More Than Just a “Hate Match". Czechoslovakia and the USSR in Cold War Hockey: By John Soares University of Notre Dame
Thu, April 7, 2011 • 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM • UTC 4.112
By 1949, Czechoslovakia had established itself as the preeminent European hockey nation, second only to Canada among perennial world and Olympic medal contenders. But the hockey team was purged in 1950, caught in the political violence and that convulsed the nation in the wake of the 1948 coup, and it was not until the late 1960s that Czechoslovakia regained its status as the world’s second-best hockey program. During the 1950s, Czechoslovakian hockey fans complained that Prague was too proud of the Soviets’ hockey championships, and willing to sacrifice its own team to help the Russians. The 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia intensified the hockey rivalry, as the sport was one of the few ways the people of Czechoslovakia could win victories over the USSR, especially in a field the Soviets considered important.
This talk will examine the Czechoslovakia-USSR hockey rivalry during the Cold War and its political significance. It will tell a story of bitter grudge matches, of worried officials trying to prevent hockey fans in Czechoslovakia from embarrassing the Prague regime or their Kremlin friends, of rioting Czechoslovaks using hockey as an outlet to express their frustration with life in their communist society . . . and of some of the greatest games in hockey history.
John Soares teaches history at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Among his recent publications are essays in Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies and The Journal of Sport History, and the forthcoming Routledge anthology, Sport and the Transformation of Modern Europe: State, Media and Markets, 1950-2000. In the fall of 2010 he was the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in North American Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.