January 9th, 1989 Sabres vs Soviets

To put into perspective my timeline it was during December 1979 and I was at boot camp when the USSR invaded Afghanistan.

Then fast forward to a Monday evening January 9th 1989 and I was in the Memorial Auditorium watching the Buffalo Sabres defeat the Central Red Army team in OT only a month before the USSR pulled their forces out of Afghanistan.

Also, the Buffalo Sabres draft-pick a Lt. in the Central Red Army Mr. Mogilny was four months from defecting from the USSR via Stockholm to Buffalo to join the Sabres in early May of 1989.  

While heading into the Aud (Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) someone handed me what I thought at the time was some more Hockey information because of the two team’s rosters printed on the back of a folded single sheet of paper.

Later at home, I read the title, “The Puck ‘N’ Red Army…they shoot as well as they skate.” On the inside, it listed the Red Army atrocities from 1917 to the 1979 invasion. It was put together by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Ukrainian Student Organization of Michnowsky.

Two other artifacts remain with me, the NHL published their own single-page folded sheet of paper that was larger and glossy ironically both papers had mistakes and omissions.

Additionally, I still have an oversized pin-back button manufactured in 1988 by a now-defunct Buffalo Business named Trench, and that has the dates and the words, Soviet Super Series ’88-’89, January 9, 1989.

The NHL and NHLPA billed this as the NHL Super Series, NHL Teams vs USSR 1988/89, and on television, here along the Lake, it was titled, Super Power Face-Off with the winner being presented with the Friendship Cup trophy provided by SportsChannel America.

I was a teenager when Buffalo twice beat the mighty Soviets 12 – 6 and 6 – 1 during the icy Cold War years of the 1970s. I take some pride in that the Buffalo Sabres are the first NHL team to defeat the Soviets.

When I was a young bartender in the mid-1980s the Buffalo Sabres lost a horrible game on January 6, 1986, a 7 – 4 score to the Soviets during the 1985-86 Super Series.

Right after Christmas December 26, 1988, the Soviet Super Series ’88 – ’89 began with a tie in Quebec and ended January 9, 1989, in Buffalo.

The Soviets were 6 – 5 – 2 as they rolled into Buffalo to play their last game of the series and it was the 4 – 1 – 1 CSKA Moscow team that the Sabres faced.

Soviet roster has many future NHLers

After the Soviets scored the first goal of the game the Sabres went ahead 4 – 1 on goals by Captain Mr. Foligno, newly acquired Mr. Vaive, Mr. Hogue, and future HC Mr. Ruff, the Soviets fought back and forged a tie game to end the second period.

Early in the third period on the PP, the Soviets tackle Mr. Ruff at the blue line essentially giving the Soviets a four-on-three advantage opening up a Soviet defenseman who scores his second goal of the game to give the Central Red Army the 5 – 4 lead.

A few minutes later Mr. Sheppard knocks the puck away from a Soviet forward near the center ice circle and skates in all alone going backhand forehand four or five times until he slides it under the goalie with the forehand to tie the game.

The third period finishes tied giving the Sabres an opportunity to win the game in OT and tie the Soviet Super Series for the NHL which they do spectacularly.

Not long into the overtime session Mr. Housley carries the puck into the Soviet zone along the dasher boards and gets the puck deflected to the front of the net where rookie Mr. Priestly gets control of it to incredibly score the winner 2:20 into the overtime.

It happened because during the Sabres rush into the Soviet zone Mr. Priestly was grabbed by the head and neck area and spun around down to the ice inside the blueline well away from the play.

Mr. Priestly rose and skated deeper into the Soviet zone when Mr. Housley played the puck off the backboard behind the net and shot it off a Soviet defender to the side of the goaltender deflecting it towards Mr. Priestly in front who snapped it home.

Along with Mr. Mogilny, there was another future Buffalo Sabres player on that Soviet squad who did play that night, Left Wing Yuri Khmylev.

I had often wondered if the Soviets that game had more motivation to play well and beat that Buffalo team in 1989 because of USA’s Gold Medalist (1980 Miracle on Ice) Sabres defenseman Mr. Ramsey.

I attended this game over three decades ago and can remember some of the experience so I am appreciative that YouTubers have provided videos to look back with nostalgia and assist this Hockey Historian’s memory.  

Author: Buffalo Winter


8 thoughts on “January 9th, 1989 Sabres vs Soviets”

  1. Well researched and written again and how terrific it is that you own such historic memorabilia (artifacts).

    Can hardly believe that I recognize some of the Buffalo Team player names and not just those that played also for the Toronto Maple Leafs during their career.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks P_g,

      this was a more personal article compared to the earlier ones written about the players, coaches, owners, and broadcasters

      There were some notable players in this game and I was wondering if you would notice Mr. Vaive or not, although he came to Buffalo from Chicago and he also played for the Canucks, I have always considered Toronto’s three times 50 goal scorer an excellent player and enjoyed his play for Buffalo his last few seasons in the NHL.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent! You said: “Soviet roster has many future NHLers”. I did not look closely, but I believe all bar the goalies played in the NHL.

    But look at that Sabres team! What a defence! Calle Johansson, Uwe Krupp, Ramsay and Housley. Amazing. And a future NHL linesman in Kevin Maguire. That was when the Blades were fantastic and I was a big fan, watching them on WGRZ.

    Those were the days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Woody,

      There were enough Soviets from this roster that played in the NHL that I can do a whole other article on the Soviets, additionally, I have Soviet Hockey ephemera memorabilia from inside the USSR, which would be included in the article as well.

      The defense was amazing along with Mr. Bodger, but they finished third in the Adams a few games over 500 % regular season and disappointingly lost to Boston in the first round

      You watched WGRZ, too cool

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting on this article

      Look forward to your future comments

      So do tell, which NHL team holds your favor?


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