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New Canada-Russia series to include young players in the fall

The eight games will be split between Canada and Russia this August and September to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the original event.

It will be contested with the best players in each country under the age of 20.

While much has changed since 1972, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson believes the series has the potential to be just as special for the young men who will play in it.

"You can't recreate '72, it's something that is etched in stone in our country and in Russia," Nicholson said Saturday. "We want to create something new for the young boys that play the game."

The first four games will be played in Russia before the series shifts to Canada for four more. The Canadian host cities have yet to be confirmed.

The original plan was to hold the games in Canadian Hockey League buildings, but that could change.

"We've looked at all various sites," said Nicholson. "If it builds the way we think it will build, we'll go the biggest buildings we can so more people can see it."

One of the key components of putting the series together was getting assurance that the Russians would send their top young players.

The ADT Canada-Russia Challenge that has been held annually in six cities across the country since 2003 has been plagued by weak Russia teams. The Canadians have won 21 of 24 games held over the four years.

The Russians say that won't happen with this one-time event.

"We are going to test the best players," said Vladislav Tretiak, president of the Russian Hockey Federation. "I think it will be very important to them because they've never played in such a series of games."

Neither have the young Canadians.

Hockey Canada will conduct interviews in Vancouver during the Memorial Cup later this month for the coaching job. Nicholson says it hasn't been decided if that person will later coach the world junior team that heads to the Czech Republic in December.

The first games of the series will be held Aug. 27 and 29 in Ufa, which is about 1,300 kilometres east of Moscow. Games 3 and 4 will be played on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 in Omsk, which is another 1,300 kilometres east of that.

The games in Canada will be played in four different cities on Sept. 4, 6, 8 and 9. The series will involve a lot of travelling.

"The key for us is making sure that we have good transportation for the players," said Nicholson. "This is going to be tough on the players. We realize that."

Still, Nicholson received little resistance from the CHL when he proposed the idea of a new Summit Series using junior players.

"There's always some concern about how much their players play," said Nicholson. "This is once in a lifetime. This isn't something we're going to do every year."

Tretiak had originally wanted the anniversary series to be played using the top players from each country, but couldn't get the NHL to agree to it.

This is the next best thing. Canada's under-20 team has won the last three world junior championships by beating the Russians in the gold-medal game. Russia beat Canada in the final in 2002 and 2003.

"We have the strongest teams," said Tretiak.

The 55-year-old was the goalie for the Russian team during the Summit Series and is now an elected member of the State Duma here.

He won 10 world championships and three Olympic gold medals during his career, but says the 1972 series was the best hockey he has ever seen.

"Nobody lost, everybody won because we played great hockey," said Tretiak.

The global political climate has changed greatly in the past 35 years, but the rivalry between the two hockey nations remains strong.

"When you talk hockey in Canada, you talk Canada and Russia," said Nicholson. "We have played many, many great games against Russia."


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