Sunday, December 26, 2010

1987 World Junior Championships - The Punch-Up in Piestany

The Punch-up in Piestany was an infamous bench-clearing brawl between Canada and the Soviet Union during the final game of the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Piešťany, Czechoslovakia on January 4, 1987.

The incident resulted in the ejection of both nations, which caused the Canadians to lose a chance at the gold medal, while the Soviets had already been eliminated from medal contention. The brawl is famous for officials having turned off the arena lights in a desperate attempt at ending the 20 minute melee. Much of the blame was placed on Norwegian referee Hans Rønning, who was selected for the game based on his perceived "neutrality" rather than experience.

Following the brawl, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) suspended the players involved for 18 months and the coaches for three years. The players' suspensions were later reduced to six months on appeal, allowing several players from both teams to return for the 1988 tournament in Moscow. Both nations won medals in 1988; Canada won the gold medal while the Soviets won silver.

Several players in that game went on to play in the National Hockey League, including Brendan Shanahan, Theoren Fleury, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny.

The fervent patriotism displayed by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation analyst Don Cherry in the aftermath led to a sharp rise in his own popularity with Canadian fans.

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