CSIS Russian spy suspect named head of Russian hockey team at 2010 Vancouver Olympics
Tretiak not as sexy as East German figure skater Katerina Witt who spied for East Germans

Let the games begin!

By Michael Farber

Vladislav Tretiak
Vladislav Tretiak: salad days

Vladislav Tretiak might be the Olympic hockey general manager who is coming in from the cold.

Tretiak, president of the Russian ice hockey federation, was named Monday as his country's GM for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. While this clearly is an upgrade over Pavel Bure in Turin 2006 — at the time, we noted that Bure was known as the Russian Rocket and not the Russian Rocket Scientist — Team Russia still would have been better served by tapping into one of the great hockey brains: Igor Larionov, The Professor, who has a superior handle on the NHL players who will represent Russia. As an added fillip, Larionov, who played in Vancouver, is revered in that city, but then Tretiak has been worshipped in Canada pretty much since the 1972 Summit Series.

On one of those Red Army tours in the early 1980s, Tretiak shut out the Montreal Canadiens and received perhaps the longest standing ovation at the Forum afforded a player not named Maurice Richard or Guy Lafleur. (The Canadiens would later draft Tretiak although he retired before ever having the chance to play in the NHL. In 1989, he became the first Russian elected to the Toronto-based Hockey Hall of Fame.) The goalie has been embraced as an honorary Canadian, which gets us to the point.

A former member of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and a Montreal journalist who covers about security issues write in a new book that CSIS suspected Tretiak of recruiting Russian sympathizers in Canada to provide intelligence during his frequent visits to the country in the 1990s.

This isn't as sexy as the revelations that figure skater Katarina Witt was obliged to cooperate with Stasi, the East German spy agency, but odds are excellent that next February the man who has the Order of Lenin will be asked about the authors' contention before he is asked about the power play.

(The second question for the three-time Olympic gold medal champion: why did coach Viktor Tikhonov take you out after the first period of the Miracle on Ice game in 1980?)

Even if Andrei Markov is unavailable — the Canadiens defenseman suffered a torn tendon in his opening game — Russia looms as one of the pre-tournament favorites in Vancouver, along with the host nation. Russia has beaten Canada in the past two world championships, including in Quebec City in 2008, and seems to have put aside the squabbling that has routinely torn apart its teams. Led by the irrepressible Alex Ovechkin, the Russians no longer seem to need more than one puck on the ice at a time to keep everyone satisfied. Its defense is not as deep as Canada's, but no country has more high-end forwards.

October 13, 2009 — Return to cover.