January 20, 2014

1972 Olympics at Sapporo, Japan

The 1972 Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo, Japan. Sapporo had previously been awarded the 1940 Winter Olympics, but of course World War II cancelled the Games. Sapporo defeated Banff, Salt Lake City and Lahti, Finland for the rights to hold the 1972 Games.

Canada misses their first Olympics with their international hockey boycott due to hypocrisy over amateurism in international sport. Also missing these Olympics were France, Romania and East Germany, all of whom had qualified but withdrew due to high expenses.

With Canada absent, the Soviets rolled to the gold medal with great confidence. Soviet coach Anatoli Tarasov even experimented with his well oiled machine by separating the great troika of Valery Kharlamov, Boris Mikhailov and Vladimir Petrov. Instead he experimented with a revolutionary 2-2-1 system with 2 forwards, two mid-fielders (for the lack of a better hockey term) and one defender.

The Soviets also debuted their ace in the hole - Vladislav Tretiak. Tretiak had previously played at the 1970 and 1971 world championships, but this would be his first of four Olympics. 1972 would be his first of three gold medals. Despite his early success, he was still unknown. That would change drastically a few months after the Olympics at a little international tournament you may have heard of - the 1972 Summit Series.


Czechoslovakia was expected to challenge for gold, but found themselves with the bronze medal. A spunky American hockey team surprised many with a silver medal podium finish. The American team featured Mark Howe, the teenaged son of the great Gordie Howe. His familial status made him a star attraction off the ice, but he was a little too young to make much of an impact on it. That was left to some pretty decent players in the likes of Robbie Ftorek, Henry Boucha, Tim Sheehy and goaltender Mike Curran.


Sweden, Finland and Poland rounded out group A, the grouping of countries with medal hopes. West Germany, Norway, Japan, Switzerland and Yugoslavia competed in group B.

GreatestHockeyLegends.com is the home of an extensive history of Olympic hockey. You can view each Olympic hockey tournament (men's and women's) below by clicking on the year of your choice. You can also enjoy my profiles of Olympic Hockey Legends.

1920 - Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - Chamonix, France
1928 - St. Moritz, Switz.
1932 - Lake Placid, USA
1936 - G.P., Germany
1940 - No Games - WWII
1944 - No Games - WWII
1948 - St. Moritz, Switz.
1952 - Oslo, Norway
1956 - Cortina, Italy
1960 - Squaw Valley, USA
1964 - Innsbruck, Austria
1968 - Grenoble, France
1972 - Sapporo, Japan
1976 - Innsbruck, Austria
1980 - Lake Placid, USA
1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
1988 - Calgary, Canada
1992 - Albertville, France
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
1998 - Nagano, Japan
2002 - Salt Lake City, USA
2006 - Torino, Italy

2010 - Vancouver, Canada

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