The Russians did not start playing Canadian style hockey until the late 1940s. By the mid 1950s they dominated the world tournaments. How did they do it so fast?
Part of the reason is many of the players had been playing a similar sport for many years prior. That sport was bandy.
Bandy is a hockey-like game play on an ice surface the size of a soccer field. The players use skates and sticks that are very similar to field hockey sticks. Teams of 11 players aside try to put a ball - not a puck - into a net that is much larger than a hockey net.
Now comes news out of Russia that the Russian Olympic team (well, the KHL players only as the NHL players will not be available yet) will honour their hockey history and its bandy origins by playing a game of bandy. They will travel to the city of Kazan. The local KHL team, AK Bars Kazan, played an exhibition game against the local bandy team a couple of years ago, and were beaten handily.
The game will be played a couple of weeks prior to the Sochi Olympics.
Bandy is still played today, with Russia, Sweden and Finland being world powers. Canada does have a team, while even Somalia is interested in becoming a world power.
Here is a good YouTube video about Bandy: