Can Hockey Skills Be Taught – Continued
This Is All The Proof I Needed
In February of 1992 my 2 sons, Andrew & Michael, were into playing hockey. At that time Andrew had just turned 13 years old and Michael was 11 years old. For myself I was very much into all levels of hockey, but still very much into minor hockey and coaching in the Toronto area.
I got wind of a team that had just recently won the prestigious Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament. They were known as Druzhba from the city of Kharkov in Ukraine. The Quebec Tournament started in 1960 and quickly grew in stature to be one of the most respected and prominent hockey tournaments world-wide. Triple A hockey teams from Toronto would plan and do their best to get into the tournament as there were only a few entries available from the Toronto area.
Some Background On Druzhba
In Ukrainian Druzhba means friendship. The team was from Kharkov located on the eastern border not far from Russia. In 1992 it was just 1 year since the fall of the iron curtain and the end of the Soviet Union. My understanding is that they were all students at the same school and that their hockey coach was also their soccer coach. Somehow they obtained entry into the Quebec International hockey tournament and were able to raise the funds to make the trip to Canada. I wasn’t in Quebec to watch any of the tournament, but my understanding is that they came with the most dilapidated used and worn out equipment. The people of Quebec City were so taken by the skills of the team that they arranged to buy and supply the team with new equipment.
The team was so dominant and spectacular that someone put together the money and paid to bring them to a Toronto tournament that was being held at the then named Double Rinks arena; now named The Vaughn Iceplex (which was at that time and still is today a real crap hole of a facility; but I digress). I watched them play in the tournament and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. At the same time while they were in the middle of the tournament someone arranged for the Druzhba team to play a Bantam all-star team of players for Vaughan. The results of the game against the Bantam Vaughan all-star team (these players were 2 years older) was the same; I couldn’t believe my eyes.
What I Witnessed
The players from the Druzba team covered the full range of sizes; from quite tall to quite small.
There was only one coach on the bench. On changes on the fly from the bench, the first player on the bench on the offence side of the bench opened the gate and any to follow whether a forward or a defense man would be right behind. The spare goalie opened the gate on the defensive side and all players leaving the ice whether a forward or defense man came off the ice the defense side gate. The team more often that not changed on the fly and it could be at any time during any situation on the ice. I witnessed a kid peel off in the middle of a prolonged power play in the other team’s end and go back to the bench. This was almost unheard of in our Canadian hockey system and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why the change was made at that time. The players leaving to go back to the bench when changing on the fly were skating so hard that at the end of the period the snow from their hard stops was piled up the boards.
In the play of the game Druzhba controlled the play. The skating, puck handling, passing and play making was almost magical. They played the typical Soviet style of hockey of absolute puck control and never giving away the puck. Amazingly they refused to shoot on goal in many instance where a a Canadian hockey player would be coached to shoot opting instead to make a play that ended in a tricky tip-in type goal from an unexpected series of passes that had all of the opposition out of position.
There was one diminutive player named Anatoliy Buliga; nicknamed Anatoliy “The Magician”. He could go into the corner with the puck and have up to 3 guys try to take it away from him and somehow come out of the corner with the puck.
This Was All I Needed As Proof
After watching Druzhba in about 4 games back in 1992, that was all the proof I needed that hockey skills could be taught. Eleven of the team members went on to a pro hockey career and Dainius Zubrus and Andrei Zyuzin were first round NHL draft picks and went on to successful NHL careers. Not at all bad for one team of students from one school in Ukraine.
Can Hockey Skills Be Taught? – Yes They Can!
There’s a lot more you need to know about the Druzhba 78 team. So this segment absolutely has to be extended. It will probably be in 3 parts and in the end there’s one hell-of-a surprise; something that I just found out about today.
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