Sport: Deadpan Winners

To U.S. hockey fans, the visiting players from abroad seemed a breed apart. They seldom body-checked, showed no signs of pique when an American opponent lowered a shoulder and sent them sprawling. They tried few power plays, relied instead on dazzling skating and passing so precise that their offense looked like a giant-sized game of animated chess. Instead of whooping with triumph after a goal, they skated deadpan back up ice. But the touring Russian all-stars had one familiar sporting trait: they played to win.

For the Russians, the eight-game series against American amateur and college teams was an excellent warmup for...

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