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Prime minister Pierre Trudeau drops the puck for Canada's Phil Esposito, right, and Soviet winger Vladimir Vikulov to open the 1972 hockey series. (Peter Bregg)
Prime minister Pierre Trudeau drops the puck for Canada's Phil Esposito, right, and Soviet winger Vladimir Vikulov to open the 1972 hockey series. (Peter Bregg)

'72 SUMMIT SERIES

The story of the Summit Series, as it's never been told before Add to ...

Mind games and more mind games

Plouffe: That night, knowing most of the players were there, I made my way to the Intourist Hotel. That’s when we found out about the phone calls at night, and the stolen steaks. You could see the Russians were playing every trick in the book to make sure they’d win.

Esposito: The Russians fooled us right from day one with mind games. One practice I saw, they had old raggedy skates, ripped gloves, ancient pads. They looked like an amateur squad. Then they show up for games and they’re wearing all brand-new shit. It was all a ploy.

Noonan: Their gear was awful, awful. They had a free-standing sharpener. Not really a sharpener, more like a grinder. And they did their own skates free-hand.

Hadfield: We’d go down to practice – you were supposed to be on the ice at 10, but they wouldn’t let you on until 11. You go and practise and come into the dressing room, and there’s no hot water for a shower. So, you have to wait for hot water to come on for half an hour. Then you shower, and there’s no towels.

Park: At night, the intercom would start playing music. You would try to turn it off, but you couldn’t.

Esposito: That phone kept ringing and I’d pick it up and there’d be nobody on the other end. So, I finally got fed up and ripped the thing right out of the wall. This was in the middle of the night. A few minutes later, someone knocked on my door: They’d come to fix it. I couldn’t believe it. Try getting Bell Canada or AT&T to do that.

Reid: No question there was a campaign to interrupt the slumber of the team. I received two of the mysterious calls myself. We eventually solved it by convincing the hotel to route all calls to Canadian rooms through our diplomatic info desk. And then there was the chandelier.

Esposito: The chandelier story goes that me and [Wayne] Cashman were looking for bugs or something. We find a little lump under the rug. It was a box with a series of screws and we start unscrewing it until we hear a big crash below. We peep through the hole downstairs and see that a chandelier in the hotel ballroom had crashed to the floor.

Eagleson: There was no chandelier. It was made up!

Reid: It happened. I was present when some ostentatious hotel employees carted away this chandelier in a series of pieces.

Esposito: Somehow me and Cash got blamed for it. People say it was me. So from then on, I said it was me. It makes for a good story.

Moscow, Game 6: I would have killed

Esposito: I’ve said this publicly and I’m not too proud of it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I would have killed those sons of bitches to win. And it scares me.

Sinden: In Game 5, we did everything right. We just had to work on keeping the puck. Our guys liked to wind up and take the big shot all the time. We had to learn to hold on, be patient.

Ralph Mellanby, Hockey Night in Canada executive producer: I went out one night with John Ferguson, and he confided in me the new strategy. The Russians would send two or three guys in on the forecheck [so] they were telling our defencemen to fire the puck down the opposite side to put these two or three forecheckers out of position.

Sinden: I remember running a practice in Moscow to emphasize puck control. I made it so they couldn’t shoot until I blew the whistle. We couldn’t waste shots.

Mellanby: The simple changes Sinden and Fergie made altered the way Canada played hockey forever.

Reid: In the sixth game, the organizers put all 3,000 Canadian fans in one area. They got a good rhythm going with the chant, “Nyet nyet Soviet, da da Canada.” The Soviets got a little spooked by this. They called in the militia.

Harris: This one guy had a trumpet and every now and then the army guys would try to find it, try to get the trumpeter to hand it over. But everyone rallied around, passing the trumpet to one another and hiding it.

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