Edward Ivanov

Edward Ivanov had a North American first name, and he played a North American style of defense. He was a defensive defender who loved to play physically. He would do anything - sacrifice his body, block shots, clear the front of the net - in order for his team to win. He had a great ability to spring transition offense with his deadly accurate passing.

Ivanov had a tough time making the Soviet national team however. National team coach Anatoli Tarasov was weary of Ivanov's reputation as having "gone against the sports regime." After 5 strong seasons, Ivanov seemed destined to play with Krylja Sovetov, a.k.a. the Soviet Wings, forever.

But Ivanov persisted. He called up Tarasov at home and practically begged him for a chance to make the team. Tarasov shrugged him off. A couple of weeks later Ivanov showed up Tarasov's home, and again Ivanov was dismissed without the answer he had come looking for.

Ivanov came back to the house, this time accompanied by his wife. After much hesitation, Tarasov agreed to give Ivanov a chance.

Edward started at the bottom and worked his way to the top. He started as a spare defenseman, but soon he was paired with one of the greatest Russian defensemen of all time - Alexander Ragulin. Ivanov's play quickly improved with the guidance of Ragulin. Soon Ivanov was considered one of the best players in the country, and the Ragulin-Ivanov tandem is still considered to be perhaps the best defensive duo in Russian history, with the possible exception of the Viacheslav Fetisov-Alexei Kasatonov pairing of the 1980s.

Tarasov wrote the following about Ivanov in his book Road to Olympus:

"Like an experienced warrior, he has many fine qualities, courage, and decisiveness. He is entirely dedicated to hockey, he is in love with the game, he thirsts for battle."

I don't think a hockey player on either side of the Atlantic could get a better quote from his coach.

Although the relationship between the two remained rocky at best, Ivanov enjoyed his best years under Tarasov. From 1963 through 1967, Ivanov was part of 4 USSR championships, and 3 world championships.

Always one to tinker with the game, Tarasov was particularly pleased with Ivanov's versatility and complete understanding of the game. This allowed Tarasov to experiment with what was known as "the System." Instead of two conventional defenders backing up three forwards, Tarasov created a five man unit with only one true defender, the great Alexander Ragulin. Vladimir Vikulov and Anatoli Firsov were the explosive forwards, while Viktor Polupanov and Ivanov served as "semi-defensemen," almost like a mid-fielder in soccer. They would roam both ends of the ice, creating odd man situations in both the offensive and defensive zones. Ivanov's ability in both ends led to this revolutionary though still uncommon strategy.

Ivanov's shining moment came at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Ivanvov was a key player of the 1964 gold medal championship team in his only Olympic games. Under the revolutionary roaming system, Ivanov, still technically listed as a defenseman, scored 6 goals and 7 points in 8 contests and was named as the best forward in the Olympics.

The tumultuous relationship between Ivanov and Tarasov came to a head several months prior to 1968 Olympics. Tarasov bannished Ivanov and ending his dream of a second chance at Olympic gold. Ivanov was demoted to a little known team in Kalinin that was the equivalent of today's farm teams.

Though his career with the national team was cut short, the 5'10" 185 pound Ivanov continued to play the game he loved until 1970. Though he was devastated by the demotion and the politics played, he never lost his love of hockey.

"When I played we loved hockey more than anything else," he told Lawrence Martin in the excellent book The Red Machine. "Today the younger players have less pure emotion in their attitude towards the game. We didn't think much about monthly wages. It was important for us just to play hockey."

No comments:

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP