February 28, 2021

New Life Breathed into the Museum of Hockey

New Life Breathed into the Museum of Hockey
Don't slip on the museum floor! Amanda Shirnina

Moscow's Museum of Hockey is tucked away about a 17-minute walk from Tulskaya metro station and is poorly known except among the most rabid hockey fans. Once travel resumes, check out this hidden gem that has just had new life breathed into it by investors who cannot imagine life without a national Hockey Hall of Fame.

The museum's shiny, ice-rink-themed exhibit halls opened in May 2016. Fans can don the toothless grin of Russia's favorite hockey player – who actually plays in the U.S. – Alexander Ovechkin. At Legends Park where the museum sits, you can also see an amateur hockey game or practice, go skating, and buy equipment and souvenirs at the Sport Depot shop.

Ovechkin smile
I smile like Ovechkin. | Amanda Shirnina

Beyond housing a treasure trove of hockey memorabilia, the Museum of Hockey is the home of Russia's Hockey Hall of Fame. (The National Hockey League's [NHL] Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Ontario). North American hockey fans can find many familiar Russian faces from the NHL pictured among the striking black lit-up glass plaques of the Moscow Hall of Fame. These include Pavel Bure, Viacheslav Fetisov, Valeri Kamensky, Darius Kasparaitis, Nikolai Khabibulin, Alexei Kovalev, Igor Larionov, Alexander Mogilny, Alexei Zhamnov, Alexei Zhitnik, and Sergei Zubov.

Hockey Hall of Fame in Moscow
The Russian Hockey Hall of Fame, with the small faces of the famous on either side. | Amanda Shirnina

The Hall of Fame also features some of the Soviet players who were defeated by the "miraculous" Team USA in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics: Alexei Kasatonov, Valeri Kharlamov, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, and Vladislav Tretiak, as well as the Soviet coach – who only had one line, "Bystree!" ("Faster!"), repeated ad nauseum in the 2004 film Miracle – Viktor Tikhonov.

Also pictured in the Hall of Fame is Anatoly Tarasov, the coach and founder of the postwar Soviet hockey system – designed to beat the Canadians, who created the game. Tarasov's daughter, Tatiana Tarasova, is the most successful figure skating coach in history.

In the system Tarasov developed, the Soviets became masters of skating, puck possession, and passing, while North Americans were playing a dirtier game, with loads of fighting and scrapping for the puck in the corners. The word "finesse" has often been used to describe the Russian game. It did not hurt that Soviet athletics were operated like a branch of the military.

A total of 147 men are honored in the Hall of Fame. Although Russia has a professional women's league, it is young and no women have been represented in the hall.

At the museum, visitors can don goalkeeper equipment and pretend to play for the Russian national team. The Hall of Fame is even bookable for private banquets.

Hockey goal and equipment for cosplay
Time for some hockey cosplay for Team Russia (or, you know, for the "Athlete from Russia" non-team). | Amanda Shirnina

While we are on the subject of hockey, we cannot let Russia's hockey anthem, "No Coward Plays Hockey" ("Trus ne igraet v khokkei"), go unmentioned. It was composed in 1968 to promote the Soviet Union's new postwar sport. The song includes the lyric "Real men play hockey." Remember the Trololo guy, Eduard Khil – famously immortalized on Family Guy? Of course, Khil covered the hockey anthem, embedded below. There is also a cartoon version of the song, here. It has been translated into English, too – but it loses some of its hilarity in translation.



If you want more Russian hockey history, we recommend the following documentaries: Red Army (2014), Of Miracles and Men (2015), The Russian Five (2018), and Red Penguins (2020), plus a Russian feature film about Valeri Kharlamov, Legend No. 17 (2013). The latter film upends North American stereotypes and depicts Canadians as evil and hateful Cold War-era enemies. Although Kharlamov and his wife died in 1981 in a tragic car accident, their son has a cameo in the film as one of his father's teammates.

Exterior of the Museum of Hockey
Built in the Stalin Empire style, the museum's exterior recalls the 1940s, when Soviet hockey was born. | Amanda Shirnina

You almost missed your chance to visit the Museum of Hockey and Hall of Fame. On February 1 at 5:38 pm Moscow time, TASS news agency announced that the museum was closing down forever due to lack of funding – another pandemic casualty. It surely did not help that the admission fee was only 200 rubles ($3) for adults.

At 8:10 pm on the same day, TASS reported that President Vladislav Tretiak of the Russian Hockey Federation had already offered to keep the museum ticking. Seventeen minutes later, TASS reported that the Museum of Hockey would probably be moved to a location with more foot trafficVDNKh, and incorporated into an entire museum of national sports complex. The next day, TASS confirmed that the Russian Hockey Federation would keep the museum open.

Whether at its current spot at Legends Park or at the more auspicious VDNKh in the future, come support Russian hockey if you have even the slightest interest in the sport.

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