Alan Eagleson and the Summit Series
He never played the game, but he was the most powerful man in hockey. Alan Eagleson played many roles off the ice: agent to the stars, union boss and international hockey impresario. But he was also accused of less savoury activities: cozying up to management, bullying players and misusing their money. Then came the investigations, criminal convictions and a dizzying fall from grace.
• The Summit Series was a "home-and-home" series, with four games in Canada and four in Russia. There was a two-week break between games 4 and 5, and it was during this time that Alan Eagleson appeared on this Front Page Challenge broadcast.
• As alluded to at the end of the interview, Team Canada practiced during this period by playing exhibition games in Sweden against the Czechoslovakians.
• After four games, the Soviets were ahead two games to one, with one tie.
• Despite predictions of an easy victory, Team Canada was knocked down hard in the first game, losing 7-3. Paul Henderson said Team Canada's players "weren't ready for the physical shape [the Soviets] were in. We weren't ready for their upper-body strength and we weren't prepared for the tremendous ability they had as hockey players. They moved the puck better than any other team that I had seen."
• The "demeaning behaviour" by Canadian fans that Eagleson refers to in this clip came during game 4 at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum. Canada played poorly for most of the game, and some 15,000 fans booed and heckled their team. Team Canada lost the game 5-3 and was booed off the ice.
• At the end of Game 4, assistant captain Phil Esposito skated back onto the ice to scold the Canadian fans. "I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it," he said in an interview. "Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps. We know, we're trying, I mean, hell, we're doing the best we can." It was a rallying point for Team Canada, which came back to win the series in game 8 in Moscow.
• At the time, Eagleson was executive director of the NHL Players' Association. In an apparent conflict of interest, he also worked with NHL president Clarence Campbell to have any players who left the NHL for the upstart World Hockey Association (formed in 1971) kept out of the international competition. As Eagleson alludes to in this clip, top talents like Bobby Hull, Gerry Cheevers and Derek Sanderson, who had signed up with the WHA, were not members of Team Canada.
• Throughout the series, Eagleson battled with Russian organizers and officials. His most dramatic moment came during game 8 in Moscow on Sept. 28. With just seven minutes left, Canadian Yvan Cournoyer scored a goal to tie the game. But Eagleson, apparently thinking the goal might be disallowed, stormed onto the ice. Moscow police tried to drag him away, but the Canadian players left their bench and came to Eagleson's rescue.
• Team Canada skaters including Pete Mahovlich pulled Eagleson away, and led him to the relative safety of their bench. To the boos of the crowd, the defiant Eagleson finished his performance by giving the Russian police the finger as he left the ice.
• Canada won the final game 6-5. After leaving the Soviet Union, Team Canada played one last exhibition game against Czechoslovakia in Prague. They tied 3-3.
• Eagleson was also the architect of the 1976 Canada Cup series.
Program: Front Page Challenge
Broadcast Date: Sept. 12, 1972
Guest(s): Alan Eagleson
Host: Fred Davis
Panellist: Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, Gordon Sinclair, Helen Hutchinson
Writer: Gary Lautens
Last updated: May 14, 2013
Page consulted on December 5, 2013
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