SUN Hockey Pool

Enough is enough

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Got an invite to the CBC screening of Canada/Russia '72.

It's a mini-series and they tell me it's quite good.

I won't be watching.

Don't get me wrong. I cheered like a little banshee in the gymnasium of St. Thomas Aquinas when Paul Henderson scored for Canada. It's just that I've about had my fill of the Summit Series. Right up to the eyeballs.

In the 34 years since Henderson's goal the Summit Series has been eulogized as the coming of age of Canadian hockey.

It was a sporting event that supposedly defined us as a nation. We were hardworking and willing and once knocked to the mat, about as easy to pin as a grizzly bear.

The Summit Series has become a business, a revenue generator that deals in merchandise and internet sites and reunion dinners and now, a mini-series on the national carrier.

It's a story based largely on myth.

You can't acknowledge the tenacity of the Canadian team in winning three games in Moscow without also accepting the monumental arrogance that prompted players, scouts and media to figure the Canadians would win all eight games.

The Soviet team that was supposed to roll over at the mere sight of the Canadians had won eight consecutive world championships. How dumb were we?

The Soviet level of conditioning was no secret. Canadian fitness expert Lloyd Percival had been trying to warn officials for 20 years.

But if you want real heresy, consider this stat. Vladislav Tretiak's save percentage dipped to .858 in Russia from .905 in Canada. Needing one win over the last three games, Tretiak gave up 13 goals.

You can make a strong argument that Canada won thanks to Tretiak, not in spite of him.

"In my opinion, Tretiak was an average goalie playing for an unbelievably great team," Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke once told The Hockey News.

The same Bob Clarke, of course, slashed the leg of Soviet star Valeri Kharlamov. The injury knocked Kharlamov out of two games. He was ineffective in Game 8 and Clarke's slash forever tainted the win.

The series brought more than it's share of dark moments, including an enraged J.P. Parise's infamous brandishing of his stick toward the ridiculously inept referee, Josef Kompalla.

And let's not forget Alan Eagleson's one-fingered salute to Russian officials and subsequent rescue by Team Canada.

It was not the best hockey Canada has played. The 1987 Canada Cup, another Eagleson production, would take that honour. It was not the most-influential hockey series ever. That title goes to the Americans' 1980 defeat of the Soviets in the Miracle on Ice.

The impact of the the Summit Series? Well, it cemented Eagleson's standing among players. It helped perpetuate the myth that intimidation, not skill, was the central element in Canadian hockey. Beginning in 1973, it would take a half dozen years of hard trekking by Borje Salming to gain some measure of respect for Europeans.

Look, I know the times were politically charged. The series was a miracle of the time, a phenomenon that grew out of a little eight-game exhibition series.

When it airs April 9 and 10, I'm sure Canada/Russia '72 will generate great ratings.

Just don't expect me to watch. I'll be watching my shopworn tape of Miracle on Ice. That Karl Malden, what an actor.


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