Robertson a 'nutbar' for picking Soviets

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:01 PM ET

John Robertson made his mark in this province when he helped create the Manitoba Marathon in the late 1970s.

He really struck a chord across Canada even earlier than that. In September, 1972, Robertson wrote a column in the Montreal Star suggesting the Soviets would win six of eight games in the Summit Series.

He even said he'd eat his column if Canada won.

"I remember I predicted 6-2, and, I walked into the Forum for that first game feeling like a leper," Robertson said earlier this week from his Winnipeg Beach home.

Robertson made his prediction for two reasons. One was to cause a stir, but the other was because of what he witnessed in Russia a few years earlier.

"I saw their 17-year-olds play, and I thought, 'Hey, these guys are a little better than we think,' " said Robertson.

Robertson said it wasn't a surprise that everyone was predicting Canada to steamroll the Soviets. Their equipment was terrible and the stench in their dressing room was disgusting.

'IT STUNK SO MUCH'

"It looked like it had spent the summer on the dump or something. It stunk so much," he said. "You walked in the dressing room, and it was like getting hit with a fist."

So Robertson had been labelled a nutbar. That was until Canada went out and lost the opening game 7-3. You can imagine the looks Robertson got that night.

It didn't get any better for the Canadian team, which had a 1-2-1 record after the four games in Canada. Robertson kept his eyes on the floor in the Canadian dressing room.

"I was walking gingerly there the first few games," said Robertson, who covered the Canadian swing for the Star but didn't travel overseas for the final four games. "... I was enjoying hell when it was 2-1-1 for Russia, but I wasn't going around taunting people."

Actually, Robertson claims he made the statement right then and there that it was exciting hockey and that fans would be enjoying the rivalry for the next 50 years.

How prophetic.

Unfortunately for Robertson, though, he couldn't get them all right. A week after Paul Henderson's historic goal, Robertson found himself at a Montreal restaurant, staring at a salad that contained shredded pieces of his column.

"I had to eat this bloody column slathered in ink and Russian dressing, and it felt like a bowling ball down there," Robertson said with a laugh. "All the news that's fit to eat."

Robertson recently suffered his sixth stroke, but his memories of the Summit Series remain crystal clear. He's not sure if the event really was as good as everyone remembers it, but "it caught our attention and riveted us," he said.

"Of all the things that I have ever had the privilege of covering, it was far and away the most exhilarating. It's an experience I will never forget."


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