I remember it well. I was a kid too young to be out with buddies celebrating but instead was dialed into hockey pretty tight. This wasn’t New Year’s eve, this was Canada vs. Russia.
Here’s a great clip from the post-game interview with Howie Meeker interviewing Pete Mahovolich. Gotta love Meeker’s lead into one question where he describes big Pete coming out of the corner and having Tretiak “down and out to dinner”.
Later, Meeker describes hockey as the “…greatest entertainment in the world today, played by the greatest people, regardless of whether you are from Canada, the United States, Czechoslovakia or Russia…”. At a time when the cold war still raged, this guy could have cared less – it was all about the hockey and he had a world view of the game long before many others in Canada.
Mahovolich comments about how the game was played a lot like it used be played “on the pond” with players not having to worry about sticks up around their ears.
At the end of the game, it was very cool to see Mahovolich and Cournoyer, with Tretiak in the middle, waving to the fans from centre ice at the old Forum as the organ played in the background. The boards were white, some of the Habs were still without helmets and Dick Irvin was his classic self, gushing forth about how ridiculously better the Habs were than their foes on this night, as he did in every game he ever did as the Habs colour man.
Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the opening game of the ’72 summit series. I don’t remember the first game, which we lost 7-3 in Montreal, and which apparently was quite a national shock. The video clip of Game 1 highlights found at this link is really interesting to watch. The talent level was very high on both sides. The Canadians actually lead 2-0 very early. A young Bobby Orr, watching from the sidelines, his knee already damaged to the point his best years were behind him, is perhaps as hard to see as anything. How different would this series have been with him, (and/or Bobby Hull) playing?
There is a certain romance to the odd sounding Russian names all these years later. Kharlamov, Maltsev, Petrov, Yakushev, Mikhailov. I know some purists will say Clark tipped the balance in Canada’s favour by breaking Kharlamov’s ankle, and while I’m not condoning that, Mikhailov was as dirty a player as Clark so I don’t buy that argument.
I remember watching snippets of some of the other games and of course, I remember watching the final game which I’ll post more about in the coming days but for the most part, the series is not something I can recall in vivid detail. I was a young boy at the time, and was either about to begin my first year of organized hockey or my second. It was much like the Olympics in its uniqueness.
Details aside however, it was a pretty cool thing to follow if you were as hockey-crazy as I was. I was too young to appreciate what a “cold war” was. Although I was obviously cheering for the home side, I suspect the notion of patriotism was a little vague. Nationalism – what’s that? For me, it was just about hockey. Funny, it still is.