Throwback jerseys are all the rage. But they're not supposed to create rage, as they did to some Europeans at an international hockey tournament in Moscow.
Last Sunday, the Russian national team wore Soviet-era uniforms from the domineering days when the team was often called the "Red Army." Emblazoned with "CCCP" (U.S.S.R. in Cyrillic) across the chest, the throwbacks led former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to tweet that the reference to the regime was "an offensive gesture that does not belong to sport or anywhere else."
In a statement, the Russian team said the jerseys were to honor the 75th anniversary of hockey in the country. The red version, it said, was a nod to winning gold for the first time at the 1956 Olympics, and the white version was worn from 1964-1968, when the team won two Olympic gold medals and was undefeated in international play.
But the retro "Red Army" look comes amid militarism that echoes existential tensions of the Cold War. More than 100,000 troops are deployed to the Russia-Ukraine border, triggering concern that Moscow may try to add to its illegal annexation of Crimea.
The Kremlin seems to be creating a war-ready mood among citizens, according to a Wednesday front-page New York Times story headlined "A Prickly Russia Cultivates a Military Mind-Set." In the past eight years, the Times reports, "the Russian government has promoted the idea that the motherland is surrounded by enemies, filtering the concept through national institutions like schools, the military, the news media and the Orthodox Church."
And perhaps through sport.
Of course, the throwback CCCP jerseys may be just that — a look back at the glory eras of Soviet hockey dominance.
But throwbacks aren't only to honor championships, but an admirable image, like when the NFL's Minnesota Vikings were dubbed the "Purple People Eaters" and the Pittsburgh Steelers had a "Steel Curtain."
The Iron Curtain shouldn't invoke any warm memories, especially for those held captive behind it.
That "letter combination and regime that stood behind it symbolizes authoritarian imperialism and killed millions of innocent people in the process," Stubb added.
Besides, while the uniforms may stir universal respect within Russia, in the West, and particularly in the U.S., they invoke the 1980 Olympic "Miracle on Ice" team of mostly Minnesota and Massachusetts college kids that beat the Soviets by one goal in an upset for the ages.
The same margin, by the way, that the Russians lost to Finland on Sunday.