September 18, 2012
40 things you don't know about the Summit Series
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
Thought you’d heard everything about Team Canada ’72 on its 40th birthday?
Not every story that went on before, during and after those four weeks in September were told or have been forgotten since the historic series against the Russians. The Sun came up with 40 snapshots as we approach Sept. 28 and the 40th anniversary of Paul Henderson’s Game 8 goal.
1. Paul Henderson was among those Team Canada players who considered turning down the invitation to play. He and his wife planned a European vacation that summer, but his agent and series’ poobah Alan Eagleson talked him into going.
2. Ken Dryden was signing autographs before the series for an appreciative audience, except for one stern-looking young man who got his signature and walked away without saying thanks. A peeved Dryden was going to shout something until he saw the crest on his jacket and realized it was a Russian player.
3. When actor John Bregar had to portray combative Bobby Clarke in the CBC mini-series about ’72, he phoned Clarke to better understand how Clarke played on the edge. The right-shooting Bregar also had to learn to shoot left and had trouble delivering his lines through the special dental plate he was given to authenticate Clarke’s gap-toothed grin.
4. Recalling how the Penticton Vees targeted him in the 1955 world championships, Russian coach Vsevalod Bobrov ordered his team to take boxing lessons as part of their preparations.
5. There were mind games right from the opening game in Montreal. Bobrov would not submit his starting lineup first, even though he was the visitor. Canadian coach Harry Sinden had wanted to put Henderson’s checking line out in anticipation of matching Valeri Kharlamov. But when Bobrov stalled, Sinden went with Phil Esposito at centre, who scored 30 seconds after puck drop.
6. Among those predicting an eight-game Canadian sweep was Canadiens’ goaltending great Jacques Plante. He felt so sorry for Vladislav Tretiak before the series that he came to the Russian dressing room and gave him advice on facing the NHL shooters.
7. Not only did Henderson score the last three winning goals of the series, he also took the first penalty at the 1:03 mark of Game 1.
8. Months before his signing in the WHA prevented him from playing, Bobby Hull had warned Canada could lose the series. He cited the lack of NHL conditioning in early September and that the Russians would never have agreed to such as series without confidence they could win.
9. With Hull out and Rob Gilbert nicking his No. 8, Bill Goldsworthy took Hull’s famous No. 9.
10. While all of Canada partied after Game 8 in Moscow, the Russians had their biggest celebration in the wee hours of the morning as Game 1 unfolded. Many took the next day off work. In his Moscow apartment, Boris Kharlamov, father of Valeri, was pouring vodka as his son led the 7-3 rout.
11. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was at Game 1, as was a young lawyer who’d become PM almost 12 years to the day: Brian Mulroney.
12. A cartoon by the Montreal Gazette’s Terry Mosher (a.k.a. Aislin) after Game 1 showed embarrassed NHL president Clarence Campbell bringing the Stanley Cup to a late-night pawn shop.
13. Brad Park’s wife Gerry gave birth to son James between Games 1 and 2. Park had to hustle back to the hospital in Toronto after the debacle in Montreal to attend. Forty years later, James was his father’s guest when Team Canada was invited back to Moscow.
14.Ex-Leaf Brian Conacher, colour analyst for CTV, was initially bumped because NHL power brokers objected to his critical book about the league. Father Athol Murray, founder of the hockey program at Notre Dame College in Saskatchewan, heard about the injustice and made a personal call to CTV owner John Bassett Sr. to intercede.
15. Kharlamov scored or assisted on all three game-winning goals for the Russians.
16. Three Russians played at least six games without any penalty minutes, while the only Canadian to make that claim was gentleman Jean Ratelle.
17. During the series, forward Vyacheslav Starshinov asked the Canadian players to fill out a survey on “the moral and spiritual qualities of hockey” as part of his university thesis. Most Canadians cooperated.
18. While Ed Johnston didn’t play a game in net behind Dryden and Tony Esposito, Canada had a practice goalie who was as busy as the other three regulars, Habs’ draft pick Bunny Larocque.
19. Tretiak’s back-up was 30-year-old Viktor Zinger, who was supposed to play in the middle of the series. However, the Russians didn’t want to tamper with success.
20. As the booing intensified in Vancouver in Canada’s Game 4 loss, Esposito vowed to have a strong third period to be named a game star. Since that guaranteed him a TV interview, he vowed to use it to blast the fans. But hardly any player saw his famous rally rant because there was no TV inside the room.
21. Stan Mikita, born in Czechoslovakia, tried to teach his Canadian mates some Russian cuss words — but they couldn’t master the accent enough to make the insults effective.
22. As many as 15 Canadian players who were being used sparingly or not at all met in Moscow to discuss leaving. But only four eventually took the drastic step after Game 5.
23. Russian officials gave home spectators at Luzhnicki Arena small cards with the translation to O Canada should they wish to follow along during the anthems.
24. Unable to get much cooperation from Russian TV technicians in Moscow, Howie Meeker recalls producer Ron Harrison bribed the mostly female tape operators with perfumes and candy so his Canadian crew would have access to tape machines.
25. Many Canadians thought their hotel rooms were either bugged or being searched while they were at the Moscow games. Some tried to trap the Russians by leaving objects in a certain order to see if they were disturbed. Alone in his room, TV producer John Spalding complained loudly about the lack of soap and burnt-out light bulbs, which were quickly and mysteriously replaced.
26. Not only did forward Wayne Cashman fear eavesdroppers, he thought the Russians were looking at him through two-way mirrors in his hotel. So he tossed anything reflective into the hallway.
27. Russian goal nets had extra mesh hanging under the crossbar to catch pucks. Dryden made a save on Kharlamov in Game 6 that most players believe crossed the line, but that Dryden pulled back off the spare twine.
28. Assistant coach John Ferguson, picked for the team before he announced his retirement, was given a bench penalty in Game 6 for a major temper fit after Esposito was assessed a major.
29. During Dryden’s off-day visit to the “department of hockey” at the Russian Institute of Physical Culture and Sport, a staff member declared the 6-foot-4 goalie would have been too tall for their national team.
30. Visiting Lenin’s Tomb during the Moscow portion of the series, cheeky capitalists slapped stickers on everything inside. They included Toronto Maple Leaf logos and the bright yellow Happy Faces that were popular in North America at the time.
31. Familiar food was so scarce for Team Canada’s wives during Games 5-8 that some came to the dressing room looking for handouts.
32. Henderson considered his Game 7 winner to be his best goal ever, as he out-skated two forwards and beat two defenders for a high shot past Tretiak as he was knocked down.
33. Martin Brodeur’s father Denis was a photographer working the series in Moscow for a Montreal paper and caught Henderson’s Game 8 goal. Henderson later autographed one of Denis’ pictures for Martin, signing it “Glad I didn’t have to score against you.”
34. Defenceman Bill White was given a chess set at the end of the series, the pieces decorated with flags of the two teams. He donated it to the Hall of Fame.
35. In the Russians’ post mortem, Tretiak said Bobrov’s biggest mistake might have been allowing players to return to their families after the Canadian portion of the series.
36. One of the cops who tried to hustle Eagleson out of the rink during the failed goal-light incident in Game 8 later became chief of police in Moscow.
37. At the post-series reception in Moscow, which most bitter Soviet players avoided, Henderson and Tretiak met up. Tretiak irked Henderson by saying how lucky he had been to score that night, but the two eventually became friends.
38. The most talked-about team in Canadian hockey history is not yet collectively honoured inside the Hall. “Where does this (debate) begin and where does it end?,” Dryden asked the Toronto Sun. “There’s no team category (in the Hall), but if you’re called (Canadian Press) Team of the Century, then you’re not too hard done by.”
39. Soviet sports officials initially said the primary purpose of the series was to study Canadian hockey. When it seemed it might end in a 3-3-2 tie, they announced they’d win the series on total goals. When they lost Game 8, they claimed the world championships were a more important tourney.
40. Singer Jerry Dallas penned The Ballad Of Team Canada after Game 8. It began “We’ll just shoot the puck/We won’t even need luck,” and saluted the Soviets, “They came likes the waves of an ocean/Like a storm on Siberia’s plain/We’re caught by surprise, can’t believe our own eyes/The Russians are stealing our game” and ended with “By God we’ve got Paul/And we won it all/And we gave those Russkies hell.”