The series was played exclusively in New York City and at Madison Square Gardens. The NHL was hoping to use the exhibition series to boost hockey's exposure in the United States. However the tournament was largely ignored in the U.S., especially by television broadcasters CBS, NBC and ABC.
The NHL team should not be confused with Team Canada. The All Stars featured the best players in the NHL, not just Canada. That being said, only three members of the team were non-Canadians: Swedish stars Borje Salming, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson.
The NHL All Stars had exactly three practices together to prepare for the series. The Soviets, by contrast, spent several weeks preparing specifically for the contest. They even travelled to the Netherlands where they found a rink that matched Madison Square Gardens ice surface.
The NHL jumped out to a convincing 1st game victory, thanks to a opening play goal by Guy Lafleur and a flat Soviet effort. The NHL were in good shape half way through game two, on the verge of a series victory, before the Soviets awakened. The Soviets stormed back to tie the series.
Game three was no contest. The NHL All Stars had a few good chances in a scoreless first period, but were continually stymied by the biggest surprise of the series. Vladimir Myshkin, making his national team debut, took over from Vladislav Tretiak in the final game. The Soviet players played flawlessly in front of the rookie netminder, and supported him with 6 goals scored. Myshkin never surrendered a single goal.
Here's the search results for the 1979 Challenge Cup on YouTube.
Here's a few must read articles about the 1979 Challenge Cup:
- NHL run over by the Big Red Machine
- A game the NHL could never win
- The Soviets were too good, pure and simple
- The Soviets made some changes to end the NHL's reign
- The NHL's best were not good enough