Great Game Previews In History: 6 December 2013

by J.R.

Today In History

water_polo_aug08_main_thumbIn the wake of the Hungarian Revolution — student demonstrators sparked large scale resistance to the Soviet puppet government starting in October; the Soviets, as Soviets did, reacted swiftly and strongly to put it down — Hungary and the USSR met in an Olympic water polo match December 6, 1956 in Melbourne (this explains why the Summer Olympics were in December; antipodean weirdoes).

Hungary were the defending Olympic champions and were moved to Czechoslovakia during the uprising and came into the match filled with patriotic fervor.

The game was violent — punches and kicks beyond the level of what is generally accepted in water polo (which is a lot, actually) were exchanged. The match earned its sobriquet — “Blood In the Water” — when, near the end of the game, the Soviet Valentin Prokopov punched Hungarian star Ervin Zádor, who later said he saw “4,000 stars” as his blood gushed into the pool (it should be noted, for the sake of fairness, that Hungary’s captain Dezső Gyarmati punched a Russian before this).

Hungary won the match 4-0 and subsequently the gold medal.

Wild at Blue Jackets, 6 PM

Records: Wild (17-8-5, 39 points, 3rd in Conference III); Blue Jackets (11-14-3, 25 points, 7th in SUDM)

Last Time They Met: Columbus took it 3-2 in a shootout in St. Paul April 13.

Last 10: Minnesota 5-4-1; Columbus 5-4-1

Historical Context: After the match, many of the Hungarian players sought asylum in the west. That’s the reverse of what Columbus did — fearing the West, they sought asylum in the East.

Ducks at Blackhawks, 7 PM

Records: Ducks (18-7-5, 41 points, 2nd in Pacific); Blackhawks (20-6-4, 44 points, 1st in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Anaheim eked a 2-1 winner in Chicago March 29, their fourth straight win against the ‘Hawks.

Last 10: Anaheim 3-3-4; Chicago 7-3-0

Historical Context: The Hawks’ success is enviable — but is it imitable? The Soviets used their position of power in Hungary to borrow (or steal) the Hungarian training methods, which greatly improved the team. At the same time, Hungarians were forced by the puppet government to learn Russian, which proved helpful — during the match, the Hungarians let loose with untold vitriol at the Soviets in a language they could understand. Now, that’s Conference III.

Avalanche at Flames, 7 PM Mountain/8 PM Central

Records: Avalanche (19-7-0, 38 points, 4th in Conference III); Flames (10-13-4, 24 points, 6th in Pacific)

Last Time They Met: Colorado won 4-2 on Nov. 8 in Denver.

Last 10: Colorado 5-5-0; Calgary 4-4-2

Historical Context: “I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out,” the old, terrible joke goes. In the case of Blood In The Water, that was true. The stands were packed with Hungarians already in the venue because the gold-medal boxing match featuring national hero László Papp was just before the water polo match. Also in the stands were hundreds of Australian and American fans, happy to cheer against the Soviets. When Prokopov punched Zádor, a near-riot broke out and the stands were cleared.