Series has different flavour

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Ron Ellis had a special speaking engagement yesterday afternoon and the former NHL player knew exactly what he was going to say.

Ellis, who wore Canada's colours in the 1972 Summit Series against Russia, was scheduled to address the Canadian juniors yesterday afternoon before the team departed for Moscow. The times have changed, but for Ellis, the message he was given nearly four decades ago remains the same.

'BIG BAD RUSSIANS'

"Back then it was the big bad Russians, communism versus our way of life, and now a number of Russian kids play in the (Canadian Hockey League and NHL)," Ellis said. "These are all top players and goal-scorers, and somebody is going to have to do some backchecking. That's what happened with our club. We had to take on different roles.

"The line I played on with Paul Henderson and Bobby Clarke, we had to try to shut down the big line the Russians had, and my assignment was (Valeri) Kharlamov)."

Sam Gagner, one of four Canadians on the trip who played for the gold-medal winning squad last winter at the world junior in Sweden, was enthralled Monday night when the players watched a documentary of the 1972 series.

"It's not an exhibition," Gagner said. "It was called that in 1972 too, but in the video, (Phil) Esposito said it was not just an exhibition, but a war. I'm expecting this to be a battle as well."

The series will mark, presumably, coach Brent Sutter's last kick in junior. He remains owner of the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, but Sutter will turn his attention to his new job as coach of the New Jersey Devils when the series concludes.

"I had tremendous support from (Devils general manager) Lou Lamoriello and he did not want me to back out of this," said Sutter, who will coach his son, Brandon, in the series. "I'm really looking forward to coaching the Devils, but I have this to focus on first."


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