The NHL lockout has been in effect for more than three months now, and so, with no actual games to report on, we’re going to link to a different hockey video every day until a new CBA is reached. Today: the infamous bench-clearing brawl between the Canadian and Soviet junior teams.
The World Junior Championships are underway in Russia, and today we look back at one of the more infamous incidents in the tournament’s history. During the 1987 World Juniors in Czechoslovakia, the Canadian and Soviet Union teams took part in a bench-clearing brawl that became known as the Punch-up in Piestany. The CBC’s website has lots of details about the fight, which began when Pavel Kostichkin of the Soviet Union slashed Canada’s Theo Fleury. (Fleury, by the way, was one of a handful of players from that game who went onto star in the NHL. Others included Brendan Shanahan and Valdimir Konstantinov.) Players on the ice began to brawl, and eventually they were joined by teammates from both benches.
Writes Fleury in his 2009 book, Playing With Fire:
“When you are 17 years old your testosterone is at a high, high level. Our players at the WJCs in 1987 were born in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. What was happening in the world at that time? The Cold War. What were we fed by teachers, parents, the government and the media for breakfast, lunch and supper? That the Russkies are your enemy. And what do you think the Russian students were taught? The same thing about us. The evil Westerners want to take over the world. By the time we met in Piestany, North America and the Soviet Union were starting to make nice, but that did not erase years of suspicion and tension.”
The fight got so out of hand that officials tried turning out the arena lights to put an end to it, and the IIHF came down hard on both teams, expelling them from the tournament. (The Soviets had no chance at a medal at this point in the tournament, but Canada — which led 4-2 at the time of the fight — was assured of at least bronze.)
And so on Day 103 of the NHL lockout, we paraphrase the title of a book about the brawl and look back, in two parts, on the night the lights went out in Piestany.