SIHR’s Behind the Boards

Did Eduard Ivanov play Forward at the 1964 Olympic Games?

SIHR’s Behind the Boards

Did Eduard Ivanov play Forward at the 1964 Olympic Games?

Marcel Lang
Posted December 21, 2020

Viewed 965 times

Eduard Georgievich Ivanov (1938-2013) was a staple on the defence of the Soviet national team from 1962/3 until 1966/67. A curious episode from the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, however, has led some to falsely assume he played as a forward in that tournament. The confusion was caused by no-one else but the Soviet coaching staff. As Bryan Lawrence writes in a 2014 SIHR Blog Entry:

            One unusual postscript is that the Best Forward of the tournament was awarded to Soviet defenseman Eduard Ivanov. The story goes that the directorate went to the dressing room to present the award to Boris Mayorov and the coaches took it and gave it to Ivanov instead. I have read reports that Ivanov was used as a forward during the tournament and was given the award for his versatility. [1]

Now, Eduard Ivanov was indeed known in the Soviet Union for his two-way ability. A 1977 Russian Hockey Handbook calls him a "hockey-universalist, equally strong and useful in both defence and attack." [2] Sources highlight his accurate passes and his powerful shot. What distinguished him from other Soviet defenceman was his willingness to join the attack. Decorated forward Boris Mayorov would later write in his autobiography:

            Others among our defencemen manage to give the puck to one of the forwards, but that's where it ends. Whether it is convenient for me to receive the pass or not, whether I can develop a further attack from my position – that's no longer his concern: 'Now you've got the puck, do something with it, my job is already done.' Ivanov didn't play like that, it was alien to his entire way of thinking. If the timing was bad for me and I wasn't ready to receive a pass, he would try it on his own and he would try everything, but he would keep the puck to himself and not pass it to me." [3]

Ivanov is also described as physically strong and as playing a gritty and passionate game. The downside of his passion and his involvement in the attack: he was prone to take risks that would sometimes cost his team.


Eduard Ivanov. Photo: RIA Novosti

Eduard Ivanov. Photo: RIA Novosti


Perhaps Ivanov's fondness of attacking is explained by the fact that he did indeed play as a forward in his junior days – until he was discovered by Nikolai Epstein, coach of the club Khimik in the top league. Epstein was very high on versatility. He loved defensive forwards and offensive defencemen. Under his guidance, Ivanov switched from right wing to defence. Two years later, in 1957, Ivanov moved to another club, Krylya Sovietov, where he was paired with Alfred Kuchevsky, a veteran of the Soviet national team. Finally, in 1962, Ivanov joined to the mighty Army club CSKA Moscow under Anatoli Tarasov and received a call-up to the national team.

After the 1963 World Championship, the 1964 Olympic Winter Games were the second major tournament for Ivanov with Team USSR. Anatoli Tarasov, not only CSKA head coach but also assistant coach of the Soviet national team, was full of praise for the commitment and heart Ivanov showed during the Olympics:

            As tight-knight and selfless as this team was, Ivanov still stood out with his amazing courage. He willingly threw himself in front of the puck, not just in desperate situations. Constantly looking for an opportunity to show his bravery and selflessness, he didn't spare himself in search of the toughest combat. And he did it all with a smile and inspired the other players with his enthusiasm. [4]

However, Eduard Ivanov did not play as a forward at the 1964 Olympics. So how did he end up with the Best Forward award?

In the explanation that Anatoli Tarasov gives, the Soviets didn't even acknowledge that the prize in question was supposed to be for the best forward.

He simply says that the tournament directorate could not decide which of the Soviet players was deserving of "a special prize" – a testament, as Tarasov is happy to interpret it, to the strong collective game of the Soviet team. He continues:

            A Salomonic decision was reached: the prize was handed to our team captain Boris Mayorov, so that he could transfer it to the team and we would then decide who our best     player was. At the general meeting, the players agreed with the coaches that the prize should  be given to Eduard Ivanov. [5]

Why the Soviets decided to ignore that the award was for the best foward isn't clear. What is clear though is that Eduard Ivanov did not play forward at the 1964 Olympics. An 1968 overview over the Best Defencemen and Best Forwards at the World Championships and Olympics from the Russian magazine "Football-Hockey" confirms this [6]:



Left column: Defencemen. Right column: Forwards . In 1964, no forward is named but two defenceman are listed: František Tikal/CSSR, the original honoree chosen by the IIHF tournament directorate, and Eduard Ivanov/USSR.


[1] Bryan Lawrence: Watching the 1964 Olympic Hockey Final (2014), available via

[2] Arkadi Komarov (editor): Hockey. Directory (1977)

[3] Boris Mayorov: I Watch Hockey (1970), chapter Day seven

[4] Anatoli Tarasov: Coming of age (1968 = 2nd edition), chapter Reply to Maurice Richard, subchapter Can we have "stars"?

[5] same as 4

[6] Football hockey 8/1968 (February 25, 1968), page 5

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