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Road to World Cup

Team Russia hopes to keep climbing

Won gold at 2014 World Championship; began international play in 1954 @NHL

World Cup history: Finished fourth in 1996, fifth in 2004.

Canada Cup history (1976-91): Finished third in 1976, first in 1981, lost semifinal in 1984, second in 1987, fifth in 1991.

World Championship history (2012-16): Finished first in 2012, sixth in 2013, first in 2014, second in 2015, third in 2016.

Olympic history (since 1998): Finished second in 1998, third in 2002, fourth in 2006, sixth in 2010, fifth in 2014.

Olympic medal history (overall): Gold 8, silver 2, bronze 2

"Canadian" hockey was first brought to the then Soviet Union in 1932 with an exhibition series between the German trade union Fichte and teams of bandy (field hockey on ice) players in Moscow. Though the Soviet teams won all three games, the sport, played before few spectators at an outdoor rink, was far from an immediate hit.

Soviet hockey enthusiasts made multiple attempts to popularize the sport in the late 1930s, including getting it into the curriculum at the Physical Culture Institute in Moscow. Those efforts were interrupted by World War II, but after the war ended in 1945, hockey began to grow rapidly. The first Soviet Championship was held in 1946; two years later, the Red Army played a three-game exhibition series in Moscow against LTC Prague from Czechoslovakia, which included many members of the team that won the silver medal at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics. The Soviets finished 1-1-1 and impressed with their level of play.

The Soviet Union hit the world stage in 1954 when it competed in the World Championship for the first time and defeated Canada 7-2 to win the gold medal. The upset victory ushered in an era of Soviet dominance that lasted until the demise of the USSR in 1991. The Soviets medaled in every World Championship from 1954 through 1991, with the exception of the 1962 tournament in Colorado, which they boycotted in response to a boycott by the United States and Canada of the 1957 World Championship in Moscow.

The Soviets played in the Winter Olympics for the first time in 1956 and defeated the United States for the gold medal. In all, the USSR won gold seven times in nine tries.

The Soviets earned the bronze medal in 1960 after a 3-2 loss to the United States, the eventual gold medal winner, and an 8-5 loss to Canada, the silver medalists. More famously, they had to settle for silver at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics after one of the most stunning losses in sports history. The Soviets entered the medal round undefeated but lost 4-3 to the U.S. in a game quickly dubbed the "Miracle on Ice." A victory against Sweden sent them home in second place; however, they rebounded by winning gold in 1984 and 1988.

After the USSR dissolved in 1991, the International Olympic Committee allowed Russia and the other former Soviet republics (except for the three Baltic states) to compete as the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. That team, featuring future Stanley Cup champions Sergei Zubov, Alexei Kovalev and Nikolai Khabibulin, defeated Canada for the gold medal.

However, Russia has never regained the stranglehold on international hockey it had during the Soviet era. No Russian team has won Olympic gold since 1992, and Russia has no medals of any kind since winning the bronze in 2002, following a silver in 1998. It finished fifth as the host country at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

However, Russia has won five gold medals at the World Championship since 1992, most recently in 2014.

Team Russia finished fourth and fifth in the two previous World Cup tournaments but is expecting better results in 2016 because of a stacked group of forwards including Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

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