Socio-economic factors to influence international success of Soviet national ice hockey team in the 70s of ХХ century

PhD A.V. Titovsky1
PhD, Associate Professor D.V. Vyprikov1
PhD, Associate Professor O.B. Goryunova1
1Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow

Keywords: ice hockey, Soviet national ice hockey team, socio-economic factors, global competitive success

Background. Physical education and sports are known to heavily contribute to the individual spiritual and physical progress, with sports competitions facilitating development of the best physical and mental qualities to peak in the world competitions, with national victories highly appreciated and praised at home. The Russian people still have a great pride for the legendary Soviet national ice hockey teams that first won the 1954 World Championship in Helsinki (Sweden) followed by the win at the VII Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) in 1956. The Soviet ice hockey team since then was ranked the world number one for 39 successive years (1952 to 1991). It won 22 out of 34 world championships, 7 out of 9 Winter Olympics and multiple medals in other ice hockey tournaments.

How can one explain such a phenomenal global success of the nation in this spectacular winter sport, what were the key success factors and how they may be rated? We have taken for the purposes of the study the period of 1970-79 – that may be considered a peaking point in progress of the Soviet economy. It should be reminded that the professional ice hockey players were barred from competitions in the World Championships and Winter Olympic Games till 1975, and this was undoubtedly one of the key factors.

Since the 1950s, economic analysts and sport experts have explored correlations between the national competitive progresses in the top-ranking events and the socio-economic factors of influence using correlation/ regression analyses and other statistical and analytical tools. Subject to analyses were the economic, political, geographic, demographic and other success factors, with the analyzed top-ranking events typically limited by the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Thus Ernst Jokl, a German analyst, took into account the GDP per capita, caloric intake, mortality rates and climatic specifics of the geographic location of every successful nation for analyses. In the 1960s to early 1970s the research was continued by D. Ball and some Soviet scientists including A.D. Novikov and A.M. Maksimenko [4] who largely expanded the list of success factors. They found, for example, a positive correlation between the per capita income and the sporting population, plus the urbanization and education levels – as demonstrated by their correlation analyses.

It was since the late 1970s that the experts increasingly used a regression analysis as an accurate econometric method to address complex problems, and it contributed to the above research. In the mid-2000s, W. De Bosher, B. Heindles and S. Shibli found by a case study of the national successes in the Olympic Games that they directly depend on the demographic factor (population) and GDP per capita. Some researchers have avoided building regression models and favored a few other analytical methods. Thus A. Bernard and M. Busse used the Cobb-Douglas function to find the national competitive success being correlated with the industrial output including the GDP per capita (income) and population (labor). D. Johnson and A. Ali found the host nations normally having an advantage in competitions and took this ‘host factor’ into account as a dummy variable. They further found the national Olympic teams growing in numbers with this variable. We should also note the studies by V. Andreff (France) who revised the A. Bernard and M. Busse model and used it to forecast national successes in the upcoming Olympics. He made rather accurate forecasts for the XXII (2014) Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

It should be mentioned that neither analysis of the research literature can provide a universal set of success criteria to forecast progress of a particular sport discipline in some country. Experts, however, commonly use the national Olympic competitive success rates with the first, second and third places scored by 3, 2 and 1 points, respectively, to convert them into conventional values for analyses.

Objective of the study was to find the socio-economic factors for influence on the Soviet national ice hockey team successes on the global arenas in 1970-1979.

Methods and structure of the study. We used a point system to account the medals won by the Soviet national team at the World Ice Hockey Championships for 10 years (1970 through 1979). It should be noted that the World Ice Hockey Championships prior to 1972 were timed to the Olympics and in 1972 and 1976 were run separate from the Winter Olympic Games. In the Olympic years of 1980, 1984 and 1988, no World Championships were run. We used a correlation analysis in view of the relatively limited sample, with the national success in ice hockey rated in points for medals won versus the key socio-economic factors including the specific yearly GDP growths per capita (%), yearly urbanization rates (%) and yearly population growth rates (%) for the study period.

Results and discussion. The analyses found only one positive correlation (62%) between the national ice hockey team successes in the world championships and the urbanization rate, and virtually no correlation with the GDP per capita and population growth rate. Let's try to find objective logics in this finding. As reported by the Soviet State Statistics Committee, the GDP per capita in 1970 made up USD 1,788 (38th place in the world) versus, for example, Puerto Rico GDP of USD 1,884. Note that the capitalist Sweden’s GDP was reported 2.6 times higher in 1970 and 4.3 times higher in 1979, although the top national success of the Swedish ice hockey team was silver at the 1970 World Ice Hockey Championship; with the population growth rate being clearly irrelevant in the case either.

The Soviet demographic statistics for the period by the republics reports the RSFSR population growth rate averaging 5.6% per year – versus the USSR average of 0.9% - secured mostly by the high growth rates in the Asian and Caucasian republics. As for the urbanization progress rates, the USSR was ranked among the most urbanized nations of the world till the early 1980s, with the urbanization level reported at 62.3% as of 1979. The urban population was reported to exceed the rural population on the economic growth peak (1960 to 1980), with the yearly urbanization rate estimated to average 0.6%. This means that the above finding may be considered fair enough.

What may be the other success factors for the national competitive progress in the top-ranking global events? There are quite a few study reports that rate and analyze efficiencies of the national sports encouragement policies and practices and the national team training methods to draft the competitive success models based on different factors of influence. Thus, V. Bosscher, B. Heidels, M. Bottenburg and S. Shibli found the national Olympic successes being only partially (by 50% on average) dependent on the socio-economic factors – since much depends on the sports progress policies pursued by the nations, financial support programs, accessible sports infrastructure and medicine, coaching specialist training systems, selections of talented children at schools, sports media system and the sports promotion in general and specific sport disciplines support in particular, etc. Soviet specialists A.D. Novikov and A.M. Maksimenko [4] explained the national competitive progresses of the socialist countries by their planned economies and centralized management systems with their special benefits for the physical education and sport sector design and management domain.

It was since the 1960s till 1990s that the world seen the fierce cold war of the socialist and capitalist progress models, with every Soviet national team success in the top-ranking global events interpreted as indicative of benefits of the socialist model. When in 1964 the Soviet national ice hockey team won gold at the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, "Pionerskaya Pravda" newspaper came up with the initiative to run a children's ice hockey tournament "Golden Puck". The idea was supported by the USSR Government, youth and public organizations; and the Central Komsomol Committee together with the Union of Sports Societies and Organizations made decision to establish the national "Golden Puck" Club.

Popularity of the Golden Puck Club tournaments reached its peak in the early 1970s when the Central Komsomol Committee, Central Council of the Soviet Trade Unions, Ministry of Education, Physical Education and Sports Committee of the Soviet Council of Ministers and the RSFSR Ministry of Public Utilities issued a joint resolution "On measures to support the Golden Puck Club movement of young hockey players". It should be noted that the Komsomol system controlled 400 different sports editions and radio/ television editorials, whilst circulations of "Komsomolskaya Pravda" and "Pionerskaya Pravda" newspapers were around 5 and 11 million, respectively. No wonder that skating rinks were everywhere and local teams were formed by every community, school and secondary/ higher education establishment. The sports system was staffed by highly knowledgeable and skilled coaches trained at multiple universities and offered progress opportunities at multiple seminars, conferences etc. As a result, in 1971 there were at least 18 thousand skating rinks including 70 with artificial ice in the country, and ice hockey was ranked sport number one by millions of boys who had every chance for progress in the free training groups, while the leading national ice hockey players were more popular than other celebrities.

The national progress and competitive accomplishments were eagerly covered by television and mass media. Thus the "Soviet Sport" newspaper circulation was reported at 1 million in 1960, and as much as 3.9 million in 1975 when it was available in 104 countries. In the late 1980s, the national population had at least 50 million color TVs, and the volume of wired TV broadcasting in the USSR in the mid-1970s was one of the highest the world over. Team sports have always played a great social cementing role due to the highest priority they give to the individual moral and volitional qualities [2] as a basis for teamwork an team spirit – manifested, among other things, in the strategic and tactical game control skills highly sensitive to every opponent and competitive situation [4], plus team physical and mental fitness standards [1].

Conclusion. National competitive accomplishments depend on multiple quantitative and qualitative factors which may be analyzed for the success forecast purposes taking into account many specific features of the country and sports discipline. The study data and analysis confirmed the assumption that not everything in sports depends on the national socio-economic progress factors, natural environments, geographic conditions and population. Of special influence on the national competitive progress, particularly in the socialist Soviet period, was the state support with the generous sport financing programs, mass sports promotion movements, mass physical education and sports enthusiasm, the highest popularity of the national sports celebrities, excellent skills, experiences and appealing personalities of the leading coaches etc., and all that factors heavily contributed to the popularity of the favorite national sports. 

References

  1. Vyprikov D.V., Shutova T.N., Bodrov I.M., Golubnichiy S.P. Individualized preparatory staged training model for junior female footballers. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury. 2019. no. 3. pp. 60-62.
  2. Lubyshev E.A. Psychological and pedagogical support of athlete in team sports. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury. 2018. no. 9. 9 p.
  3. Novikov A.D., Maksimenko A.M. Influence of some socio-economic factors on national sports achievements.Mezhdunarodnoe obozrenie sotsiologii sporta, 1972. no.7. pp. 27-40.
  4. Titovskiy A.V., Gadzhiev D.M., Nutsalov N.N., Averyasov V.V. Forming students' competitive competences via billiards tournaments. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury, 2016, no. 9, pp. 39-41.

Corresponding author: avtitovskiy@yandex.ru

Abstract

Objective of the study was to find the socio-economic factors for influence on the Soviet national ice hockey team successes on the global arenas in 1970-1979.

Methods and structure of the study. We used a point system to account the medals won by the Soviet national team at the World Ice Hockey Championships for 10 years (1970 through 1979). It should be noted that the World Ice Hockey Championships prior to 1972 were timed to the Olympics and in 1972 and 1976 were run separate from the Winter Olympic Games. In the Olympic years of 1980, 1984 and 1988, no World Championships were run. We used a correlation analysis in view of the relatively limited sample, with the national success in ice hockey rated in points for medals won versus the key socio-economic factors including the specific yearly GDP growths per capita (%), yearly urbanization rates (%) and yearly population growth rates (%) for the study period.

Results and conclusions. National competitive accomplishments depend on multiple quantitative and qualitative factors which may be analyzed for the success forecast purposes taking into account many specific features of the country and sports discipline. The study data and analysis confirmed the assumption that not everything in sports depends on the national socio-economic progress factors, natural environments, geographic conditions and population. Of special influence on the national competitive progress, particularly in the socialist Soviet period, was the state support with the generous sport financing programs, mass sports promotion movements, mass physical education and sports enthusiasm, the highest popularity of the national sports celebrities, excellent skills, experiences and appealing personalities of the leading coaches etc., and all that factors heavily contributed to the popularity of the favorite national sports.