International Ice Hockey Federation

Legend no. 20

Legend no. 20

Vladislav Tretiak talks IIHF Worlds

Published 12.04.2023 16:34 GMT+3 | Author Pavel Lysenkov
Legend no. 20
The legend and the veteran in the net: Vladislav Tretiak and Semyon Varlamov. Photo: Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images
Vladislav Tretiak was a natural at No. 20. When he first joined the Soviet national team he was only 17 and taken under the wing of Viktor Konovalenko.

When Konovalenko retired he passed his number on to Tretiak, who ended up winning three World Championships and an Olympic medal by the age of 20, on his way to becoming an icon of Russian ice hockey.

And now, as president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, Tretiak is hoping for a gold medal on home ice. Ice Times sat down with Tretiak to discuss the big month ahead.

Days away from the start of the World Championship, what is the atmosphere like in Moscow and St. Petersburg?

It’s an atmosphere of festivities. We are preparing for a very important event in the life of our country. We have traditions as the capital is hosting the World Championship for the sixth time in history and are all waiting for great hockey.

St. Petersburg, which hosted the World Championship in 2000, is nothing inferior to Moscow. They also love hockey there. We recently conducted test games at the «Yubileiny», playing twice against the Norway national team. The strong reaction of the fans showed that they will certainly come to watch the games against Canada, USA, Finland…

How is the new Ice Palace in Moscow?

It’s a very nice palace with a capacity of 12,000 spectators. Moscow has been waiting for such a stadium for a long time. But I am glad that we also gave a second life to the «Yubileiny» in St Petersburg. It was so old but we have restored it and the city got a brand new arena.

The new Russian Ice Hockey Hall of Fame opens during the tournament, what can fans expect?

Actually, even I do not know because the Russian Ice Hockey Hall of Fame has not been presented yet. It is a surprise for me too. But I am sure that all the achievements of Soviet and Russian hockey will be on display there. All our big wins. All the unique games which make the whole country proud.

The Hall of Fame of Toronto was a template. I hope that with time, our museum will tend towards this ideal.

Three Russians – Sergei Fyodorov, Valeri Kamenski, Nikolai Ozerov - will be recognized by the IIHF Hall of Fame.

Almost every year, a Russian is recognized by the Hall of Fame – either at the NHL or the IIHF. We have many deserving players.

And I shall certainly congratulate Sergei Fyodorov and Valeri Kamenski. It is good that Nikolai Ozerov is being recognized – he is a legendary commentator in our country. He was a fan of Spartak, and I played for CSKA. But I am grateful to Ozerov for never scolding me. We had a warm respectful relationship. He sympathized with me from the very first minutes of my career. He saw that a skinny-eared 17-year-old boy was strolling on the ice. Ozerov always praised me. I never heard any bad comments from him.

Of the ten World Championship golds you’ve won, is there any that is most memorable?

They are all memorable. But if I have to choose, I would pick the second gold. For the first World Championship in 1970 I was the second goalkeeper. I was behind the back of Viktor Konovalenko, I played two and a half matches. And then in 1971 I played in decisive games. I became the number one goalkeeper in the country.

And how could I forget year 1978, when we celebrated the 50 years of hockey of Czechoslovakia? We had to win with a difference of two goals. And we won in Prague with a score of 3-1.

In 1974 in Helsinki, when we were lagging behind CSSR (2-7)? We had to take the win for the second game and we did it – 3-1. You remember those tournaments best where you won the gold through hardships. In Moscow we won easily two times (1973, 1979).

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced since becoming president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia?

Our country is special. At a time we had not won anything for 15 years and would have been happy with any medal.

And then when after 2008 we won four golds. Last year’s silver in Prague was kind of bitter. Canada has gathered a very tough team. But the people were not happy: “How come? Only silver…” Nowadays any medal is achieved through hardships. The class of the teams is more uniform. Switzerland, Germany, Norway – any of them can give us a surprise. France has already won against Russia and Canada. Who can give an exact forecast that some team will win against the other?

We have to respect everyone. And any medal at the World Championship is a great result.

Do you have any goals for the Russian program through the next years?

In recent years, the interest in hockey in Russia has grown much. Officially there are 92,000 players in our country. In general, the sport attracts about 500,000 people.

We doubled the number of children involved. The number of hockey arenas with artificial ice has also doubled. We are now third in the number of rinks. However, we unfortunately still lag behind Switzerland or Finland per capita. But we made a huge leap. Hockey is so popular in Russia, that it is necessary to create conditions for it. Then good players will certainly appear.

Ice hockey has changed a bit since you played, how would a young Vladislav Tretiak handle the game today?

Young Tretiak could calmly play for CSKA. The 20-year-old Ilya Sorokin had a great playoff for the CSKA. Was I any worse? (laughs)

On the contrary, it is easier to play now. Because the equipment has improved. Light and reliable, the whole body is protected.

Also, the game style of goalkeepers has changed. The techniques have changed. There is only one difficulty – hockey is now faster, shots are stronger. But you can get used to it upon training. And it is easier for the Soviet goalkeeper to adapt to the hockey of the future than the Soviet forward.

What is the biggest difference between Russian hockey today versus Soviet hockey in your time?

The most important is speed. The rules of the game have changed, now all hockey players fly like rockets. Before we used to put more emphasis on techniques and combinations.

Now the Russian style is tending more towards the Canadian style. Throw the puck into the zone, run, pressure. Many of our teams promote such a kind of hockey.

But watch how we played for the Super Series in 1972. It was a completely different style! What has changed? The red line has been removed, and it changed a lot.

Beyond the World Championship are you looking forward to the return of the World Cup of Hockey?

We have already announced the team composition of 16 players. The bridge from the World Championship to the World Cup will build itself. An athlete is not accustomed to rest.

The September event in Toronto is another stage of preparation. It is very prestigious for our players to play for the World Cup. It is a test of their strength. And a challenge to find out our international level.

With the next Olympics in Korea, do you believe NHL player participation is key to raising the profile of the game in Asia?

It is difficult to say. It depends largely on the players themselves. If they act cohesively with the NHLPA, the best NHL stars will go to South Korea. Club owners will release them.

You’ve won so many accolades as a player, which one are you most proud of?

It is awkward to talk about myself… I believe I do not deserve it… But sometimes people say: “Vladislav Tretiak – the best goalkeeper of all times”. My surname even features in songs.

It is not a correct phrase. There are many great goalkeepers who were nothing less. But when they say it even abroad, it is very pleasant. It means I have achieved something in hockey.


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