CBC Digital Archives

1987: 'Punch-up in Piestany'

You know a hockey melee is serious when even the goalies are fighting. In the final game of the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championships, punches are thrown between a Canadian and a Soviet player. Suddenly it's a free-for-all as both teams bolt from the bench to enter the fray, launching a 20-minute tussle that continues even when desperate arena officials turn out the lights. "You just don't see this in international hockey," says an astonished CBC commentator.

Canada is ahead 4-2 halfway through the game before the brawl begins. But when it's all over, both teams are booted from the tournament in Piestany, Czechoslovakia. The Soviets, well back in the standings, had nothing to lose by the ejection. Coming into the game, the Canadians were assured a medal: bronze if they lost to the Soviets, silver if they won, and gold if they won by a margin of five goals or more. Now they're going home empty-handed.
• The donnybrook began when the Soviet Union's Pavel Kostichkin took a two-handed swipe with his stick at Canadian (and future NHLer) Theoren Fleury. The pair started fighting, and soon the other on-ice players were engaging in fisticuffs. Soviet (and future NHLer) Evgeny Davydov then charged off his bench to join in, prompting players from both sides to leave their seats and make the dust-up a true bench-clearing brawl.

• According to the Globe and Mail, anger was brewing on both sides before the brawl. Norwegian referee Hans Ronning repeatedly ignored blatant stick infractions from both teams.
• At one point during the set-to, Ronning and his linesmen left the ice to watch from a nearby hallway.
• NHL referee Bruce Hood later said Ronning was "out of his ballpark" and not qualified to officiate a game at that level.

• After the players eventually ran out of steam, members of the International Ice Hockey Federation held a 35-minute meeting to decide the teams' fate. They voted 7-1 to expel both teams from the tournament. The sole dissenter was Canadian Dennis McDonald.
• A Soviet hockey official blamed the Canadians for the fracas. Anatoly Kastriukov said a Canadian trainer had ignited hostilities by running over to the Soviet bench and pummelling an assistant coach.

• One of the Canadian team's staunchest defenders after the bust-up was broadcaster Don Cherry. See a CBC Archives clip in which Cherry blames the Soviets for the brawl.
• The gold medal ultimately went to Finland, which had the best win/loss record in the tournament. Czechoslovakia took the silver and Sweden was awarded the bronze.

• In 1988, the year after the "Punch-up in Piestany," the word junior championships were held in Moscow. Canada took gold; the Soviet Union won the silver.
• Held over the holiday season each year, the World Junior Hockey Championships feature the world's best players under age 20. The 2006 tournament was held in Vancouver.
• The tournament was founded in 1977. Since then, Canada has won the gold medal 11 times. The Soviet Union (until 1992) or Russia (from 1994) has won gold 12 times.

• A number of players on both the Soviet and Canadian rosters would go on to be well-known players in the National Hockey League. Among them were Canadians Steve Chiasson, Pat Elynuik, Fleury, Mike Keane, Cliff Ronning, Brendan Shanahan and Pierre Turgeon. Soviets Davydov and Vladimir Konstantinov also went on to the NHL.

Also on January 4:
1817: Stagecoach service between Kingston, Upper Canada, and York - now Toronto - begins. The fare is $18.
1912: The Moon makes its closest approach to Earth in the 20th century, 356,375 kilometres.
1983: Rape is replaced by the term sexual assault in Canada's Criminal Code. The new law allows women to charge their husbands with sexual assault.
1986: Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers becomes the first NHL player to score 100 or more points in seven consecutive seasons.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Jan. 4, 1987
Commentator: Don Wittman
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Fred Walker
Duration: 1:48

Last updated: June 19, 2012

Page consulted on January 3, 2014

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