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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 ...

Ken Dryden, Canadian goalie: At the end of the first period, it was a feeling of, “Oh, brother, this is going to be a series – a hard one.”

Meeker: I got in deep trouble with the team by saying I thought this series would go right down to the wire. Right after that, some Newfie who was an assistant for Eagleson, he comes storming into the broadcast area and … you ever heard a Newfie swear? I remember one thing he yelled: “You’re as stunned as me arse if you think they’re going to beat us.”

Vic Hadfield, Canadian forward: I’d scored 50 goals the season before with the Rangers. We were all elite professional players. But they were making us look silly. We tried to be more aggressive. That didn’t work.

Eagleson: At the end of the second period, the Russians were up 4-2 and I bumped into Gary Smith from our Moscow embassy. He says, “These Russians are killing you.” We were friends before then and after then, but not at that moment. I said, “You’re a communist, just like they are. Get out of my sight.” This thing wasn’t just a hockey game any more.

Sinden: It was getting worse as the game went on. I started to second-guess myself: Did we not train right? Did we not have the right players in the lineup? You know, it wasn’t as if we were having bad luck or anything. They were just killing us.

Conacher: By the end, they make it 7-3 and everyone is shocked. That building is completely silent.

Eagleson: That dressing room was a morgue.

Conacher: At one point on the air, I say the Canadian team has yet to jell and pick a leader. They didn’t talk to one another. There was no fraternity. [Assistant coach] John Ferguson stopped me in a hallway and called me a “commie lover.”

Johnny Esaw, broadcaster: Ferguson said that, but I don’t think he really meant it. That kind of criticism was an excuse for getting beat.

Liapkin: We showed Canada a different way to play. The Canadians played for themselves. We were a team.

Noonan: In the Russian dressing room, there was no great jubilation. They were calm as could be. Some of them, like big Viktor Kuzkin, seemed more enthusiastic about having a smoke in the shower than anything else. And vodka, they liked that too.

John Zeldin, Team Canada doctor: I saw the cold and naked posture of defeat – gloom, despair and self-pity. I took my eight-year-old son into the dressing room to see his heroes. He was so frightened by the mood that he held my hand the whole time.

Sinden: After a game like that, you can’t think you’re going to make your players better skaters or stickhandlers overnight. They are what they are. But one thing you always believe as a coach is your ability to change their attitude and their emotions. When the game ended, I knew I had to do something.

Kuperman: I was more shocked than the Canadian fans. The Russian newspapers the next day said it all: “The myth of the unbeatable professional is blown away.”

Sinden: The country was upset. Personally, I wasn’t sure we’d get it straightened out, because they so easily beat us. We had to win in Toronto.

Conacher: We thought we were the best. That whole mindset changed forever that night in Montreal. Nothing was ever the same after that. Hockey changed forever.

Backstory: ‘Can’t we have a World Cup of hockey?’

Eagleson: I’ve read a dozen stories about all sorts of guys taking credit for the series. I know full well where it started: Summer, 1966, me and [national amateur coach] Father [David] Bauer, Carl Brewer, Bobby Orr, we’re at our cottage. We were listening to the World Cup of soccer on the radio. I thought, “Why can’t we have a World Cup of hockey?” It wasn’t just Russia and Canada then. I wanted to go far beyond that.

Chris Lang, secretary-treasurer, Hockey Canada: Here’s where you have to start: 1968, in Rossland, B.C. Pierre Trudeau is on the campaign trail and says, “If I’m elected, I’m going to take a look at sport, because I can’t figure out why we’re not doing well in international hockey.” So he gets elected and sets up a task force to study sport. And out of that came the creation of Hockey Canada. And the mandate of Hockey Canada was to run the national team.

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