King tried hard to downplay the win, by noting that they were the Canadian Olympic team, not the Canadian Izvestia team, and in some ways, he was probably right. By the time the Russians came over to Calgary to start the ‘88 Olympics, they’d lost yet another game to the Canadians – in Saskatoon, in the final pre-Olympic exhibition. Any element of surprise that the Canadians might have had evaporated there, in the mists of Luzhniki.
“Still, it was a special moment,” said Sherven. “We flew back to Canada right after the Finnish game. It was Christmas and right after, we were back on the road for an eight-game tour across Canada, so we never really had a chance to celebrate it. I remember landing in Toronto, and there was Alan Eagleson, wanting to be right in the middle of it all. That’s what ended up on the front page the next day – Eagleson, with the Izvestia trophy, which wasn’t even a trophy really, it was a clock or something.”
Burke, meanwhile, won the tournament MVP, which garnered him a fragile porcelain snowman – about three feet in length – that his sister stores for him in Toronto. On the flight home, Burke had an aisle seat – and the snowman was buckled in the middle, a seatbelt fastened around its waist.
“I moved around a few times and I didn’t want to have it get lost or broken, so it’s at her house and she keeps saying, someday when she comes out, she’ll give it to me,” said Burke. “The individual honors are great, you don’t forget them, but the feeling of any championship, in the end, it’s the guys you played with that you remember.
“And Dave King – he was like a second father to me and I’m still working with him after all these years. He was, to me, the biggest reason we were able to compete against those teams. We weren’t as talented, but we always had a chance with Dave because we were prepared.”
King still follows Russian hockey closely and during the 2005-06 season, when he was coaching Metallurg Magnitogorsk, caught up with Tikhonov during a trip to Moscow.
“That was an interesting time for the Russians,” said King. “A lot of the players had played so long for Tikhonov that his approaching was starting to wear thin. But when I talked to Tikhonov in Russia when I coached there, he told me his ‘88 team was his best team. He thought more players were in their prime than at any other time. So in his mind, when you have the most players in their prime, that’s your best team – and that makes sense.
“For us, it was a significant win. It just showed the Canadian mentality – a team that was overshadowed and outplayed territorially that did everything in its power to win.”