Surely many young(er) folks and newer hockey fans, particularly those from the USA, don’t know the folklore behind the 72 Summit Series and the 35th Anniversary commemorative tourney dubbed the Super Series. As usual, Ive meant to write more on this but here is a short blurb I wrote to a friend from Boston who asked what was up with the Super Series game Dan Funboy and I attended (won by the Canadians with a great Kyle Turris performance). Stay tuned to an upcoming podcast for some commentary on the game.
In 1972, the best Canadian NHLers played an legendary 8 game series against the unknown quantity that was the CCCP Red Army team. They dominated the Olympics because they were “amateurs” and the Canadians always figured they would kick ass since they had whenever they sent their best to the World Championships. The first 4 games were in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver – in all, Canada was badly outplayed/outclassed and finished with 3 losses.
The Vancouver fans booed Team Canada after a bad loss and Phil Esposito game a now-famous, post-game spiel in which he called out to Canada for support and chastised the fans for not respecting their effort or the Ruskies (remember this is height of cold war).
So the series moves to USSR and the commies do everything they can to thwart and hassle the visitors off the ice and inundated them with propaganda etc.
Coach Harry Sinden says, “”We were having a rough time in Moscow with the defections, lousy hotels, phone calls to the players’ rooms in the middle of the night, the Russians snatching much of the food we had sent over for the team, especially the steaks and beer, and the terrible officiating by the European officials,” recalls Harry Sinden. “But a long cheer at the end of the first game in Moscow by the Canadian fans was a big lift for our spirits.”
After a first game loss, the Canucks dug deep and won the series in turmoil and chaos in the arena as the Rusians tried to lay claim to the crown before the buzzer and in the final moments, a goal by Paul Henderson (who was fairly non-noteworthy NHLer) past by Tretiak became part of Canadian folklore with his 3 time clutch game-winning goal performances.
The play of Yvan Cournoyer and Bobby Clarke (who inflicted a famous ankle-breaking slash on Kharlamov), a stunning goal by Frank Mahavolich, Ken Dryden/Tony Esposito all provided compelling storylines along with the tension of communism and foul play vs. capitalism and sportsmanship.
The other story from the tourney was Alan Eagleson, the self-styled union baron who sold out the players but was the catalyst to getting the Canadians on board.
The series resulted in some friendship and respect between the two northern ‘neighbours’ and the very start of the thought that Russians would eventually defect to play in the NHL.
So 35 years later, Vladamir Tretiak (the Russian goalie in the 72 series) and Hockey Canada organized a commemorative tourney this time with the best under-20s from each country. 2 games in Omsk and 2 in Ufa (all won by Canada) and then 4 in Canada (Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Red Deer), the final in Vancouver on Sunday.
Jason Bothchford from the Province newspaper wrote a great blog on location in Russia – great drinking stories, legends of fixers and Janbulis vodka shots: