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The Soviets and their "amateur" status

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10-15-2013, 10:51 PM
  #1
kmad
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The Soviets and their "amateur" status

I'm looking to compile some information that challenges the authenticity of the 1970s/1980s Soviet hockey teams' "amateur" status. Borje Salming mentions in his autobiography that everyone knew that they were being paid under the table, but I don't know of any sources outside of that one passage.

Anything out there?

Thanks

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10-15-2013, 11:54 PM
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Killion
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Would it not be more prudent to go back to the 50's & include the 60's in order to trace the development system & Soviet League, the National Team program & how the Soviet Politburo engaged the west in terms of receiving financial compensation & or gifts in kind?... then theres the whole issue of the players themselves. Their military duties for which they drew pay consisted of training & playing hockey & nothing else 10mnths of the year. How is that not professional? The relationship with the IOC, the IIHF & Bunny Ahearne; with the CAHA etc. Where did a fair chunk of change from the Summit 72 & subsequent Canada Cup Series wind-up & to whom was it paid? Ive heard first hand accounts of people carrying Samsonites full of cash into or out of the Soviet Union. These are some seriously murky waters and the people involved, they arent talking.

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10-16-2013, 12:07 AM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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From what I understand, they were paid as members of the military (CSKA) or other trade unions (the other teams), and what would be their normal work duties were basically waived so they could focus on hockey. But they weren't technically getting paid for hockey - they were paid for other things that they then didn't actually have to do.

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10-16-2013, 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
From what I understand, they were paid as members of the military (CSKA) or other trade unions (the other teams), and what would be their normal work duties were basically waived so they could focus on hockey. But they weren't technically getting paid for hockey - they were paid for other things that they then didn't actually have to do.
This is vaguely reminiscent of college football players at major American universities

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10-16-2013, 02:28 AM
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Syckle78
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This is vaguely reminiscent of college football players at major American universities
Was thinking the exact same thing.

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10-16-2013, 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
From what I understand, they were paid as members of the military (CSKA) or other trade unions (the other teams), and what would be their normal work duties were basically waived so they could focus on hockey. But they weren't technically getting paid for hockey - they were paid for other things that they then didn't actually have to do.
Thats correct. Some teams (Here in Czechoslovakia) cooperated with near big factory. Players had there some easy job and were paid for it. But the main program was the training. They were paid also for playing ice hockey, but no way so much as you think. And if someone played for national team, there was also a little boost.

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10-16-2013, 05:56 AM
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Brainiac
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In fact, this whole myth of 'amateur' sports has always been a joke.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, it was simply an occasion for aristocrats to show off either their skills, or the skills of people in their entourage. And later on, you had a lot of people working around this 'amateur' requirement (i.e. soviets and their fake jobs).

Even the 'miracle on ice' is overblown. Half the guys on the team already had signed professional contracts and were just waiting for the olympics before making the jump to the NHL.

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10-16-2013, 05:59 AM
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Canadiens1958
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Pre 1948

Would have to go back to pre 1948 Soviet and eastern European participation in amateur and Olympic sports.

In Canada alone, it was common for amateur or company teams to employ hockey players who enjoyed a significantly reduced work week.

This continued well into the sixties until pressure from unions put an end to the practice.

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10-16-2013, 06:09 AM
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And some how, Jim Thorpe lost his amateur status and Olympic medals in track because he played some semi-pro ball. The IOC has been and always will be a bunch of crooks.

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10-16-2013, 06:59 AM
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Yes, the Jim Thorpe story was an absolute disgrace.

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10-16-2013, 11:02 AM
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Yakushev72
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Originally Posted by Vancouver Blazers View Post
I'm looking to compile some information that challenges the authenticity of the 1970s/1980s Soviet hockey teams' "amateur" status. Borje Salming mentions in his autobiography that everyone knew that they were being paid under the table, but I don't know of any sources outside of that one passage.

Anything out there?

Thanks
In the 1970's and 80's, top flight national team players in the Soviet Union were paid $500-600 (equivalent in dollars) per month. Average club team players made much less than that.

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10-16-2013, 11:07 AM
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Doshell Propivo
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In the 1970's and 80's, top flight national team players in the Soviet Union were paid $500-600 (equivalent in dollars) per month. Average club team players made much less than that.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need...

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10-16-2013, 12:15 PM
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Soviet national level players were given free cars and apartments for life.Many stories about this.Read Igor Larinov book in detail or tretiak

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10-16-2013, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Brainiac View Post
In fact, this whole myth of 'amateur' sports has always been a joke.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, it was simply an occasion for aristocrats to show off either their skills, or the skills of people in their entourage. And later on, you had a lot of people working around this 'amateur' requirement (i.e. soviets and their fake jobs).

Even the 'miracle on ice' is overblown. Half the guys on the team already had signed professional contracts and were just waiting for the olympics before making the jump to the NHL.
How dare you.

Miracle on Ice is one of the best things ever to happen in sports.

On topic - like others mentioned, they were all fake amateurs. Players would train and play full time, but officially they'd be employed by some company or were members of the military. Dukla Trencin in Slovakia for example was a military club (hence the name). They were also paid better than other employees, so they really were by no means amateur athletes.

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10-16-2013, 04:27 PM
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Darth Yoda
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Being an amateur one is not when being able to train all day, all year round. It was kinda the same with the early days Olympics by the way, where only rich people where able to train fully for it. The "Amateur" status has in different ways always been a hoax.


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10-17-2013, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Yakushev72 View Post
In the 1970's and 80's, top flight national team players in the Soviet Union were paid $500-600 (equivalent in dollars) per month. Average club team players made much less than that.
$500-600 in the official equivalent, or? Because, officially $1=0.6 rub, then both my mother and my father, low-level managers in Siberia, earned more.

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10-17-2013, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by jcbio11 View Post
On topic - like others mentioned, they were all fake amateurs. Players would train and play full time, but officially they'd be employed by some company or were members of the military. Dukla Trencin in Slovakia for example was a military club (hence the name). They were also paid better than other employees, so they really were by no means amateur athletes.
IIRC they weren't just better paid they were also offered perks that would have been out of reach for regular citizens, the best cars, great houses, access to Western consumer goods and so forth. It was in many ways a similarly privileged life to a Western professional player just at the lower Soviet Bloc level.

Those perks also gave the coaches a lot of leverage because it wasn't like a contract that they had to keep, if the head coach didn't like you he could make those perks go away like this, so even though it was a materially comfortable life the feeling of being in a cage was also immense.

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10-17-2013, 01:55 PM
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Brainiac
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How dare you.

Miracle on Ice is one of the best things ever to happen in sports.
Well, I'm just saying it as it is.

You know some of these guys were drafted and signed NHL contracts before the Olympics, right?

The myth of an amateur student team beating the almighty soviets is just that, a myth. They played a great tournament, for sure. They were underdogs that performed big time, agreed.

But they were at least semi-pros at that point. They played something like 60 exhibitions games in the months before the Olympics. All expenses (and then some) were covered by Hockey USA. The fact that the NHL paychecks were cashed in merely days after the Olympics is a detail, IMO. These guys were not amateurs.

And the soviets were much worse in that regard anyways. So I'm not dissing what team USA did. Just setting the record straight. The Olympics is not about amateur sports. Never was, never will be.

The current situation is much better and less hypocritical.

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10-17-2013, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Yoda View Post
Being an amateur one is not when being able to train all day, all year round. It was kinda the same with the early days Olympics by the way, where only rich people where able to train fully for it. The "Amateur" status has in different ways always been a hoax.
With focus on 'different ways', the Swedes that went from work as plumbers or construction worker to play (and beat) FC Barcelona were amateurs in the sense of the word.

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10-17-2013, 04:14 PM
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Well, I'm just saying it as it is.

You know some of these guys were drafted and signed NHL contracts before the Olympics, right?

The myth of an amateur student team beating the almighty soviets is just that, a myth. They played a great tournament, for sure. They were underdogs that performed big time, agreed.

But they were at least semi-pros at that point. They played something like 60 exhibitions games in the months before the Olympics. All expenses (and then some) were covered by Hockey USA. The fact that the NHL paychecks were cashed in merely days after the Olympics is a detail, IMO. These guys were not amateurs.

And the soviets were much worse in that regard anyways. So I'm not dissing what team USA did. Just setting the record straight. The Olympics is not about amateur sports. Never was, never will be.

The current situation is much better and less hypocritical.
I think you're missing the point.

It doesn't matter that some of them had already signed NHL contracts before they played in the Olympics. The facts are that a bunch of American college kids, who had no business beating the otherwise super dominant best team of that time, beat them and then went on to win the gold medal. That was the mother of all upsets.

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10-18-2013, 01:14 AM
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I think you're missing the point.

It doesn't matter that some of them had already signed NHL contracts before they played in the Olympics. The facts are that a bunch of American college kids, who had no business beating the otherwise super dominant best team of that time, beat them and then went on to win the gold medal. That was the mother of all upsets.
It's 2 games, these things do happen, and then myths get built around them.

It's all part of the allure of sports for some.

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10-18-2013, 12:40 PM
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Brainiac
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I think you're missing the point.

It doesn't matter that some of them had already signed NHL contracts before they played in the Olympics. The facts are that a bunch of American college kids, who had no business beating the otherwise super dominant best team of that time, beat them and then went on to win the gold medal. That was the mother of all upsets.
I agree with the upset part. Maybe not the mother of all upsets, but it's up there, for sure.

Disagree about the 'college kids' part.

These guys were young, but not college kids anymore, IMO. How do you play 60 exhibition games in 5 months and still go to college? That's three games a week plus travelling. Pro hockey schedule.

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10-18-2013, 01:00 PM
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Killion
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I agree with the upset part. Maybe not the mother of all upsets, but it's up there, for sure.

Disagree about the 'college kids' part.

These guys were young, but not college kids anymore, IMO. How do you play 60 exhibition games in 5 months and still go to college? That's three games a week plus travelling. Pro hockey schedule.
Yes but even still and with the benefit of hindsight only 7 of them actually went on to careers in the NHL:

Dave Silk
Neal Broten
Ken Morrow
Mike Ramsey
Dave Christian
Mark Johnson
Jack O'Callahan

... with arguably the squads 2 MVP's in Jim Craig having a time of it, Mike Eruzione Team USA's Captain deciding he'd reached the pinnacle and so that was that. Both seemingly having played right out of their minds and left it all out there on the ice in one glorious shining moment. They accomplished as a team what even the NHL's All Star Teams were incapable of. It was a Major Upset and absolutely these guys were amateurs. Of the list of players who did go on to play in the NHL, were talking maybe 2 or 3 that stand out but even at that not significantly over their contemporaries. I would call it the "Mother of All Upsets" and I havent seen anything since that would come close to topping it; nor really anything previously with the exception of the 72 Summit Series when the Soviets showed everyone what they were really capable of.

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10-18-2013, 03:58 PM
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Christoff and McClanahan had decent, albeit not overly long, careers as well

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10-19-2013, 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Brainiac View Post
I agree with the upset part. Maybe not the mother of all upsets, but it's up there, for sure.

Disagree about the 'college kids' part.

These guys were young, but not college kids anymore, IMO. How do you play 60 exhibition games in 5 months and still go to college? That's three games a week plus travelling. Pro hockey schedule.
Oh, can't stand the 'bunch of college kids' tag, often coming from the detractors of Soviet hockey.

It's a great story, no question about that. Even a Miracle? Wellll, kind of. But with the benefit of hindsight, I think one is allowed to put things into perspective; i.e. The US team wasn't as weak on paper as it is too often portrayed, the Soviets (and Czechoslovakia) were in the middle of a difficult transition period (the 'best' players finally too old, the young guns not quite ready to take over yet). Plus USA did not lose single game in the tournament and were always coming on strong in the last period; vs. Sweden, vs. Czechoslovakia, vs. Finland and of course vs. USSR. Obviously it was a very good team, even though they failed to convince in the exhibition games before the Olympics. And don't forget that the Soviets barely won the games against Finland (1-2 for FIN just six minutes before the ending) and Canada (still 4-4 in the 3rd period).
Only in the last game ('the great battle for the silver medal' ) against Sweden did the Soviets play like the were supposed to with that roster. But in the words of the color guy Tom Watt: "Too late guys!"

Poland beat the Soviets in the 1976 WC held in Katowice, Poland, now there's a miracle! But of course that was 'just' the World Championships and not Olympics - even though hockey in the Olympics pre-1990s wasn't really any better than in the WCs - and that was 'just' Poland and the their victory didn't lead to anywhere. However, no matter how big a mess the Soviet national team was at that point, and it was, they should have never ever lost to Poland. That's much more difficult for me to grasp than the 1980 miracle.

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