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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Annals of Sport Humiliation in Putin's Russia

The bad news for Russian sports under Putin's dictatorship just keeps coming, fast and furious. Putin's neo-Soviet solution? Just don't report it. First tennis, then track & field, now ice hockey. It doesn't get much more humiliating. The Moscow Times reports:

Canada will wear 1972-style jerseys in Winnipeg on Tuesday for Game 5 of the Super Series against Russia, The Canadian Press reported, but the event is shaping into a rout very unlike the exciting series it was held to commemorate. With a 4-2 win in Omsk on Saturday, the Canadian junior hockey team completed a sweep of the Russian leg of the eight-game series. Russia gave its best effort so far, with coordinated, attacking play in the first period and two quick goals in the third -- but it wasn't enough to stop a superior Canadian squad. It was a different story 35 years ago, when the Soviet team won Game 4 of the Summit Series 5-3 to take a 2-1-1 lead going into the last four games. Though the Soviets went on to lose by one game, the series exposed the Canadians, who had never played a full-strength Soviet squad before, to a completely new style of play. The Super Series feels more like a hockey lesson for Russia than a matchup of equals. Coach Sergei Nemchinov said as much on Saturday. "I think it was a good lesson for our team," Nemchinov told the news agency though an interpreter. "They were a real team today, but it could be really hard to outplay such a disciplined team as Team Canada is. We need to make fewer mistakes and then, probably, we will achieve success." At this point, achieving success may mean simply saving face.

Russian media have not been eager to publicize the team's losses. In a report buried on Page 12 of Monday's Sport Express, Andrei Kuznetsov commended the country's television networks for not airing the series, then compared the Russian team's playing to a cartoon.

"Showing cartoons in a prime time slot won't go over -- especially cartoons about hockey."

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