Monday, September 26, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – RUSSIA (B)

Sixth, expect your hotel rooms, cars, busses, etc. to be bugged so be careful as to what you say all times. Their goal is to make you paranoid and distracted in a manner as to negatively affect your performance during a match. Seventh, bring multiple sets of top notch ear plugs to help block out all noise and interruptions. The phone will certainly ring during your afternoon nap; late night phones calls to wake you up, and flicking hotel room lights. Plus, fire alarms will go off in the middle of the night to also disturb your sleep. Not to forget, bugging the phones of all of the visiting player’s quarters. Many other out of the ordinary events will occur to throw you off of your routine.

Use these occasions as a trigger to foster more team building among yourselves. Increase the cohesiveness of this squad in a manner with a focus of it is us against the whole world and use it as motivation. Eighth, bring your own preferred alcohol and possess it on you. Otherwise it is assured to be stolen and you will be stuck having to borrow some from one of your teammates. Barring that, reduced to drinking nasty tasting homemade vodka most likely made from your own hand. There was a lot of additional advice and tips stressed to the players.

Anyway, Mekkar was still upset at the ever changing schedule and itinerary of this tour. He, along with his team, was informed in the air to be prepared to play three different clubs located in the Moscow area. This had been expanded from just one as originally planned. The Selects players were told that it was to make up for previously cancelled games and also for the long break they had in Africa.

When the Selects had touched down in Moscow and got off of the aircraft events happened almost exactly as they were described beforehand and warned about. It was fortunate that Mekkar heeded the pre-trip advice and purchased some less expensive goods during the North American part of the journey. Those items were originally intended to be taken back home. He now decided to sell those items behind the Iron Curtain for a tidy sum profit. Mekkar was not the only team member to do this, even a couple of the coaches got into the act by bringing alcohol that couldn’t be found here. The players just expected those coaches to drink it in style instead. Boy, they were wrong!

The KGB agents and a few of the military personnel they encountered since disembarking their flight and on the way to the hotel appeared to Mekkar to be very smug toward them. It seemed that way throughout their whole stay there. Mekkar distinguished the steely eyed looks and cold stares as a type of borderline arrogance. Takes one to recognize another haughty person. Unknown to the hosts, Alf was a secret weapon in the Selects arsenal since he was fluent in the Russian language. Mekkar and other teammates were always pestering Alf to translate for them. They were continually asking Alf, “What did they say?” over and over again. Alf knew his older sibling was a pain in the butt and now he felt the rest of the squad was acquiring this defective trait from Mekkar. Well, Sirga’s expansive language plan was at least being put to good use after all and outside the scope of the family business.
    
After checking in at their temporary quarters them boys ventured out around the capital city. They soon broke off into smaller groups and pairs to track down the locations to unload their goods. Mekkar was eager to make some exchangeable cash and wanted to get rid of the smuggled articles on his person. He had a sense that the government security people were following him, Lasse, Alf, & others were sort of letting them slide. Mekkar felt those authorities were overlooking minor breeches of the law and protocol with regard to bringing items from outside the country. He thought that they might pounce on the recipients after they leave. Mekkar was of the opinion that the agents were looking for a handout or a bribe to look the other way. He knew this is a normal practice with police and state figures all over the world. Yet, Mekkar did not dare to do this because he did not know who he could trust there.

It dawned on Mekkar when he looked around the place as to why the locals consumed a lot of alcohol, just like back home. He determined that many people there drank like a fish. He described the scene as kind of depressing and thus maybe the reason for these societal habits. To him people were not upbeat and didn’t appear to be happy as a whole, at least not in public or in front of the visitors and most didn’t try to hide it either. Most of the individual dour citizens also seemed to Mekkar as being cut from the same cloth with little variety in dress or mannerisms. Mekkar attributed it to being under the thumb of powerful communist rulers for so long in the vein of Joseph Stalin, etc. It was as though Mekkar had stepped back in time into the 1950’s similar to an old black and white movie on television. Mekkar has never been a fan of tv shows and films that are from the pre-color period.

Could it be the host city residents and government employees knew something that he didn’t? Thus the reason for displaying their overconfident attitude thought Mekkar. He let out a sigh of relief when the small contingent had gotten back to their hotel for the evening. Especially after trading their goods for money that could be switched for a real internationally valued currency before leaving the country. Mekkar definitely didn’t want to get stuck with rubles afterward since they weren’t accepted as payment back home.

In the Arctic Warrior’s opinion, the Soviet players appeared to already believe they had victory over their opponents. Especially of opposition squads as inexperienced as Mekkar’s team. Like a boxing match, a team can be scared and defeated before the game itself. The Selects players were already warned about these dubious tactics would increase when the home squad’s own confidence waivered. Even more so, if there was a thought of potential defeat. Mekkar & his brother Alf both suspected the KGB’s role behind various actions that might be taken against them. The intensity of the nefarious activities almost always increased the day before a game itself. The fatigue factor was the goal through paranoia and suspicion. That is, to have you wiped out by game time and to force mistakes on the ice.

Preparations during the next day for the Selects’ focused on the matchup against the mighty Russian Red Army team, otherwise known as CSKA Moscow. The Red Army squad usually supplied most of the personnel to the powerhouse Soviet National team. Yes, Mekkar knew some the history and it was well known the USSR team had dominated the international hockey landscape since the nineteen sixties. The Selects’ opponents also regularly defeated top-level pro clubs from North America and National teams on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Red Army club (CSKA) was able to attract the best players because of the required military commitments of most males in the USSR. {Wikipedia]

The CSKA roster was filled with names acknowledged throughout the hockey world. Players such as Valeri Kharlamov who was as talented as Gretzky or Lemieux, one of the best goalies ever Vladislav Tretiak, Vladimir Petrov, the tenacious Boris Mikhailov, Alexander Gusev, Vladimir Lutchenko, Yuri Liapkin, a young budding superstar defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov, and more. Many of those players had gained experience on the international stage and now were squaring off against kids. [Wikipedia; hockeydb.com; 1972summitseries.com; chidlovski.com; russkiyhockey.wordpress.com]