Russia’s Hockey Team Raises Eyebrows With Throwback USSR Jerseys

Russia’s Hockey Team Raises Eyebrows With Throwback USSR Jerseys

Russia’s national ice hockey team sparked outrage in northern Europe by wearing throwback jerseys from its Soviet past during an overtime loss to Finland Sunday, amid rising tensions between the Kremlin and the West.

The uniforms worn in Euro Hockey Tour’s Channel One Cup in Moscow had CCCP, or USSR in the Cyrillic alphabet, emblazoned across the chest, prompting Finland’s former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to tweet that the nod to the Soviet regime was “an offensive gesture that does not belong to sport or anywhere else.” 

The jerseys used in the Finland game, based on a design worn in the 1960s during an undefeated streak in international competitions, were honoring the 75th anniversary of the country’s first Olympic gold medal in the sport, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement.

The retro look did not help them Sunday, when Finland beat Russia 3-2 to win the second stage of the tournament, which is a warm up for the annual world hockey championships. 

The Soviet team, known as the Red Machine, was the dominant hockey power of the Cold War, winning seven Olympic golds and nearly two dozen world championships. Russia’s national team is somewhat diminished but remains a member of the so-called Big Six, together with Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and the U.S. 

Estonia’s former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said on Twitter after the game that Russia and the USSR were “interchangeable synonyms.” In Finland, CCCP was trending on Twitter with over 2,000 tweets. 

The reactions show the heightened tensions between Russia and the West following President Vladimir Putin’s massive military build-up near the border with Ukraine. Finland, a former colonial subject of Russia that was attacked by the USSR in 1939, has warned of harsh sanctions from the European Union and the U.S. if the Kremlin escalates.  

Russia denies Western accusations it plans to attack Ukraine as soon as next month.

The Russian team has worn retro USSR jerseys in the past without eliciting such harsh criticism, including during a 3-0 loss to Finland in 2015. 

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