Our Canada

Game On! Memories of 1972

As the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series approaches, OC editor Gary recalls Game 1 of what many view as the ultimate hockey series of all time.

1972 Series

In  1972, I was all of 14 years old and hockey was the most important thing in my life (well, girls came in at an extremely close second for the first time that summer). Even though it happened almost 40 years ago, the infamous Summit Series between Canada and Russia is still fresh in my mind as one of the greatest sources of adolescent angst I ever encountered. Game 1 was held at the gone but-never-forgotten Montreal Forum on Saturday, September 2 --  smack-dab in the middle of our annual Labour Day corn roast at the family cabin on Lake Clear.

What you have to understand about the family corn roasts of old is that festivities usually began in the early afternoon, progressed through the evening meal and went on into the wee hours of the following morning, with a LOT of singing, dancing, drinking and other assorted merry-making taking place from start to finish. I knew that trying to catch the hockey game in the midst of all the party mayhem would be practically impossible but, hockey in September -- even if it was against some second-rate hick team from the USSR -- was too good a prospect to resist.  Tuning into CBC on our old vacuum-tube TV up north was a challenge at the best of times, calling for a wad of steel wool on each "ear" of the set's rabbit-ear antenna, which had to be pointed just west of due south to get any reception whatsoever.  Shortly before game time, I went through all the ministrations of getting the best signal possible and was rewarded with a snowstorm and the irritating sound of Foster Hewitt's voice; being a Montreal Canadiens fan, the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs never failed to grate on my nerves. It was at this point that Gerry Gould -- the husband of my mother's aunt, my great uncle I suppose -- suggested we haul the television set outside and elevate the antenna for better reception. My Dad concurred, and before long, the Irish singsong that was beginning to gather steam on the front porch and down on the wharf gave way to rooting and cheering for the home team just 30 seconds into the game, when Phil Esposito swatted a rebound past the Russian goalie--some guy named Tretiak -- with what could best be described as a baseball swing. One-zip for the good guys, game on!

Half a minute later, the Russians went on a power play and that's when I -- and all the other hockey fans across the country, too, I'm sure -- caught the first glimpse of just how strong and talented this Russian squad was. They didn't score that time, but their power play had Team Canada scrambling and gasping for air.  "Who are these guys?" was the question on everyone's mind...having a bunch of no-names skate circles around our NHL pros was not supposed to be part of the program.

Before the night was out, we all got to know the names of several of the Russian big guns, mainly because my more-than-slightly inebriated great uncle Gerry insisted on yelling out out their names for the entire lake to hear every time they made a good play, leveled a Canadian player, or scored a goal. Boris Mikhailov, nicknamed Molotov by Gerry, was burned into our collective consciousness that night, having scored a hat trick in what turned into a rout by the Russians over Canada.

A 7-3 shellacking, in the Shrine of Canadian hockey no less, was enough to send the home team packing with boos and jeers ringing in their ears. The world as I knew it had been shattered and good old great uncle Gerry couldn't stop laughing.

Yessiree, this was going to be quite the series.


Where were you when Canada was vying for hockey supremacy against the Russians in 1972? We want to hear all about your recollections of that legendary series at ourcanada.ca.

Posted by: Community Blog on Wed. 2012-06-06 11:06am

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