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On This Date in Sports January 11, 1976

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It was East meets West as two of the vaunted Soviet Red Army team champions of Soviet Championship League faced the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Philadelphia Flyers at the Spectrum. The Flyers who were called the “Broad Street Bullies” for their hard-charging style won the game 4-1 as the battered Soviets.  Things got so bad for the Russians that coach Konstantin Loktev pulled his team from the ice in protest.

With the NHL Professionals unable to compete in the Olympics, and that iron curtain keeping the best players from the Soviet Union out of the NHL it a rare instance when the best from the NHL got a chance to play the best for Russia. The Summit Series in 1972, was greatly remembered for Canada’s thrilling comeback. With the Winter Olympics approaching the USSR jumped at the chance to display their skill on the international stage, as two of the top teams from the Soviet Championship League came to North America to take on some of the teams in the NHL, called Super Series 76.

The Soviets sent their best team the who had dominated the Championship League, winning 13 straight league titles. They were joined by the Soviet Wings, together the two teams planned an eight-game tour playing exhibition games against NHL teams. The Red Army kicked off the tour with a 7-3 takedown of the New York Rangers on December 28th at Madison Square Garden. A day later the Soviet Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-4. On New Year’s Eve, the Red Army and Montreal Canadiens played to a 3-3 tie, in perhaps the best game of the series. The Wings suffered their only loss on January 4th as they were doubled up by the Buffalo Sabres 12-6. The Soviet Wings rebounded by beating the Chicago Black Hawks January 7th, before closing out their part of the series with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on January 10th.  The Red Army meanwhile beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on January 8th before heading to their final game in Philadelphia.

Negotiations for the series were tough, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of Flyers owner Ed Snider whose only motivation for the having his team play in the game was to prove his team was better than the Soviet Army team. The Russians already had ill towards Flyers star Bobby Clarke, after his slash on Valeri Kharlamov in the 1972 Summit Series as their official state news agency printed a carton of the Flyers as a bunch of Neanderthals.

With the tension high from the start, the Flyers coached by Fred Shero set the pace of play early bruising the Red Army, who wished for a more up-tempo speed game. In the first period Ed Van Impe, who had just left the penalty box after a hooking call, laid a big hit on Valeri Kharlamov that caused the Russian star to lay prone on the ice. Angry that no penalty was called, coach Konstantin Loktev pulled his team from the ice. With the Spectrum jeering, Ed Snider got into an argument with the leaders of the Soviet Hockey Federation, threatening to withhold their share of the revenue if the Red Army did not return to the ice. The Russians returned and were hit by a delay of game penalty, that led to the Flyers first goal as Reggie Leach scored shortly after play resumed. A short time later the Flyers would add a goal by  Rick MacLeish to make 2-0 at the end of the first period. Each team netted a goal in the second with Joe Watson scoring for Philadelphia and Victor Kutergin scoring for the Soviets. In the third, the Flyers got a tally from Larry Goodenough for the final 4-1 win. The Flyers battered the Red Army the entire, 60 minutes, outshooting the Russians 49-13.

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While the Soviets were successful overall in the Super Series, winning five, while losing twice with one tie, the brand of Russian hockey got labeled soft after the game in Philadelphia. The Russians were left bitter after the game calling the Flyers a bunch of animals. The Flyers would go on to play in the Stanley Cup Final for the third straight season but saw their two-year reign come to an end at the hand of the Canadiens, who were starting their own dynasty.