Little M is Hall right

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Most of the 30 members of Team Canada 1972 who were inducted in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame yesterday never realized the enormity of their task in that opening game at the old Montreal Forum against the Soviet national team.

But Peter Mahovlich did.

Even though he scored the first goal of the game that night, giving Canadian hockey fans from coast to coast an early reason to cheer, Mahovlich said he knew the team was in for a game ... and a series.

He was right on both counts.

Canada lost that first game by the embarrassingly lopsided score of 7-3 and ended up having to stage a monumental come back to to win the eight game series 4-3-1 in the final minutes of the final game in Moscow on a goal from Paul Henderson.

Mahovlich was warning his teammates and the Canadian hockey media at the time that the Soviets were the real deal.

"Eventually, you will see the Russians in the Stanley Cup,"Mahovlich said on the eve of the series.

Yesterday, as he prepared to be presented with Canada's highest sporting honour, along with the rest of the 1972 team, Mahovlich said he is still amazed when he thinks back at how the series went from being a friendly international sporting event to a battle of the Russian versus the Canadian ways of life.

"I think that when we started that first game, everybody expected the series to be nothing more than an exhibition," Mahovlich said.

"But when the Russians played so well and put us behind the eight ball so soon, it turned into one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- hockey series ever played."

The Little M, who at the time played in the shadow of his more famous older brother Frank, said it didn't take long for the rest of the team to see the Soviets for what they were -- a great team.

"This was going to be more than eight hockey games. It became a passion not only for Canadian fans but for everybody on that team," he said.

And in doing so, Mahovlich said that he and his teammates were confronted with just how much the game of hockey meant to their nation.

"We came to realize how much hockey meant to Canada during that series," he said. "I mean there are people with real jobs who get up at four in the morning to go play hockey. And there we were, getting paid good money to do something we loved.

"And that we got to do it for our country was an added bonus."

Also inducted to the Sports Hall of Fame yesterday at the Royal York were: The Toronto Sun's George Gross and baseball executive Paul Beeston in the builders category; Olympic cyclists Steve Bauer and Curt Harnett; speedskater Catriona Le May Doan and former major league pitcher Claude Raymond.


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