Tretiak, Vladislav

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Vladislav Tretiak


Russian hockey player

Often called the greatest goaltender of all time, Vladislav Tretiak continues to impact the world of hockey with his words of wisdom and his vast experience.

He made his mark in hockey at the tender age of 20 in the 1972 Summit Series, where the Soviets played against the Canadians. He continually crafted his game and became feared in the hockey arena. He had one dark spot on his record, the 1980 Olympic games. It is a memory that haunts and angers him to this day. However, he did not let his anger consume him. He went on to win a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, retiring afterward. He continues to inspire up and coming goalies through various partnerships with hockey schools in Russia and the United States, as well as the National Hockey League (NHL). With a career punctuated by over ninety medals, a testament to his hockey prowess, Tretiak is perhaps equally well remembered for his character.

Talented Youth

Tretiak once said "talent without diligence is nothing." It is this attitude that was ever-present when he began his long journey into the world of hockey and the history books. Tretiak grew up with a father who was an airline pilot and a mother who was a physical education teacher for the Central Army Sports Club. Young Tretiak wanted to grow up to be a pilot like his father, but fate had a different plan for his life.

Tretiak began the steps towards his career in hockey when his mother first began to teach him to skate at a very young age. A few years later, at the age of 11, he began playing hockey as a forward for the Red Army Hockey School in Moscow. Later, he chose the position of goalie because he wanted a uniform and that was the only uniform left. It was this incident that changed Tretiak's life forever and brought him to a position where he truly shined.

Tretiak was very diligent in everything he did. He was quoted as saying, "I like to do my job best whatever I do," in an interview for the Sporting News. Because he felt he was not getting enough practice, as the Red Army played only two games a week, he began playing in any game he could find. He truly wanted to refine his game and knew the only way that was possible was through a great deal of practice. Those many hours of practice playing with other teams paid off, as at the age of twenty he was feared and revered by those in the world of hockey.


1952Born April 25 in Dimitrov, Russia
1963Competes in his first hockey game as a forward
1963Changes to the position of goalie
1969Joins the Central Red Army club
1970Becomes starting goalie for Soviet National Team
1970Debuts as a member of the Olympic Soviet Union hockey team
1972Marries his wife, Tatiana
1972Plays for Soviet Union in Summit Series
1972Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal
1973Son, Dimka, is born
1974Named best goaltender at World and European Championships
1976Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal
1977Daughter, Irina is born
1977Writes a book called "The Hockey I Love," which is translated to English
1978Awarded the Order of Lenin for his service to the USSR
1980Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Silver Medal
1983Drafted by Canadiens, but is not allowed to leave Soviet Union
1984Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal
1984At the Izvestia tournament, retires from the Soviet Union hockey team
1985Retires from competition
1988Works with Canadian Olympic Hockey team
1989First player born in the Soviet Union to be Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
1990Receives Canadian Society of New York Achievement Award for his contribution to the 1972 Canada-Russia Series
1990Begins working as goaltending coach for the Chicago Blackhawks
1996His Jersey, #20, is retired and raised to the rafters of the Moscow Ice Palace
1998Wins Olympic Silver Medal as coach
2001Attends the 45th annual London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction
2002Named eighth greatest Winter Olympian by filmmaker Bud Greenspan
2002Becomes assistant coach to the Russian Olympic Team

A Secret No Longer

His reputation as a first class goaltender was no longer limited to Russia, but spread throughout the world when he participated in the Summit Series against Canada in 1972. Just weeks prior to the series, Canadian hockey scouts had witnessed him allowing eight goals during an intra-squad contest. They went back to tell the Canadian coaches of Tretiak's poor goaltending, leading the Canadian Hockey Team to believe they had an easy win ahead of them. In the Web site dedicated to the Summit Series, the writer stated, "The scouting reports were wrong about Tretiak-not only could he stop the puck, but time would prove he was one of the all time greats." They had no idea that he had been out late the night before celebrating for his wedding the following day. This mistake would cost the Canadians dearly in the first game of the Summit Series.

In the first two minutes of the first period Tretiak allowed two goals. However, from then on he only allowed one more goal to the Canadian Hockey Team, resulting in a 7-3 Soviet victory. The Canadians were stunned, but now knew with whom they were dealing. The Canadians did go on to win the series, but not without a fight. With several wins and a tie, the Soviets gave the Canadians a run for their money. In fact, Tretiak was one save short of a victory for his team in the final game of the series. He referred to that last goal as the "most maddening of all goals scored on me in hockey," as stated on the Summit Series Web site. He was getting no support from his fellow defensemen and Paul Henderson, after falling down behind the net, shot the winning goal. Despite the loss, Tretiak made a name for himself beyond the Eastern Block. The writer for the Summit Series Web site stated, "while Tretiak's save percentage of .884 isn't spectacular by today's standards, his play was spectacular by any era's standards."

He continued to awe the hockey world by leading the Soviet Union to a Gold Medal at the 1972 Winter Olympics. The accomplishment surprised no one, and the Soviets were proud of the team they had assembled, particularly of their star goalie. Tretiak had endeared himself not only to his Soviet National Team, but also to fans of hockey everywhere. The writer for the Summit Series stated, "no Russian player has the respect of Canadians more so than Tretiak." They admired his "intuitive perception of hockey," according to Anatoly Tarasov in his book The Father of Russian Hockey: Tarasov. This prowess was apparent in a notable game on New Years Eve in 1975. The Central Red Army Squad skated to a 3-3 tie with the Montreal Canadiens. What makes the accomplishment noteworthy is that the Soviets only managed 13 shots to the Canadiens' 38.

Awards and Accomplishments

Decorated with The Order of the Red Banner of LaborUSSR
Decorated with The Order of Friendship of PeoplesUSSR
Decorated with The Badge of HonorUSSR
1970Becomes starting goalie for Soviet National Team
1971-84Elected first team All-star
1972Wins victory in Montreal with a final of 7-3 in the first game of the Summit Series
1972Wins 5-3 in Vancouver, game four of the Summit Series
1972Wins 5-4 in Moscow, game five of the Summit Series
1972Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal
1974, 1979, 1981-83Named best goaltender at World and European Championships
1974-76, 1981, 1983Awarded Player of the year
1976Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal
1978Awarded the Order on Lenin for his service to the USSR
1980Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Silver Medal
1981Named tournament most valuable player, Canada Cup
1983Drafted by Canadiens
1984Wins Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal
1989First player born in the Soviet Union to be Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
1990Receives Canadian Society of New York Achievement Award for his contribution to the 1972 Canada-Russia Series
1995Voted number four All-Time Goaltender, Recreation Sport Hockey Goaltender Survey #2
1995Voted number 6 All-Time Goaltender, Recreation Sport Hockey Goaltender Survey #3
1996His Jersey, #20, was retired and raised to the rafters of the Moscow Ice Palace
1998Wins Olympic Silver Medal as coach
2001Attends the 45th annual London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction
2002Named eighth greatest Winter Olympian by filmmaker Bud Greenspan

Where Is He Now?

Although Tretiak never fulfilled his dream of playing in the National Hockey League, in 1989 he was elected to the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame. Tretiak stated, "To be elected was like a present." Since Tretiak's retirement in 1984, he has split his time between Russia and the United States, providing training for goalies from young children all the way up to the NHL. In 1990 he was offered a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. In his work with the Blackhawks he met Ed Belfour, who is one of the notable students of his tutelage. Tretiak stated on the Web site for his goaltending school, "My knowledge and experience are passed on to these goaltenders with the hope of making them not only better goaltenders but also better people." Belfour said of Tretiak in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, "He helped my work ethic and practice habits. He is a great leader who has won so many championships." Tretiak coached the Russians during the 2002 Winter Olympics and now has largely focused his consulting on Canada and the United States while continuing to coach for the Blackhawks. He was honored recently as the 8th greatest Olympian of all-time.

From Disappointment to Diligence

A dark hour was coming in Tretiak's career. In the 1980 Olympics held in New York's Lake Placid, Tretiak was denied an opportunity to continue the Russian legacy of Olympic Gold. Three days prior to the historic "Miracle on Ice," the Soviets beat the United States in a warm up game by a landslide 10-3. Tretiak believes it is this incident that led to overconfidence for the Soviets. In the first period of the semi-final game, the Americans were very aggressive and scored two goals. The Soviet National Team coach, Viktor Tikhonov, felt uneasy

about the goals Tretiak allowed and pulled him after the first period in favor of Tretiak's back up, Vladimir Myshkin. Myshkin allowed two more goals and the United States won the game 4-3, going on to capture the gold. Tretiak stated in an interview for the Sporting News, "I didn't want to go home. I was very, very angry." He had never been benched before, and was so shocked and incensed he considered giving up his career in hockey. However, after spending time away from the hockey arena, he decided not to let his anger get the best of him. He wanted to prove to everyone that the choice that was made was wrong.

With a strong passion within, Tretiak reaffirmed his great skill, winning the Canada Cup in 1981. It was this game that proved that his competitive nature was still alive. The final result was an 8-1 Soviet victory. It was nothing new for Tretiak, who by now was considered not only the Soviet Union's best goalie, but also the world's best goalie. Following the victory, the Montreal Canadiens grew more and more interested in this Russian hockey player. When asked by a reporter, after receiving a four-minute standing ovation at the Canada Cup, if he would like to play for Montreal, he answered with an unequivocal yes. He was photographed holding up Ken Dryden 's jersey, which then appeared on the cover of a Montreal newspaper. This was scandalous in the eyes of the Soviet Union. Not only did it make them look bad because it appeared Tretiak no longer wanted to play for the Red Army Team, it was a slap in the face to the Central Committee of Young Communist League, which Tretiak belonged to. Feeling the pressure from the Soviet authorities, Tretiak renounced his statements, saying the press had misrepresented him.

NHL Pipe Dreams

It truly was Tretiak's greatest dream to play for the National Hockey League (NHL). He mentioned his desire to play for the NHL to the great Wayne Gretzky , and asked Gretzky if he would be able to earn as much as the Islander's all-star defenseman Denis Potvin. Gretzky believed Tretiak could without a doubt. It was this discussion, as well as Tretiak's continued performance, that led to him being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. He petitioned the Soviet Federals to allow him to leave the country to play for the Canadiens, but his request was denied. They could not let their prize goalie leave the country.

Career Statistics

CSKA: Central Red Army Team (Moscow).

Vladislav Tretiak, Man of Character

Tretiak went on to earn several more awards, and finally vindicated himself in the 1984 Olympics, reclaiming the Gold. He was the first Soviet hockey player to appear in four Winter Olympics. Tretiak had proven his point, that he was the better goalie. He was satisfied with his career and his accomplishments, so he decided to retire. He still was in great shape and his performance was never better. But he had made his mark and wanted to go gracefully. He also wanted to share his experience with others. Looking at Tretiak's career, it is quite clear he was not only a phenomenal goalie, he was an exceptional human being with great character. Jeff Hackett of the Blackhawks stated, "I feel like I am a better goalie just by working with him," in an interview for the Sporting News. Although he endured a major disappointment with the 1980 Olympic games, he retired walking tall, knowing he was the best person he could be and considered the best goalie in the world.


The Hockey I Love, Lawrence Hill & Co, 1983.

Tretiak: The Legend, Plains Publishing, 1987.

The Art of Goaltending, Plains Publishing, 1989.



Tretiak, Vladislav. The Art of Goaltending. Plains Publishing, 1989.

Tretiak, Vladislav. The Hockey I Love. Lawrence Hill & Co, 1983.

Tretiak, Vladislav. Tretiak: The Legend. Plains Publishing, 1987.


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Sketch by Barbara J Smerz