I'm sure he meant it. For many of the Russians who played in the 70s and early 80s, the Canadiens were, by far, the most admired team. The New Year's Eve 1975 game made a deep impression on Red Army players, especially Tretiak who gave a simply incredible performance.
must reads for Habs fan:
The Game -Dryden
Lions in Winter - cant remember the authors
For the Defense - Robinson
Any book written by Dick Irvin
Before Markov signed his first big contract he had discussion with Tretiak. There was discussions that he could play in the RSL and Tretiak was a huge supporter of the league. Tretiak told him that if had the opportunity to play for the Habs he should sign with them and not play in the RSL.
Tretiak is a huge Habs fan, he even bought a brick for the centennial plaza.
From what I remember, Tretiak thought for sure he was coming over after the Olympics. The Russian government changed their mind, because they had told him he could come, as soon as he won the gold metal. He was furious when they changed their mind and he promptly retired in response rather than keep representing them at international events.
As far as the stick goes. Most Russians in that day used Jofa equipment including sticks if my memory isn't too faulty.
Also, had he come over, who here thinks that Steve Penney and Doug Soetaert would have seen too much ice. It might have affected Roy somewhat at the start of his career. But the team would have been better in the 84 and 85 playoffs.
Just think of Patrick Roy being mentored by Tretiak his first couple years in the league, maybe Roy would have been even better in the long run despite less playing time to start. A Tretiak/Roy duo through the late 80s sounds incredible...