In the 1972 Summit Series Alexander Sidelnikov had the loneliest job of all Soviet players. He, along with Viktor Zinger, was the backup netminder and never had a chance to play in the series as he played behind the great Vladislav Tretiak.
"Although I didn't play in the series, it helped me a great deal. I played center in junior and when I became a goaltender, I used to move out of the net a lot, trying to intercept passes. Our coaches wanted me to stay within the crease. After the series they let me play my own style. We had seen the best goaltenders in the world and each one of them had his own style," he said on the back of a 1991 hockey card put out by Future Trends Enterprises.
Throughout much of his career Alexander Sidelnikov rarely was able to play for the national team in international competition. He may have been the second best goalie in Russia during the 1970s, but he was nowhere near as good as the number one guy - Tretiak. Then again, there were very few goalies in North America who had Tretiak's abilities.
Sidelnikov, who played for Krylia Sovetov when not backing up on the national team, would only get "gimme games" in such tournaments like the World Championships. In other words, the mighty Soviets would give Tretiak a break only if they were playing a truly weak opponent - second class hockey nations such as Poland or East and West Germany.
One of the most famous games in which Sidelnikov played as during the World Championship in 1976. Team USSR lost its opening game to Poland 6-4, with Sidelnikov on the losing end of the match. Just a couple years back the Soviets destroyed Poland 20-0, but this defeat created quite the stir among hockey fans and the Soviet powers-that-be.
Of course, everybody blamed Sidelnikov. However he was the easy scapegoat in this case.
Perhaps the great Valery Kharlamov said it best when he said: "Sidelnikov? What the hell does he have to do with that? We should win games like this even if we have a snow shovel for a goalie"