Noonan: The Russians trained like crazy, but they loved their Coca-Cola. They would drink it all the time: morning, at practice, after games. I’d hand out a hundred and more bottles after practice.
Meeker: The Canadians, they weren’t in top physical condition. Once they realized they were up to their ass in rattlesnakes, they started working. Esposito led the charge.
Esposito: We had no official captain, but I was forced into it, being captain. I was outspoken. I’d just won a Stanley Cup [with the Boston Bruins]. I was playoff MVP, scoring leader. I was First All-Star. We’d just played the Rangers for the Cup and we really didn’t like each other. We had to put all that bad blood aside.
Sinden: Park and Esposito, they did hate each other. The attitude between players was different then. But that changed after Montreal. They switched to a war mentality. They understood the politics at play, the Cold War backdrop. Imagine a team playing the Germans in the middle of World War II – that’s what it was like.
Dryden: Awakening that Sunday morning, it was literally one of those moments so awful you are saying to yourself, “Maybe it didn’t happen. And there is nothing to confirm to me that it happened until I leave this room.” So I stayed in that room as long as I could.
Sinden: Fergie and I went to my room to figure out what to do. We could see they didn’t use their point men much in the offensive end and their wingers were beating our D-men in the corners. After that game, we decided to have our one centre man cover the two ineffective point men and bring our two wingers down low to help the D-men. That’s a very drastic change.
Eagleson: Monday comes and we start to practise. We’re all in a state of shock. Sinden names the roster for the next game and after the practice, someone says Hadfield is upset because he won’t be playing. And that’s where this ripple of discontent begins.
Esposito: At the beginning of the series, all 35 players were promised they would play at least one game. I told Harry that was crazy. “You can’t play everyone, or else we’ll never become a real team.” He said a promise was a promise.
Conacher: Before Toronto, this was just an exhibition series. By the time it reached Toronto, there was a national awareness. People started to realize this could really be something.
Noonan: I remember going into the hotel with the Russians and people got really quiet. They were in shock. People couldn’t understand. How could this happen? The Russians just accepted it. Another day at the office.
Toronto, Game 2: ‘This is war’
Park: Toronto was a far more nervous game. In the dressing room, we were much more subdued.
Yakushev: We got too excited after the victory. We let it all out, so we were tired. It was difficult to start the second game. The Canadians, they came prepared. They played much harder.
Sinden: Toronto was the biggest game of the series for us. I knew that going in. If we lost, I don’t know if we would ever recover.
Dowling: In the first game, it was more free-flowing, international-style hockey. In the second game, it would be a far more physical game. This would be the Russians’ baptism; they would find out how hockey is played here.
Eagleson: At the beginning of that game in [Maple Leaf] Gardens, I gave an award out to Lester B. Pearson and I got booed. I guess they blamed me for the loss in Montreal. That’s okay. I enjoyed getting booed.
Esposito: They came out hard in that first period and got eight or nine shots on my brother Tony and he stopped them all. That got us going.
Park: We had something to prove. We played a much more controlled physical game. Tony was terrific in net.
Esposito: I got the first goal and, just as I score, No. 4 hit me right across the back of the head with his stick. I had a big lump on my head. That’s when I figured, “This is war.” And it was war.