The often overused expression "our backs are to the wall" was never more appropriate than for Team Canada on Sept. 24th, 1972.
A 5-4 loss to the Soviet Union two days earlier in Game 5 meant that Team Canada faced the daunting task of winning all three of the remaining games in the Summit Series. What many had thought would be merely an international "exhibition" of hockey now had the fervour of a Stanley Cup final. And the "good guys" were down the equivalent of 3 games to 1 if it had been the usual NHL playoff best-of-seven series. They were actually 1-3-1 in the five Summit Series games to date.
In front of a crowd of 14,000, including Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, Team Canada had played an outstanding first two periods in Game 5. The 3,000 passionate -- and extremely vocal -- Canadian fans created a constant home-ice environment as goals by J.P. Parise, Bobby Clarke and Paul Henderson had Team Canada up 3-0 after two periods. It collapsed in the third period as the Soviet Union scored five of the six goals in that period for a 5-4 win.
"We tried to play a defensive game in the third period and we are not a defensive type team" explained a disappointed Bobby Clarke.
They looked to change that in the three remaining games by going back to play the offensive style that suited them best and had helped them to that lead after two periods in Game 5.
Gilbert Perreault played in the fifth game and practiced the next day. But when he learned he wasn't going to be in the lineup for Game 6, he asked to return to his NHL training camp in Buffalo. He would be the last player to leave the team.
The 3,000 Canadian fans had obviously made an impression on their Soviet "hosts." When they received their tickets for Game 6 at the Luzhniki Ice Palace, they discovered they were spread out in small groups among the crowd of 14,000 rather than seated together as one extremely vocal contingent.
Prior to the game, the Canadian players and fans were especially upset about something that is as Canadian as hockey. They had discovered that an anticipated shipment of Canadian beer had mysteriously "disappeared" upon arriving at the Moscow Airport.
Hell hath no fury like a Canadian hockey player lacking beer! Maybe it would be a good omen.
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