Friday, August 8, 2014

Anatoli Firsov Scores Six Goals In Half a Game

January 23, 1969. The terrific Anatoli Firsov, one of the greatest players in the history of Russian hockey, scored six goals in an international game. Six goals in a game, it's been accomplished before and since...the thing is, Firsov did it by the six minute mark of the second period or in 26 minutes of elapsed game time. Big deal you say? It was probably against a second rate national squad like Romania or Denmark, right? Wrong.

Anatoli Firsov scored six goals in less than half a game against the Canadian national team, on Canadian soil. In fact he collected back-to-back NATURAL hat-tricks. The game was part of the Soviet National team's Canadian tour and took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Firsov scored the first six goals of the game and the Soviets would go up by a score of 10-0 after two periods and win by a final score of 10-2. Firsov was actually benched for the second half of the game and didn't even dress for the third period. Sure, it wasn't Team Canada '72 or '76 the Russians were playing, but it was still Canada. The home team included past and future NHLers Jack Bownass, Ab DeMarco, Bob Murdoch, Gerry Pinder, Fran Huck and Chuck Lefley.

Two of Firsov's six goals deflected off a Canadian defender's stick but the Canadian Press still described a "a virtuoso performance amid the clockwork play of the Russian team". Even after Firsov left the game his linemates Vladimir Vikulov and Alexander Maltsev each collected two points to finish with five and six points each. Both would go on to play in the 1972 Summit Series but Firsov would not. Even though he was perhaps their best player, Firsov was left off the 1972 squad by coach Vsevolod Bobrov who had taken over for Anatoly Tarasov, whom Firsov outwardly supported.

Firsov was such a talent that he was pursued by many Western clubs beginning in 1969 when Los Angeles Kings GM Larry Regan offered the Russians three Kings for him. Montreal tried to bring him over in 1974 for a salary of $100,000 per season and he was selected by the Cleveland Barons in the 1972 WHA draft. He would have one more fine season in 1972/73 with Red Army Moscow scoring 25 goals in 33 games before retiring for good in 1974. Firsov was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1998.

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