Hockey fans recreate famed 1975 New Year's Eve game
Players have been meeting annually for 30+ years to commemorate 'best game ever played'
For more than 30 years, a group of hockey enthusiasts in St. John's have been getting together to recreate a historic memory in sports history — the 1975 New Year's Eve game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Union's Central Red Army.
"I think this is one of the best games ever played — anywhere, any time," said organizer Paul Heneghan.
Heneghan told CBC News it all started back in 1984.
"We had access to a lot of ice time one Boxing Day and we were sitting on my neighbour's porch ... and we talked about what great games we could recreate and we selected this game."
The Canadiens and the Red Army, he said, were likely the two best club teams to ever face off against one another.
The Montreal team went on to win four consecutive Stanley Cups and Heneghan estimates at least 10 of those players are now in the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame.
Likewise, 10 of the Soviet players had played in the famous 1972 Summit Series just a few years before.
"They were virtually unbeatable," Heneghan recalled.
I think this is one of the best games ever played — any where, any time.- Paul Heneghan, organizer
"The fact that it was two highly skilled lineups added cultural significance, I think that's what made it such a special game."
The fact that the game was also held on New Year's Eve at the renowned Montreal Forum — "one of the greatest temples of ice hockey ever built" according to Heneghan — made it especially historic.
32 years strong
This year's recreation marked the 32nd time the gang has gotten together.
Over the years, the game has been bumped from its original Boxing Day date to the more historically accurate New Year's Eve.
For the most part, Heneghan said, the games have been played at St. Bonaventure's.
"There's been times we've had equipment issues and whatnot and the rink hasn't been available, we've had to move it to Mile One," he said. "One year we had to move it on short notice to Brother O'Hare Arena and, another year I remember, we went to Fieldian Gardens."
With the exception of two years — "I was in Montreal of all places" — Heneghan has played in every game. He estimates about 300 players have taken part over the years.
"We've gone through the trouble of ordering in the Red Army jerseys. We've had these roughly 14 years now and we have the Montreal jerseys. The numbers and the names are the actual players from that game."
One year, back in the late 1980s, Heneghan said about 30 Russian trawlermen who were docked in St. John's came and stayed to watch the whole game.
That, he said, is still one of his favourite memories.
With files from Alyson Samson