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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 ...

Conacher: Foster and I were somewhat trapped in our booth, stuck behind the Brezhnev VIP bunker. We sat there and absorbed it and let the pictures tell the story.

Park: You can’t believe how happy I was, how happy we were. It seemed we were destined to be the goat of a nation. And then, slowly, you crawl your way out.

Eagleson: Henderson couldn’t believe the whole thing, from start to finish. He couldn’t believe he was picked [for the team], and he couldn’t believe<QL> he scored.

Plouffe: They’re taking me from the arena back to the jail. I think I’m on my way to Siberia. Suddenly, they are apologizing. They made a mistake, they said. They released me, so I go to the Intourist. Every Canadian in the world should have been at that party.

Knox: Thank God the Russians looked the other way that last night. The hotel was a madhouse. O Canada would break out every few minutes.

Plouffe: In the lobby, Eagleson or somebody announced that the series proved the superiority of the capitalist system.

Knox: We did the cha-cha-cha and the bunny hop in Red Square that night. Lenin must have been turning over in his tomb.

Park: Next morning, I had to catch the very last bus, the equipment bus, to get to the airport, with Wayne Cashman and Pete Mahovlich. We were all still drunk. We had an exhibition game in Prague after that, and bought these souvenir crystal goblets, a foot wide and 10 or 12 inches tall. We ended up filling them up with alcohol. The plane had to stop in London to refuel and restock the bar.

Cole: We landed in Montreal to meet the prime minister and there was a delay getting Cashman off the plane. We were wondering what was going on. Well, he’d fallen asleep and someone cut his pant legs off. They were running around trying to find him a new pairso he could greet Trudeau.

Park: That was Dennis [Hull] all the way. He would take scissors and cut the pantlets of guys who were sleeping, so when they stood up their bell bottoms were really bell bottoms. He didn’t get me. I wouldn’t go to sleep. He got four or five guys on that flight.

Eagleson: The other thing they did was [to] some of the guys who were sleeping on our staff, the two doctors in particular: They snipped the seams along the shoulders. As we were getting off, White and Stapleton took the doctor by the elbows and said, “Come on, let’s go, doc,” and pulled the sleeves right off. He was almost in tears. He wouldn’t get off the plane, said he couldn’t meet the PM looking like that.

Esposito: Trudeau was in the back of the plane, so Eagleson wouldn’t let us get off the back. I didn’t get off the plane at all, neither did my brother or Cashman. I don’t think they could have made it off: too drunk. Trudeau did come on the plane to shake my hand and I never ever will forget that.

Eagleson: That wasn’t the case at all. There’s a picture of Phil shaking hands with Trudeau outside the plane. He’s always on abo ut not getting off the plane and about me stopping Trudeau from meeting the guys. What can I say? It just didn’t happen.

Park: It was a rainy night in Toronto, but there had to be over 10,000 people at City Hall. Somebody tells me my mother is in the crowd. I climbed up over the fence and got her. When we got up on the stage, everyone sang O Canada – it’s a memory I’ll never forget.

Esposito: A lot of guys who came back from that never were the same. Hell, I was never the same after that. Never. I never reached the pinnacle that I reached in that series.

Liapkin: It was not considered such a loss in Russia. Both Russians and Canadians knew we didn’t win, but we proved to the whole world not only Canadians could play hockey. The Russians were pretty good too.

Lang: What had transpired was us against them, our system against their system, the free world against the communists. It had really escalated. It was far more than a hockey game.

Yakushev: I have heard what the Canadians think. This is laughable. For us, this was not a political battle. It was a game.

 

Patrick White is a national correspondent with The Globe and Mail. This is an edited and condensed version of nearly 100 interviews conducted over five months.

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