Riga teams or when his line was built to feed him, but he also seems to have been capable of sharing the puck when placed on strong lines, and was at any rate not a selfish player. Unfortunately, most google archives info on Balderis is locked up under pay-per-view pages, but as I have a NYT subscription, I can help out a bit. The below is all the relevant text from all the NYT articles I could find on Balderis (that really contained anything meaningful). I haven't left anything out that I know of.
Here is a snippet from a New York Times article I found on the 1979 Soviet National team when they played the Islanders in NY.
NYT - Dec 30, 1979:
"Their passing and quickness are impressive," said xxxxxx, the Islanders' coach...
Then the Soviet team scored what proved to be the winning goal on breakaway rush by Sergei Makarov and Helmut Balderis, who traded passes until Makarov was able to put the puck behind a charging Smith...
Throughout the game, the Soviet team demonstrated an outstanding ability to move the puck and to anticipate the movements of their teammates.
"They practice 11 months a year," said xxxxx, who admitted he was impressed by the deftness and agility of the Red Army passing game. "They move it - and right away it's gone again."
This is mostly praise of the team and the Soviet passing system, but Balderis seems to have fit into that system (on a line with Makarov? This supports Triffy's assumption that they, in fact, played together at CSKA) well.
Another snippet from the Times:
NYT - May 13, 1978:
The Soviet team had it much easier. After leading 2-0, in the first period, it broke the game open with fve goals in the second.
The first of these was by Helmut Balderis, who brought the puck up ice, passed to xxxxx, took a return pass just to the right of the goalie and put the puck away easily. The play had the economy and grace of poetry. The Swedes were so dazzled that their defense did little else but stand around and watch as Balderis scored two more goals in the romp.
Sounds like Balderis liked to use his linemates on the rush. Doesn't sound like a Bure/Kovalchuk type to me.
NYT - January 11, 1977:
The World Hockey Association's final record against the Soviet Union's national squad in a recent eight city tour was two victories and six losses, but the W.H.A. felt like a winner at the turnstiles...
Leading Soviet scorers in the series were Vladimir Petrov, with six goals and five assists in six games; Alexander Yakushev, seven goals, one assist in seven games, and Helmut Balderis, four goals, four assists in seven games.
Here's a really good one about Balderis and the Soviet team:
NYT - Feb 5, 1979:
Everyone who has seen the team is impressed by its latest star, Helmut Balderis, who is hardly in the mold of the typically conforming player the squad usually boasts. For one thing, Balderis sports a moustache, the first of the current crop to do so. Before a recent game, when all the players were lined up for the national anthem, he stood out boldly: his socks were colored differently from everyone else's. He is also a Latvian, and it is said that he is quick to make a distinction if someone refers to him as a Russian.
But it is his performance that fans at the Garden will note most.
"He's got a lot of moves," said xxxxx. "He makes believe he's losing the puck, the defensemen comes up on him and gets too close, and then he controls the puck and pushes it between your legs."
A one-man give and go.
"Can he ever motor!" xxxxx said in admiration. "Oh, gee is he fast!"
Balderis plays the "off wing", that is, he is a left-handed shot playing the right side. He is the goal scorer. His center is the rangy, playmaking xxxxx, and his left wing is xxxxxx, a digger in the corners. Together, they are a classic combination, and they form the top Soviet line.
Interesting stuff. Maybe an even more interesting article about Balderis:
NYT - Feb 6, 1979:
The first player to appear in uniform was Helmut Balderis, the huge 26 year-old right wing with a moustache the Volga boatmen would have cherished. "He is something," said a Canadian familiar with the Soviet team. "Over there, he is known as Elekritchka - The Electric Train."
Helmut Balderis is from Riga, a Baltic sea port in Latvia, where he was discovered by the Soviet coach, xxxxxx, and brought back to play for the Moscow Dynamo team. Of the Soviet players, he is the one to watch, the one that the NHL all-stars must contain. Some hockey people consider him the equal of Guy Lafleur, the Montreal Canadiens' elegant right wing. Among the Soviet players he is unusual in that he is the only one listed as a technologist. Most are listed as students, a few as teachers, and one is listed as a crane operator.
"He's also listed at 5-10 and 189 pounds," an onlooker mentioned later. "He looks twice that big to me."
Like his teammates, Helmut Balderis was wearing a red helmet (manufactured by a Canadian firm), red pants and red stockings. But he also had on a red practice sweater, signifying that he was a member of the number one forward line along with xxxxx, a lanky 26 year old center, and xxxxx, a 25 year old left wing. Other units wore green, blue or white sweaters. Helmut Balderis had the look of a star, leaning nonchalantly on the boards between rushes, the first to sit on the bench when his line was not scrimmaging. But when he was working, he displayed the burst of Earl Campbell turning the corner on a sweep."
The stylistic comparison to Lafleur seems pretty apt, I think. Here is a bit from after the end of the 1979 Summit series:
NYT - Feb 12, 1979:
"That Mikhailov," said Bobby Clarke later. "He just laughed all the time. Heh, heh, like that. I'd laugh too, with a six goal lead." Boris Mikhailov, the captain, was named the Soviet team's most valuable player for the series.
He opened the scoring in the second period, after a spectacular opening 20 minutes that was probably the most fun to watch of any period in the series. Mikhailov's goal - after the puck was stolen from Montreal's Bob Gainey - was his third of the series and continued a Soviet stretch in which it scored the final nine goals of the competition.
Within two minutes, the Russians scored again, this time on a power play as xxxxx got his stick on a brilliant cross-ice pass from Helmut Balderis.
It's not a comprehensive look at this player, but from the text, we get a picture of Balderis as more Lafleur than Bure in style, and he seems to have been a huge star for a little while there. The Electric Train is a pretty cool nickname, as well.
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