Esaw: After the game, I tracked down Esposito. I knew he was the heart and soul of that team. I thought it was going to be just another rink-side interview.
Esposito: As I was skating over to Esaw, I could hear these kids yelling that communism was better. That was the last straw.
Esaw: Esposito is sweating and he’s crying. He couldn’t understand the fans. He said he didn’t care about the money – “We just don’t want people to boo. We’re Canadians. This is Canada.”
Esposito: It just came out. I’ve heard it compared to some of the great speeches, and it’s quite an honour. It was never meant to be that. It was only meant to tell people, “Hey, we’re trying our best here.”
Esaw: We were coming up to the national news at 11. I wouldn’t sign off. To hell with the national news, this was more important.
Zeldin: My initial impression of Phil Esposito was that he was sort of superficial and frivolous. But I realized there was a great deal more to him than first met the eye. Inside of a simple exterior, there was a very mature and intelligent mind.
Noonan: RCMP guys, we had a lot of them hanging around the Russians, plainclothes guys. After the game in Vancouver, the RCMP guys come up to me and say, “Ricky, we gotta go say goodbye to the boys.” So, in an unmarked car, we go tearing down Granville Street, drive right out on to the tarmac of Vancouver Airport to say goodbye to the Russians. Like I say, a lot of them were great guys, some were jerks.
After Vancouver, to Russia with dread
Zeldin: Just before our departure, we had a little briefing from the RCMP. They warned us that nothing happens casually in Russia. As the officer rather pithily put it, “If you do make out with a good-looking doll, chances are you will be presented later with a photograph of your bare ass.”
Smith: Did anyone get caught in a honey trap on this trip? I’m not saying. Let’s look at it this way: They had the system set up and we had 3,000 people, so ... you decide.
Shatalov: Sure, it sounds silly today how scared some of the Canadians were of the USSR. Some thought they would go and be sent to Siberia. But it could have happened. You could be sent to Siberia very easily then.
Smith: We originally banked on 500 Canadians coming, but it just mushroomed. Once there were packages put together, demand went through the roof and there were 3,000 people wanting to come.
Creelman MacArthur, fan: It was an amazingly low price, about $800 for the three weeks. I heard on the car radio that a local travel agency had two tickets left. So I pulled up, went inside and put a ticket on my credit card.
David Pawlik, fan: Back then, you got free drinks on the plane. This was a Russian plane, Ilyushin 62. They only sold mickeys. So, here we were ordering 12-ounce bottles of vodka.
Pierre Plouffe, Olympic water skier and fan: As long as you were Canadian, it was a big party. We practised O Canada the whole flight. We sang so much my throat was giving out.
Conacher: For some Canadians, it was a trip to the dark side of the moon.
Herb Knox, consular official: They didn’t have a clue what they were getting into. I can remember, soon after they landed, some Canadians asking where they could find Coca-Cola. There wasn’t anything of the sort around. Another Canadian arrived with shoes that were too small. He asked our help in finding some more. He eventually bought the most godawful shoes and he must have paid $200 for them. By the end of the series, you could spit through the soles.
Eagleson: We weren’t about to trust our food to them. We brought over our own beer – 500 cases. And we brought 800 to 900 steaks.
Park: At that time, you’d always have a 12-ounce New York sirloin on game day.