CLOSE

Rendez-Vous 87: The NHL All-Stars, the Soviet National Team, and the Super Bowl of Hockey

Image courtesy of GreatestHockeyLegends.com

Twenty-five years ago this weekend, a team of NHL All-Stars faced off against the Soviet National Team in a pair of exhibition games in Quebec City. The games were two of the main attractions of Rendez-Vous 87, a week-long series of events held during Quebec’s Winter Carnival. The “Super Bowl of hockey” featured lavish meals, fashion shows, the Bolshoi Ballet, and even Ontario native Alan Thicke. Here’s a brief history of the spectacle.

The Idea Is Born

According to Sports Illustrated writer E.M. Swift, the idea for Rendez-Vous 87 was hatched at a 1983 NHL Board of Governors meeting in Quebec City. The league expressed interest in hosting an All-Star Game in one of North America’s oldest cities in the near future and Quebec Nordiques president Marcel Aubut began brainstorming ideas to spice up the typically boring midseason exhibition between the NHL’s two conferences. Quebec City was officially awarded the 1987 All-Star Game in 1984. Two years later, Aubut presented his idea for a two-game series between the NHL All-Stars and the Soviet National Team, which would serve as the centerpiece of a larger celebration and showcase for the city. “It should be an event where sports fans who otherwise have no interest in hockey have no choice but to watch and where even the people who are not interested in sports have no choice but to watch,” Aubut said.

The Date Is Set

The league liked Aubut’s idea and moved to extend the All-Star break from two to five days, even before the NHL Player’s Association and Soviet Hockey Federation agreed to participate. “The players haven't said yes yet because they haven't been asked,” said Alan Eagleson, the executive director of the player’s association. “The Soviets haven't agreed because they don't know anything about the project. It is my guess that if the money is right – if the pile is high enough – there will be no problem.”

Eagleson used the series as a source of leverage during collective bargaining, but eventually gave his blessing. The Soviets were also on board. Each of the NHL All-Stars received $1,000 per game plus expenses, while the Soviet National Team earned $40,000 per game plus expenses. The dates for the series were set for Wednesday, February 11, and Friday, February 13.

Much More Than Hockey

Aubut was determined to make Rendez-Vous 87 hockey’s version of the Super Bowl. “If people think this is going to be just a couple of hockey games with a few other things thrown around it, they're wrong,” he said at a press conference. “That's not the case at all. This is going to be one of the big events of the decade.” Indeed, the hockey games were but two items on a jam-packed schedule of events.

Festivities began on Monday with a 10-course, $350-a-head dinner for 1,500, prepared by top chefs from the Soviet Union, United States, and Canada. Subsequent events included a variety show featuring local acts, the Soviet Red Army Chorus, and members of the Bolshoi Ballet; a business lunch with Chrysler president Lee Iacocca; brunch in a museum decorated by Pierre Cardin to resemble Maxim’s of Paris; and a $250,000 fashion show. United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Andrei Gromyko delivered video messages of peace during a black-tie gala. Guests included Joe Dimaggio, Gordon Lightfoot, Wilt Chamberlain, Pele, and Thicke, who wrote the words for the event’s official theme song.

Previous Series

Individual NHL teams and various all-star teams had played exhibition games against the Soviet National Team before, but Rendez-Vous 87 marked the first time that North America’s best professional players faced off against the world’s most dominant team. In the 1972 Summit Series, a team of Canadian players defeated the U.S.S.R. 4-3-1 in an eight-game series. The Soviets won two out of three games in the 1979 Challenge Cup held in New York, but that exhibition excluded World Hockey Association stars. The WHA merged with the NHL after the 1978-79 season, putting all of North America’s best players in one league.

Coaching Controversy

It was customary at the time for the coaches who appeared in the previous season’s Stanley Cup to coach in the All-Star game. Montreal hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1986, but the Canadiens’ bitter relationship with the Nordiques led many to wonder if their head coach, Jean Perron, would be selected to lead the NHL’s team of stars. Aubut, whose dislike for Perron was well known, wisely removed himself from the process for picking the coaching staff. Perron, Nordiques head coach Michel Bergeron, and Calgary Flames head coach Bob Johnson were eventually tapped to lead the NHL team.

Picking the Team

Picking the players was almost as controversial. The NHL team’s starting lineup, save for the goalie, was determined by fan vote, while eight NHL executives picked the rest of the squad. Many fans cried foul when Mario Lemieux beat out Wayne Gretzky for the starting center spot, despite the fact that the Great One’s scoring stats were far and away the best in the league. These fans accused the Nordiques organization of being, as one reporter put it, “tastelessly aggressive in the manner in which it has distributed and collected all-star ballots.”

Ten days before the first game in the series, Lemieux offered Gretzky his starting spot, but the Great One politely declined.

The Oilers had an NHL-best seven players selected to the team, but only one – Ontario native Paul Coffey – was voted a starter by the fans. (Coffey would sit out the series with an injury.) The final roster was comprised primarily of Canadians, but also included four Americans, two Swedes, and two Finns.

The Hype

A few months before the event, a report emerged from Moscow that, while the Soviets supported the series publicly, they were privately against it, fearing the embarrassment that would come with potential defeat. “It is ridiculous to say one side or the other does not want to play because it may lose,” said Gennadi Kasnachev, the Soviet consul in Montreal. “The game, the two sides meeting; that's what's important, particularly now with the political situation being so dangerous.” Pundits argued over who should be favored. The NHL All-Stars would only have a couple of days to prepare as a team, which was one of the main reasons that Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider ripped the series. “I think it's terrible,” Snider said. “(The Soviets) have all the advantages and we have all the disadvantages. They've created this illusion of being supermen. But all they do is maneuver and manipulate to always get the edge in sports, just like they do in everything else.” On the other hand, the Soviets would be jet-lagged.

The Ticket Fiasco

A month before the first game in the series, Eagleson threatened a player boycott. Aubut made 500 of the 15,000-plus tickets for each game at Quebec’s Colisée available to the public. Most of the rest were reserved for Nordiques season-ticket holders, corporate sponsors, and government officials. The 75 tickets Aubut set aside for the players and NHL officials was “unsatisfactory” to Eagleson, who asked that each player receive two tickets and the right to purchase two more in the best section. Aubut eventually caved and averted a crisis, providing Eagleson with 500 tickets no more than 20 rows from the ice. The ticket fiasco was only one of the headaches leading up to the event. Toronto pulled out of the parade, which was supposed to feature a float from every NHL team, because its owner didn’t like the Soviets. Eagleson and Aubut also haggled over hotel rates.

Game 1: NHL All-Stars 4, U.S.S.R. 3

After the Red Army Choir, Harvard Glee Club, and Quebec Symphony Orchestra Choir sang the national anthems of the Soviet Union, Canada, and United States, the NHL All-Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson. The Soviets came back to tie the score at 3-3 in the third period, but Dave Poulin’s goal off a deflection of a Lemieux shot with 75 seconds remaining gave the NHL team a stirring victory. “We can’t win every game,” Soviet coach Victor Tikhonov told reporters after putting his team through a rigorous practice the following day.

Game 2: U.S.S.R. 5, NHL All-Stars 3

The Soviets got a strong performance from goalie Evgeny Belosheikin and overcame an early 1-0 deficit. Before the event, the two sides agreed that co-champions would be declared if the teams split the series. Given that his team had outscored the NHL All-Stars in the two games, Tikhonov was asked if he considered his squad the champions. “It is important that you know that the NHL didn’t win, and neither did we,” he said. “The person that won was hockey itself. Both games were like holidays, like festivals, two of the greatest hockey games you’ll ever see.” Tikhonov praised the performance of the NHL All-Stars. “If they were my team, they'd never lose a game,” he said. “ …Of all teams, this is the one I admire the most.”

A Success

For all the consternation leading up to Rendez-Vous 87, the event was a success. At least 125 million people in more than 20 countries watched the games, with Game 2 drawing a 50 percent audience share. CBC produced the telecast and controlled the Canadian rights to the broadcast, while ESPN owned the rights everywhere else except the Soviet Union. Aubut would later report that the event, which cost $9.4 million, turned a $1.9-million profit and generated at least $18.5 million in economic spinoffs. Aubut returned $500,000 to the public purse as “an exemplary gesture.”

Postscript

Hockey hasn’t had another event like Rendez-Vous 87, partly because the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1989, Sergei Priakin became the first player from the Soviet Union permitted to play for a professional team in North America when he signed with Calgary. Today, there are Russian stars throughout the league. Aubut remained president of the Nordiques until 1995, when he sold the team to an American company that relocated the franchise to Denver. Today, he is the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. Eagleson, who fought so hard for those tickets, was later convicted of fraud and embezzlement, disbarred, and removed from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
iStock
iStock

We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
iStock
iStock

Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

A display of tools.
iStock

Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

A stack of bed linens.
iStock

Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

Rows of holiday gnomes.
iStock

If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

Child choosing a toy car.
iStock

Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

Rows of rings.
iStock

Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

Searching for flights online.
iStock

While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

Gift basket against a blue background.
iStock

Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

Group of hands holding smartphones.
iStock

While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.
iStock

Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios