Soviet stars see off Canada for ice hockey gold
Held at the Olympiahalle and the Messehalle, the Innsbruck 1964 men’s ice hockey tournament also doubled up as the IHF World Championships. The competition began with a qualifying round involving the 16 teams and throwing up several mismatches, with the USSR swamping Hungary 19-1, Canada thumping Yugoslavia 14-1 and Czechoslovakia thrashing Japan 17-2.
The three victors in those games were joined in the eight-team medal round by Switzerland, Sweden, USA, German Federal Republic and Finland, while the Hungarians, Yugoslavians and the Japanese fought it out with Norway, Italy, Romania, Poland and Austria for places 9 to 16.
When the competition proper got under way, the USSR, Canada, Sweden and Czechoslovakia wasted little time in presenting their medal credentials, with the Soviets proving especially powerful, thanks in no small part to Konstantin Loktev, who would end the competition as the leading points contributor with 15 (six goals and nine assists). In defeating the USA, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Finland, German Federal Republic and Sweden in their opening six matches, Anatoli Tarasov’s side racked up 51 goals and conceded a mere eight.
In their final game, and with the gold medal at stake, the Soviets came up against a Canada side that had lost just the once in the competition, 3-1 to the Czechs, who ended the tournament with the same 5-2 record as the Swedes.
Nothing less than victory would do for the Canadians in their bid to win gold, which began brightly enough, with Father David Bauer’s young charges taking the lead and ending the second period 2-1 in front. The Soviets levelled at the start of the final period and then settled the match courtesy of a smart three-man move that pulled the Canadian defence out of position and allowed Venyamin Aleksandrov to slip the puck past Seth Martin.
With a maximum 14 points from their seven matches and a goal difference of +44, the USSR regained the Olympic title they had lost to the USA at Squaw Valley 1960, while the unfortunate Canadians finished out of the medals for the first time since ice hockey’s Games debut at Antwerp 1920, on account of having a smaller goal difference than Sweden and Czechoslovakia, who collected silver and bronze respectively.
Canadian consolation came in the way of Seth Martin’s award for best goaltender of the competition, while Czechoslovakia’s Frantisek Tikal was named best defender and the USSR’s Boris Mayorov the best forward, until, that is, his delegation decided Edouard Ivanov was the tournament’s outstanding performer and gave him the award instead.