Summit Series: Russians outclass Canada, Esposito fumes | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaSummit Series: Russians outclass Canada, Esposito fumes

Posted: Saturday, September 8, 2012 | 11:01 PM

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Phil Esposito, left, gave an interview for the ages after his Canadian team lost to the Russians in Game 4 of the Summit Series in Vancouver. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press) Phil Esposito, left, gave an interview for the ages after his Canadian team lost to the Russians in Game 4 of the Summit Series in Vancouver. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

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CBCSports.ca sent columnist Malcolm Kelly through a time warp and into the body of a veteran Vancouver sportswriter, circa 1972, to report on Game 4 of the Canada-Soviet hockey series. Here's what he sent back.
CBC Sports sent columnist Malcolm Kelly through a time warp and into the body of a veteran Vancouver sportswriter, circa 1972, to report on Game 4 of the Canada-Soviet hockey series. Here's what he sent back.

VANCOUVER, Sept. 8, 1972 - As we trooped down from the press box at the suddenly empty Pacific Coliseum on Friday, a dreary score of Soviets 5 Canada 3 pasted on the big board overhead, Dick Beddoes must have been wondering what else he might have to eat in embarrassment.

The Globe and Mail scribe, fiddling with his famous fedora (salt? pepper?), had gone the rest of us one better before this series started by saying if the Soviets won just once in this eight game affair, he would partake of that Ukrainian delicacy borscht, one we are told is cold and made mainly of beets.

Eat of lot of it in Winnipeg, apparently.

Well, he's already had that meal, back there in Toronto when the club he's lately been referring to as "Team USA NHL" because most of the Canadians earn their wages in undervalued Greenbacks, actually came out and beat the Soviets for the one and only time.

Dinner has arrived for many of us, though, especially those who suggested chomping on their own hats would be in order if anything but a sweep occurred.

What's been shocking, as the ink-stained troops have made their way across the country from Montreal (loss) to Toronto (win) to Winnipeg (tie) is how our scribes have gone from unabashed cheerleaders to the Spanish Inquisition.

And no one expected the Spanish Inquisition.

Canada slow, undisciplined

Canada is too slow. Too undisciplined. Our hockey isn't skilled enough. We aren't organized enough. Just a bunch of goons.

Wasn't it our pack that decided this Summit Series (nice phrase Bedclothes, by the way), was going to be a walkover?

Everybody in the press box is pretty down in the dumps now, feeling embarrassed. Trying to make up for it by dumping on the home side.

The players have noticed.

On the way down to the dressing room I had to find my wife for a moment to tell her to dodge home with the blue Dart and not wait up for me.

Interview for the ages

Babs was at the Zamboni entrance, so was Johnny Esaw, splendid in his red CTV jacket, and along came Phil Esposito for one of the best TV interviews I've ever seen.

Espo was one angry Italian Canadian (as Mr. Trudeau says we can call him because it's "multicultural"), I'll tell you.

Especially when some of Vancouver's finest drunks hung over the seat rails and booed the sweaty Sault Ste. Marie stalwart, something that only made him madder.

"We're disillusioned and disappointed. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've got in our own building," said Espo, who was warming up like Lawrence Welk ("A one, an a two ...").

"I'm completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Every one of us guys ... we came because we love our country. Not for any other reason. We came because we love Canada."

After scratching that down on a pad already wet from tears for these guys Vancouver fans think are clowns, it was time to repair to the dressing rooms. On the way, some wag late for a date in Hastings Park yelled out "See, I told you Communism is best. Can't you see it?"

They don't call this the Left Coast for nothing.

When we arrived by the Canadian dressing room, coach Harry Sinden looked like he'd died and gone to hell, judging by his pallor. Wished we had Max Ferguson's alter ego Leslie Lovelace around to ask the first question, in case someone was punched.

Just then Espo clomped by. I'd swear on Kruschchev's shoe what he was muttering was "This is a war, man. This is a war."

One wonders if anyone else in that room, where quiet was the order of the late evening, and those sucking back on post-game cigarettes seemed to have taken on the look of a soldier just back from Vimy Ridge, is thinking that now.

Down the hall, Soviet coach Vsevolod Bobrov, who is only considered a happy fellow because his assistant, Boris Kulagin, is so grim he's now being called "Chuckles" by the Canadian writers, was holding fort again.

A win such as this might have at least brought a smile to Bobrov's features but, perhaps fearing any misspoken word might result in a trip to Siberia, he went on again about how this was a result of hard work, and it was possibly a surprise.

Perhaps? These commies can put the dig in, can't they?

Tretiak real deal

What helps the Russkies, of course, is they knew all along that Tretiak is as good as any NHLer. That the glorious skating Valeri Kharlamov is one of the best forwards in the world. That Boris Mikhailov can be as bruising as any guy in the big league.

One of the kid reporters calls Mikhailov a "power" forward...whatever that means.

But did the Reds know goalie Ken Dryden would fall like a house of cards on that Brady Bunch show my kids watch? Or that the GAG (goal a game) line from the Rangers would be so slow in this series, with Vic Hadfield especially struggling to keep up to the speed?

The way these Soviets work, they likely did. Probably have the opposing dressing room bugged already. And that sweeper over there? How do you know that's not a KGB agent?

Maybe that fan was.

When the Soviets arrived at Dorval a week ago, Andrei Starovoitov, of their ice hockey federation, chatted on through French, English and Russian translation about how his team had no preconceptions about this series and just wanted to learn from the Canadians.

Apparently there was an error in that translation. What he meant was they wanted to teach the Canadians a lesson.

Mission accomplished.

So, here we are. Down 1-2-1 to a team that all wears helmets (everyone?), can't find enough matching gloves to be presentable and uses hockey sticks made in Finland, of all places (Does anyone know if Koho is a person, a place, or a thing?).

Bobrov did say one thing interesting through his interpreter. He wondered if the Canadians would loosen up and play better in Moscow when they weren't under the pressure of their own fans.

Can't see it. But maybe this is something else he knows the rest of us don't.

As for all the national agony, perhaps it's best, after what has happened at the Olympics in Munich, to remember this is, after all, only hockey.

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