Between 1954 and 1991, the Soviet ice hockey team was virtually unbeatable. Despite a humiliating loss to the United States at the 1980 Olympics, the “Red Army” still approached on-ice perfection. The creativity of beloved coach Tarasov gave way to the regime of Tikhonov whose methods were much more tyrannical, yet equally successful. Soviet politics and ideology imbued every aspect of the sport, until the late 1990s, which found the “Russian Five” playing for the NHL.
Charismatic defenseman “Slava” Fetisov is our entrée into the closed-door Soviet Union and its sporting traditions before perestroika. As a star of the team, and former Minister of Sport in Russia, Slava’s chutzpah is well-earned, and his on-screen battling with director Polsky adds tang to the proceedings. Interviews with teammates, and extensive footage of games and training camps indicate that Communism had a winning but costly formula when it came to sports. About so much more than just hockey, this captivating documentary explores the mental and physical cost of rigid teamwork and patriotism.