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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)


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Smith: A lot of people have commented that the Soviet crowd was very sullen, very quiet. That’s because they weren’t real hockey fans, they were Communist Party officials.

Cole: I went up to Luzhniki a day or so before the first game. I wanted to see the booth. It was completely glassed-in. I said, “No, sir. I have to hear the ice, the whistles and everything.” The lady who ran the arena said she couldn’t remove the glass. When she was gone, I noticed it would come out easy. [Globe and Mail columnist] Dick Beddoes asked if I needed help. So, I inched the glass out toward Dick. Within 30 seconds, there were four army guys on him. We got ourselves in some real trouble. But they eventually agreed to take the glass out.

Mike Harris, future Ontario premier: In that first game, when we went to sit down on the benches, there was an army guy at either end. They expected to fit 10 people on a bench made for eight. Eventually we just shoved those army guys off. They had to sit in the aisle.

Esposito: Once again, there was a big ceremony to start the game. I skated up and fell on my ass when they introduced me. I got up and bowed and blew a kiss to [Communist Party leader Leonid] Brezhnev, and the people there, they were shocked. I had the personality, you see, which they never saw.

Liapkin: He made the whole thing into a joke. Everyone in Moscow was amazed by that.

Esaw: This was not just a hockey game, this was a world-class international confrontation. That was in evidence in the stands: Both Leonid Brezhnev and [head of state] Nikolai Podgorny attended. You might expect one or the other, but to have both sent the signal that the Soviets considered this an event of great national importance.

Park: It started well in that fifth game. For the first time in the series, we’d dominate for five or six minutes. Our conditioning was kicking in. We were up 3-nothing going into the third.

Henderson: Late in the second, I came screaming down the right side, fell, and slammed my head into the end boards. The doc took a look at me and said, “You have a concussion. I don’t think you should play.”

Zeldin: This was a serious head injury. He had blacked out.

Henderson: I asked him if it could kill me to play. He said no, so I said I was playing.

Sinden: We weren’t taking a chance – we just didn’t think there was any danger in sending him out there. I think he scored on his next shift.

Zeldin: In retrospect, it was probably best for the country that Henderson did not take my advice.

Sinden: The fifth game could have been our best game. We were up 4-1 and they came back to win in the third.

Eagleson: Game 5 was where we were introduced to the refereeing over there. It stunk.

Rudolf Bata, Czechoslovak referee: I don’t think that the Canadian team was a dirty team. They complained about the refereeing, yes, but a couple of Canadian players told me after the game, “Rudy, everything is okay and tomorrow is another game.”

Bob Cole, play-by-play announcer, CBC Radio: They really deserved to win that game. They all knew it too. They were finally a team. All the guys from Boston, Toronto, Montreal – they had finally come together as one.

Sinden: That was a tough game to take. We did everything we’d talked about and practised. We kept puck possession. After the game, I shattered a coffee cup against the wall, we were so frustrated.

Kuperman: I thought that here after Game 5, it was over for the Canadians. They will never recover.

Eagleson: I’ll never forget, after we lost, in comes Red Berenson, who didn’t play. He says, “Guys, we can win this. Tonight, we showed we’re better than they are.” It was like somebody cut through a cloud and brought in sunshine. Everyone realized he was right.

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