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Nikolay Sologubov: Five in attack, five in defence (1958)

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Old
04-19-2017, 01:16 PM
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Theokritos
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Nikolay Sologubov: Five in attack, five in defence (1958)

In his book Совершеннолетие ("Coming of Age", 1968=2nd edition), Anatoly Tarasov recalls the development of Soviet tactics.
Tarasov (1968): "The traditional formation of the hockey team (a goaltender, two defencemen and three forwards) remained unchanged, but the function of the players went through some changes. First, there were two stationary defencemen. Then a wandering defenceman appeared something like a halfback or midfielder [in soccer]. Years pass and there is another novelty: wandering forwards whose game is no longer just linear but also diagonal, interchangeable. They move beyond their narrow lanes. But for the time being only the wingers switch places while the center defends. Later, one of the defencemen began to join the attack. This allowed the interchangeability of all forwards, both among themselves and with the active defencemen. And thus the general principle became: 'Five in attack, five in defence'."

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Менее заметно менялась тактика игры в хоккее. Классическое построение хоккейной команды: вратарь, два защитника и три нападающих оставалось неизменным. Несколько менялись лишь функции игроков. Сначала играли два позиционных защитника. Потом появился блуждающий защитник, что‑то вроде хавбека полузащитника. Проходят годы, и вот еще одна новинка, блуждающие форварды. Их игра отличается не только продольными, но и диагональными перемещениями, взаимозаменяемостью. Они выходят за рамки своих узких желобков. Но пока еще местами меняются только крайние нападающие, а центральный держится в обороне. Позже один из защитников стал подключаться к атакам. Это позволило внести взаимозаменяемость всех нападающих как между собой, так и с активно действующими защитниками. А теперь начали все играть по принципу: пять в атаке, пять в обороне.
In a later book, Хоккей грядущего ("Hockey of the Future", 1971=2nd edition), Tarasov directly links this development particularly the crucial change in the approach of the defencemen to the performance of defenceman Nikolay Sologubov:
Tarasov (1971): "If not for Nikolay Sologubov with his amazing and colossal hockey sense, would we coaches have figured out the game with a wandering defenceman so early, in the 9th year of Soviet hockey? And then the system 'five in attack, five in defence'?"

Quote:
Не будь у нас в свое время удивительного, обладающего колоссальной игровой интуицией Николая Сологубова, разве догадались бы мы, тренеры, так быстро (на девятом году от начала "летоисчисления" нашегохоккея) придумать игру сначала с блуждающим защитником, а потом и систему игры "пять в атаке, пять в обороне".
Later he states:
Tarasov (1971): "Increased difficulty in the game will force the athlete to improve his skills on a constant basis. If we had not tried to implement our game of 'five in attack, five in defence' twelve years ago despite of the fact we only had one player of that kind, Nikolay Sologubov, then I'm sure we could not have developed and improved that tactic so successfully."

Quote:
Так вот, игровая идея с повышенной трудностью заставит спортсмена изо дня в день совершенствовать свое мастерство. Если бы мы не пытались строить свою игру "пять в атаке, пять в обороне" еще двенадцать лет назад, когда у нас в общем-то и был всего один защитник подобного типа - Николай Сологубов, то - я не сомневаюсь - мы не смогли бы так успешно развить и усовершенствовать эту тактику.
Tarasov's remarks date the appearance of the "wandering defenceman" in Soviet hockey to circa 1954 (the 9th year of their hockey chronology would be 1953-54, Sologubov was called up to the national team in 1954-55) and the implementation of 'five in attack, five in defence' to the late 1950s. The latter dating is confirmed by an article published in 1958 and written by no-other than Nikolay Sologubov himself. (See following posts.)

For reference, here are some North American takes on Sologubov's quality and his two-way game:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Gordon Orr View Post

Bobby Bauer (Canadian/Kitchener coach in 1956, former NHL All-Star) said:
Sologubov could star on any National Hockey League team. - 1956

Foster Hewitt (Hockey broadcaster) said:
Solly is the best two-way defenceman I have seen in a long time. - 1956

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04-19-2017, 01:18 PM
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Sologubov's article is titled "All in defence, all in attack" and appeared in the February 1958 edition of the Спортивные игры (Sportivnye igry, "Sporting Games") magazine. (For the Russian original text, see here.) It was written under the impression of the first Soviet tour of Canada in November-December 1957. The Soviet national team had some trouble with the tactics of the Canadian clubs, particularly in the early stage of the tour. Here's what a Canadian observer wrote after the first game, a 2-7 defeat against the Whitby Dunlops:
Montreal Gazette: "The Russians had little know-how in their own end of the ice and were badly disorganized when the Dunlops threw five men at them."
Sologubov's explanations provide some background to this. Reflecting on the Canadian experience, he summarises the development of Soviet defensive tactics and techniques from the 1940s to 1957/1958, calls for interchangeability between defencemen and forwards and demands that the Soviet players should become "universal players".




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04-19-2017, 01:19 PM
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Nikolay Sologubov:

"The craft of the defencemen in ice hockey has continuously improved. Recently, it has been enriched with new techniques that require even higher technical skills, unusual strength and endurance, and a quick and error-free reaction.

When I started playing as a defenceman on the CSKA hockey team back in 1949, my tasks were the same as they're now, but they were performed in a very different manner.

How did a defenceman play at that time? He was stationary as can be, maneuvered at a slow pace near the goal and only crossed the red line with great caution. Rarely, in fact very rarely did a defenceman decide to come forward to take part in the attack. The contrast between the fast and mobile forwards and the slow defencemen was quite pronounced. But gradually, from year to year, a new type of defence began to emerge where the defencemen didn't just defend but also made attempts to attack. Taking advantage of the fact that I had a reliable partner in Vladimir Nikanorov, I began to raid the other half of the rink and join the attacks. When we lost the puck, I quickly skated back and generally managed to return in time to help my partner.

Those were my first attempts to activate the game from the defence. I simply felt the desire to move and to not be disconnected from the vigorous and passionate struggle on the ice. It seemed to me that if the defenceman was actively helping their forwards, then their attacks were more dangerous for the opponent. Many other defencemen shared my thoughts and the thoughts were followed by actions. And thus, instead of the slow-moving and stationary guardian of the goal, there gradually appeared another type of defenceman: one aggressively and sharply attacking anyone who tried to approach the blue line.

Above all, a defenceman needs to have two qualities: determination and composure. It's important for him to gain the respect of the opponent from the first minute of the game. That's our tactic. We immediately try to establish an 'understanding' with the opponent: so that he understands he is not going to be given a way through. In order to convince the forwards of that, it's usually enough to lay a few bodychecks. We closely monitor what the forwards do and try to catch them at the time when they stop watching the ice and concentrate all their attention on the puck. In that moment they are easy prey and to handle them according to the rules of the physical game is not a big deal for such experienced players as, for example, my comrades Genrikh Sidorenkov, Dmitry Ukolov, Ivan Tregubov or Alfred Kuchevsky.

But in the physical game, the defenceman should not be too bold. No matter how easily he manages to deal with the forwards and stop their attacks, he must still be very careful in every new encounter. Usually the forward has an advantage in speed and hence in the force of impact. Taking advantage of this, he can bring the defenceman down and break through to the goal. Therefore I try to determine what the forward is up to once I approach him. At the same time I try to demonstrate him in every possible way that I'm fully determined to go to the limit and I'm ready for the sharpest clash.

As long as you don't violate the rules of the physical game, the opponent usually doesn't harbor anger against you, no matter how tough you play him. He too is an athlete and he understands that you are acting within the established rules. But if a forward behaves otherwise and wants to knock you off your feet to deprive you of your self-confidence, then it is very important to realize his intentions in time and oppose his efforts.

The ability to use the various methods of physical play is an indispensable quality for a good defenceman. There are plenty of these techniques. In choosing any of them (the one best suited for the situation), the athlete pursues one goal: to interrupt the attack of the opponent.

What happens after the defenceman has interrupted the puck? There it is on the blade of his stick. Now it should be directed to one of the forwards as quickly and accurately as possible to instantly launch a counterattack. But who should the puck be passed to? Usually each forward believes he is the one who is in the most advantageous position and that the puck should be sent only to him. With gestures and words he demands the defenceman to give him the puck. However, the decision who to pass to is up to the defenceman himself and he must make that decision with lightning speed, in a fraction of a second.

He must always remember that a bad pass can put his partner at risk. While the rules don't allow a player to be hit while he doesn't have the puck, he can become the target of a rutheless bodycheck as soon as he receives the puck. That is why even in the hottest fight the defenceman who passes to puck must not make a mistake when deciding whether his forward will have time to handle the puck sent to him, avoid the opponent's hit and will not be attacked immediately.

Thus, there are three basic requirements for a hockey defenceman: 1) he must have a cool head and a passionate heart, 2) he must own the whole arsenal of bodychecks, 3) he has to pass the puck immediately, accurately and without mistake once has has stripped it off the opponent. But today these qualities are no longer enough. Now a high-profile defenceman does not only need the ability to defend, but also the ability to go forward. The participation of defencemen in the attack is no longer an exception but the rule. While one of the defencemen joins the forwards, his partner covers the defensive end. This is the fourth requirement for the hockey defenceman.

The systematic participation of defencemen in the attack puts a new and complex problem before our teams. Until 1949 we believed that the defencemen don't need such frequent substitutions as the forwards. In fact, back then one shift of the defencemen was often as long as two shifts of the forwards. And that was actually quite right when you consider how much larger the game load of the center forward was compared to the defencemen back then. But the situation has changed. With the offensive forays and the rapid hunts back to the goal, the game is more physically demanding for the defenceman now. If they can't get a minute or two of rest, he loses his freshness and begins to make mistakes.

We encountered this phenomenon in our first game in Canada [in November 1957]. Playing against the Allan Cup-winning Whitby Dunlops, our future rivals at the [1958] World Championship in Oslo, we ran into an already familiar tactic of the Canadian hockey players: attacking the slot. The Canadians used this tactic at the 1955 World Championship and the 1956 Winter Olympic Games and now the home team introduced us to its most dangerous variety with some of the best Canadian forwards driving to the slot. In addition, they had the opportunity to rest more often than usual, as by mutual agreement the game was played with four forward lines instead of three. We were faced with a continuos whirlwind of attacks. And since we defencemen [Sologubov, Tregubov, Ukolov, Sidorenkov] didn't have the opportunity to rest, we became very exhausted and made plenty of mistakes.

Without denying our responsibility for the defeat, we still have to ask: why are there no players on our team able to replace us defencemen so that we can rest and regain our strength? Our forwards aren't up to that task. But aren't they supposed to help their defencemen in difficult moments? Of course, they are. And the Canadians indeed show how to do it. When we met the Whitby Dunlops, the team of Windsor, the Kitchener Dutchmen and other teams, their forwards replaced their defencemen with aplomb. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of us. When our forwards try to help the defencemen in difficult minutes, they usually make the mistake of playing in the same rhythm as when attacking the goal of the opponent. But the defensive game requires a different rhythm, one primarily suited to ensure the soundness and flawlessness of the operations. When playing in the defence, you need the ability to see through the deceptive moves of the forwards and to pick the most advantageous position to protect your goal.

The conclusion can be only one: we need to achieve interchangeability of the defencemen and forwards, and we need to make sure that every forward can competently take the place of a defenceman and every defender can become a forward whenver it's required.

In my opinion that ability would be the measure of a high-class player. The tactic of continuous pressure which we met in Canada must be countered with a tactic of trouble-free and well-coordinated interaction of all our players. That's why it is time to demand that every hockey player learns how to efficiently master both attacking and defensive techniques.

The most universal weapon of defence and attack are bodychecks. They should be mastered in all subtleties and widely used. We need to ensure that not only the center forward but also the wingers know how to interact with the defenders in a coordinated and accurate manner.

Observing the play of the best Canadian and American defencemen convinced me that they are following a completely different tactic than we do. Quite often they join the rest of the players in the attack and lay a permanent siege to the opponents' goal that can drive even the most experienced player to despair. We on the other hand usually try to take fewer risks and keep our goal guarded [while attacking]. Once we had figured out the pressure tactics applied by the Canadians, we countered with fast passing and with the creation of a numerical advantage at the right time at the right place of the ice. This tactic, which requires that the defencemen take part in the attack, brought us five victories over strong Canadian teams.

During our stay in Canada we got acquainted with the game of the best teams of the homeland of hockey and gained valuable experience. And, most importantly, we came to the conviction that a modern hockey player of high international class has to be a universal player. The sooner we solve the problem of preparing universal players who can equally attack and defend, the higher the class of our hockey will be and the more we will achieve in international meetings with the strongest teams of the world."

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04-19-2017, 03:33 PM
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I think that definitively answers your question from a few months ago about what they mean by "universal" players.

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04-20-2017, 04:27 AM
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Originally Posted by seventieslord View Post
I think that definitively answers your question from a few months ago about what they mean by "universal" players.
You're referring to this:

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Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
Unfortunately I don't know what it was that Lloyd Percival wrote that promted Tarasov to warn against the "universalization of hockey". But terms like "universalization of hockey" and "universal player" can be found time and time again in Russian hockey literature of the 1960s and 1970s. Two examples from this very thread:

Vsevolod Bobrov: "The mastery of Sologubov always lied in his universality (универсализме): the proficiency to support the offence both frequently and effectively."
Anatoly Tarasov: "Some even said Starshinov is a universalist (универсал). They said he could be used as a defenceman. No! Vyacheslav is an exemplary center forward with a very accomplished defensive game, that's what he is."

Here we go: Tarasov contradicting the fans of "universal players". As we can see from these and other examples, "universal player" means "versatile player", in particular "two-way player". Does that mean Tarasov was against two-way hockey? No he wasn't, but he did indeed think that two-way hockey could be taken too far. In particular, he opposed the ideas of Nikolay Epshtein (coach of Khimik Voskresensk) who seems to have preached that every player (skater) should be able to play as a forward as well as a defenceman. In Tarasov's eyes that concept only led to mediocrity in both offensive and defensive ability of the players and it ran contrary to the (desired) development of Soviet hockey. Thus his reservations regarding the idea of an "universalization" of hockey.
It's clear that "universal player" means "two-way player". But even though Tarasov embraced the two-way principle of five in attack, five in defence in 1958/1959 (see post 1 in this thread), he still criticized the notion that there should be "universal players". Forwards should become defencemen and defencemen should become forwards? A "universalist" like Starshinov could effectively be used as a defenceman? Tarasov considered these notions misguided and excessive.

In 1965 someone (Tarasov doesn't name the author, but it seems to have been Khimik Voskresensk coach Nikolay Epshteyn, as mentioned in the older post above) published an article that apparently repeated or restated Sologubov's position from 1958. According to Tarasov, the article argued the principle 'five in attack, five in defence' had not been implemented thoroughly as the players had not yet become universalists like the Canadians. Tarasov replies with a chapter titled "To go your own way. Do we need universalists?".
Tarasov (1968): "It would seem that the success of Soviet hockey in recent years should have made everybody accept allegiance to the path we have chosen. But in 1965 one of our most respected coaches and experts speaks out in a magazine and encourages our players to universalize, explaining this proposal with the fact that the elite players among the Canadian professional masters are all universalists.
Yes, the Canadians are virtuosos and universalists. Their professionals are top-notch players whose game is based on the highest level of individual skill. That's why they still pay no regard to tactical innovations and play in an old-fashioned way, following the simple principle: go where the puck is and play there. That's why they play anywhere on the ice.
The author of the article believes it's time to demand from our players the capability to play anywhere. After all, he says, we're now following the principle 'five in attack, five in defence'.
But unfortunately 'all in attack, all in defence' doesn't mean every player is equally good on every position. For example, the overwhelming majority of our forwards is still significantly better than our defencemen when it comes to finishing an attack successfully. And the universalists we have are almost all average players: they all seem to know both how to attack and to defend, but only on a mediocre level.
I firmly believe that under our conditions, when the team is a harmonious and cohesive unit with a strong sense of collectivism, only he can be considered an outstanding master who has the brightest hallmarks of talent and unique individual qualities, and that they give him the right to perform a peculiar role. (...) My ideal is not an average all-around player who is equal in all elements of his skill, but an all-around player who has some brilliant individual qualities and his own peculiarities, even if there is something else he doesn't know how to do so well. That's why I strongly disagree with the way some of our coaches educate their players. Working on their weaknesses inch by inch, they pay less attention to the bright side of their gift."

Quote:
Казалось бы, успехи советского хоккея в последние годы должны были утвердить всех в верности избранного нами пути. Но вот в 1965 году один из наших самых уважаемых тренеров и специалистов выступает в журнале и призывает наших игроков к универсализации, объясняя это свое предложение тем, что универсалами являются все крупнейшие профессиональные канадские мастера.
Да, канадцы виртуозы, универсалы. Канадские профессионалы игроки высокого класса. За их игрой кроется высочайшее индивидуальное мастерство. Вот почему они пока еще пренебрегают тактическими новшествами и играют по старинке, по немудреному принципу: где шайба, там и играй. Вот почему они и играют на любом месте. Автор статьи считает, что уже пора потребовать и от наших хоккеистов умения играть на любом месте. В конце концов, поясняет он, мы и сейчас действуем по принципу пять в атаке, пять в обороне.
Но все в нападении, все в защите это вовсе, к сожалению, не значит, что каждый наш хоккеист одинаково хорошо играет на любом месте. Все‑таки абсолютное большинство нападающих у нас существенно отличается от защитников. Хотя бы, например, умением более успешно завершать атаки команды. И пока почти все наши универсалы это, как правило, середняки. Они вроде все умеют и нападать и защищаться, но получается это у них посредственно.
Я твердо уверен, что в наших условиях, когда команда представляет собой необычайно дружный, сплоченный коллектив, сильный именно своим коллективизмом, выдающимся мастером можно считать лишь того, кто обладает яркими чертами спортивного таланта, какими‑то индивидуальными качествами, присущими только ему одному и дающими право ему выступать в определенном амплуа. (...)
Мой идеал не средний многоборец, равный во всех элементах мастерства, а многоборец с какими‑то блестящими индивидуальными качествами, со своим коньком, пусть даже что‑то и не умеющий хорошо делать. Вот почему я считаю совсем неправильным, когда иные наши тренеры воспитывают у своих подопечных. Всего понемножку, подтягивая слабые стороны, меньше обращают внимания на яркие черты дарования парня.

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04-20-2017, 08:54 PM
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Great Contribution

Great contribution offering insight into the evolution of Soviet hockey, internal perceptions and objectives.

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04-20-2017, 10:28 PM
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There are some examples of Soviet players changing positions.

Eduard Ivanov at 1964 OG might be the most famous example. Konstantinov has played as a forward also.

I don't know if they are examples of forwards playing defense, but wouldn't surprise me.

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04-21-2017, 11:01 AM
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Soviet Hockey

Quick question.

Soviet hockey has rarely featured hybrid or diversification amongst their skaters.

Examples, Doug Mohns, Jim Roberts, Red Kelly, Ron Stewart etc,who were strong defencemen as well as forwards, moving back and forth at various times of their career. Or specialists who could play the role of the extra forward and defenceman depending on game situations - Bob Turner, Reg Fleming. Or forwards who could play at least two if not all three forward positions - Don Marshall. Picked NHL players contemporary to the discussion.

Was this by choice or question of circumstance?. If there were such players, examples appreciated. Maltsev would be one but seems to be a National Team situation.

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04-21-2017, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Quick question.

Soviet hockey has rarely featured hybrid or diversification amongst their skaters.

Examples, Doug Mohns, Jim Roberts, Red Kelly, Ron Stewart etc,who were strong defencemen as well as forwards, moving back and forth at various times of their career. Or specialists who could play the role of the extra forward and defenceman depending on game situations - Bob Turner, Reg Fleming. Or forwards who could play at least two if not all three forward positions - Don Marshall. Picked NHL players contemporary to the discussion.

Was this by choice or question of circumstance?. If there were such players, examples appreciated. Maltsev would be one but seems to be a National Team situation.
I'm not aware of any and hardly surprising given the Soviet system itself which was highly disciplined & regimented, players playing X's did not become O's with the exception of the transitional zone, much more an east-west game, full cycle. A system based (and way ahead of its time) much more on mathematical & statistical formulae with very few (if any?) role conversion's from Forward to Defence, Defence to Forward, each man expected to be Utilitarian coming or going, through the transitional zone, a game of puck possession & constant passing. The NA game considerably more individualistic, carrying the puck once encouraged & a big part of the game, instinctual, north-south. Based, taught through experience, Darwinian, artistic, accidental. A different kind of discipline & indoctrination from the more formative ages in individuals participating in team sports during the Soviet era in Russia. Forced perspectives, roles, a kind of artificial intelligence, of ice cold Spockian logic. A computer program though one that did (and still does albeit sporadically) turn out some incredible art.

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04-21-2017, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Quick question.

Soviet hockey has rarely featured hybrid or diversification amongst their skaters.

Examples, Doug Mohns, Jim Roberts, Red Kelly, Ron Stewart etc,who were strong defencemen as well as forwards, moving back and forth at various times of their career. Or specialists who could play the role of the extra forward and defenceman depending on game situations - Bob Turner, Reg Fleming. Or forwards who could play at least two if not all three forward positions - Don Marshall. Picked NHL players contemporary to the discussion.

Was this by choice or question of circumstance?. If there were such players, examples appreciated. Maltsev would be one but seems to be a National Team situation.
If you referencing Maltsev because of his versatility at forward position, then I see it, but he would be just about the last choice to play defense.

The most interesting switch in Soviet hockey history was probably Firsov becoming a Center late in his career. That is not an easy transition to make, but Firsov's work ethic was legendary and it was successful.

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04-21-2017, 12:31 PM
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Irek Gimaev played both as a defenceman and as a forward. On the national team, I think he played mostly (exclusively?) as a forward.

Vasily Pervukhin played some games as a forward (at center) at the 1986 World Championships, but it was out of necessity (injuries), I think.

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04-21-2017, 03:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Soviet hockey has rarely featured hybrid or diversification amongst their skaters.

Examples, Doug Mohns, Jim Roberts, Red Kelly, Ron Stewart etc,who were strong defencemen as well as forwards, moving back and forth at various times of their career. Or specialists who could play the role of the extra forward and defenceman depending on game situations - Bob Turner, Reg Fleming. Or forwards who could play at least two if not all three forward positions - Don Marshall. Picked NHL players contemporary to the discussion.

Was this by choice or question of circumstance?. If there were such players, examples appreciated.
Nikolay Epshteyn who coached Khimik Voskresensk from 1955-1975 was known for letting players switch between forward and defenceman positions quite regularly and with reference to the Canadian "universalists". But that's precisely what Tarasov is speaking out against in the last of the passages I have provided above. The only Khimik player who made it to the national team as long as Tarasov was responsible for the roster selection (1962-1972) was Valery Nikitin (who almost annually switches between being listed as D and as RW on the top 34 lists in the 1960s). Nikitin did offer the Soviet team some flexibility (as this report from the 1970 World Championship shows), but Tarasov still thought he could have become a better player if he had found his true place instead of switching around. In fact, right after expressing his objections against the "universalization" of players (as quoted above), Tarasov proceeds to single out Nikitin as an example. I can provide that passage later when I have time.

By the way, Nikitin and his teammate Viktor Kungurtsev switched between D and F so regularly that I labeled both players as "F/D" in the thread on the 1965-1966 Soviet League season. The other examples of such players from that season are from Dinamo Kiev (Georgy Yudin) and Sibir Novosibirsk (Valentin Grigoryev), the bottom dwellers of the league.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxV View Post
Eduard Ivanov at 1964 OG might be the most famous example. Konstantinov has played as a forward also.
I don't think Ivanov played as a forward in 1964. Yes, the coaches handed him the IIHF best forward award, so that looks like solid evidence. But none of the reports and recollections (by Tarasov etc) I have seen ever mention Ivanov playing forward, in fact they don't even mention the best forward award: they only speak of the "individual award" that Ivanov deserved for delivering the best performance of all the players on the Soviet team.

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