The Series that changed the game

It’s hard to believe that it’s already 50 years since the 1972 Summit Series because many of the memories & emotions of the 17 year old kid who sat riveted to the television for all 8 games are still so vivid:

* Our parents, who are both gone now, joining my twin brother & I in cheering every Team Canada goal & win & groaning when the Soviet team scored or won despite the fact they were not sports or hockey fans.

* Skipping my French 12 class to watch Game #8 on the television that had been set up in the high school cafeteria.  The cafeteria was packed with both kid & teachers skipping classes.  The Fire Marshall would have shut the place down if he had chosen that day to perform a fire inspection & observed how crammed that room was.

* My admiration for the speed, skill, teamwork, strength & conditioning of the Soviet players.  I still remember the Canadian hockey analysts during & after Game #1 marvelling at on how quickly big Alexander Yakushev reached full stride & how few strides it too him to skate from end to end.   9? or 11?  

* The Soviet  power play was a thing of beauty & virtually unstoppable for most of the games in Canada.  We cursed & groaned every time a Team Canada player took a lazy, stupid or selfish penalty. 

* The resiliency of Team Canada to come back in Moscow despite a couple of ice officials who’s calls were very questionable at best & at times made it seem like “The fix” was in.  

* Phil Esposito putting the team on his back & becoming the ultimate team leader & slot machine. 

* Paul Henderson’s goal heroics in Game 7 & 8. 

* The “Roadrunner”, Yvan Cournoyer speeding around & making most of the Soviet’s skating look ordinary.  

* Alan  Eagleson having to be escorted out of the Moscow ice arena stands & across the ice by Team Canada players & seated on the Player’s bench for his protection from armed Soviet para-military when the red goal light didn’t come on after a Team Canada goal Eagleson confronted the goal judge. 

* The newspaper reports of the crashing chandelier episode & the paranoia of several Team Canada players that their Moscow hotel rooms were bugged.

* Phil Esposito’s speech after the loss in Vancouver & seemingly never forgiving the Vancouver fans for booing Team Canada.  To this day I don’t think Esposito understands that the fans weren’t booing the game result or the efforts of the Team Canada players.  They were booing the dirty & unsportsmanlike play of many of the players once the Soviets blew the game wide open & were skating circles around an exhausted Team Canada which still hadn’t got their skating legs under them.

* Admiring the skills & unstoppable offensive dynamo, that was Valeri Kharlamov.   In my opinion, by far the most talented & exciting  forward in the World at that time.  If Bobby Clarke had’t taken a vicious 2 -hander across Kharlamov’s ankle & broken it, causing him to miss the last 2 (?) games, I have no doubt the Soviet’s would have won the Summit Series.  

* Tony Esposito taking over the goal tending duties from Ken Dryden in Game #2 & stealing a much needed win with his stellar play & then Team Canada going on to win 1 more game, tie 1 & lose 1 with “Tony 0” in net.  Tony Esposito had the best record of the 3 goalies who played in the Summit Series.  

*Cringing every time Foster Hewitt mispronounced the names of well known Team Canada players like Cournoyer & Mahovolich & that happened repeatedly throughout the Series.  You can imagine how often he screwed up the pronunciation of the Soviet player’s names.  He couldn’t keep up with the speed of play & often what he described didn’t bear much if any resemblance to what we visually saw.  

The Summit Series changed the game of hockey & began the transformation to the way it is played today.  It paved the way for the introduction of very skillful & talented  European players to the N.H.L. It also changed conditioning, coaching, skills training & it most likely saved the N.H.L. from becoming a no talent goon league for many decades.   And for that, true hockey fans & skillful hockey players can be forever grateful.  

A big “Thank you” to all the players on both Team Canada & Team Soviet Union for the all the exciting hockey play & memories from the 1972 Summit Series. 

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