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Canada-Soviet series: Game 1 shocker

People took the day off work on Sept. 28, 1972 to watch Canada play the Soviet Union. In the game's last seconds, their hero Paul Henderson scored an epoch-making goal. But the hockey series was more than just that final game. The fast and skilled Soviets surprisingly showed up Team Canada in eight gruelling games that changed Canadian hockey forever. It became faster, better. And the drama began in game one when Team Canada skated onto the ice self-admiring and mighty, only to be knocked down hard, 7-3, by the Soviet Union.

Phil Esposito pops one into the net 30 seconds after faceoff in game 1 at the Montreal Forum. The Soviets are up against professionals tonight, the best hockey players in the world. But halfway into the first period the Soviets stun the Canadians with relentless skating, precisely-planned offence and shooting that nearly slices the goalposts. The Soviet secret: hard work. They practice year-round, unlike the Canadians who reported to training camp just one month prior to the series.

The Soviets steal four straight goals before the third. Team Canada rebounds with a Bobby Clarke goal, making it 4-3. And then the onslaught; the Soviets come back with three goals in five minutes, winning the game 7-3. Canadian coach Harry Sinden (left) blames the loss on the opposing team's unexpected prowess. One fan says it's because Team Canada spends too much time with their "feet up on the coffee table watching a TV set."
• Game 1, on Sept. 2, 1972, marked the first time Soviets played against Canada's best professional hockey players. Much of Team Canada played for the NHL.

• The game 1 loss was unexpected because scouts had propped Team Canada up with predictions of an easy series victory.

• It wasn't unusual for a Canadian hockey player to smoke in the 1970s.

• Paul Henderson said Team Canada's players "weren't ready for the physical shape they [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."

• Unlike Team Canada, the Soviets trained off-season and maintained a rigorous physical schedule, including weightlifting, jogging, gymnastics and nutrition maintenance.

• Bobby Clarke, whose goal brought the score to a hopeful 4-3 in the third period, was named Team Canada's MVP in game 1.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: Sept. 3, 1972
Guest: Harry Sinden
Host: Bruce Rogers
Reporter: Laslo Bastyovanszky
Duration: 4:32

Last updated: February 14, 2014

Page consulted on February 14, 2014

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