Summit Series: Valuable time to get it all together | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaSummit Series: Valuable time to get it all together

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 | 12:38 PM

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Team USSR's Vladimir Petrov and Team Canada's Phil Esposito face-off during the 1972 Summit Series. A rant by Esposito after Game 4 proved to be one of the most important moments in the series. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press) Team USSR's Vladimir Petrov and Team Canada's Phil Esposito face-off during the 1972 Summit Series. A rant by Esposito after Game 4 proved to be one of the most important moments in the series. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

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Gord Stellick is writing about the 1972 Summit Series as major milestones arrive.  The time off between game four in Vancouver and the resumption of the series in the Soviet Union were crucial to the final outcome.

The sounds of boos and jeers continued to ring in the ears of Team Canada players after a 5-3 Game 4 loss to the USSR in Vancouver. Who would ever have imagined Team Canada actually looking forward to the "friendly confines" of the Soviet Union? They were the enemy. They were Commies. We were right, they were wrong. We wore white, they wore black.

The script did not contain a scenario where Team Canada would trail the Soviet Union 1-2-1 in the eight-game series as it prepared for Moscow. There was no scene written where they were booed and jeered in Vancouver from the pre-game warmup to a hostile, even vile, reaction from a faction of fans in attendance at Pacific Coliseum.

Meanwhile, our neighbours to the south were enduring their own unthinkable sporting nightmare. The final days of the Summer Olympics in Munich included the gold-medal game in men's basketball between the United States and Soviet Union on Sept. 9. The United States had a perfect 63-0 lifetime.

That perfect record came to a screeching halt as the Americans lost 51-50 in one of the most controversial moments in Olympic history. Down 50-49, the Soviets were given three different opportunities to inbound the ball with three seconds left on the clock. The third attempt resulted in the winning basket being scored as the buzzer sounded. The Americans appealed without success. Later, at the awards ceremony, the large podium for the silver medallists remained empty as Team USA refused to accept it silver medals in protest.

The USA basketball team had to wait four years to get things back on track at the next Summer Olympics. Team Canada was expected to do it in two weeks time -- and on a road trip like no Team Canada player had ever experienced.

Hockey in Sweden invaluable

Included in the two-week break between the games in Canada and the games in the Soviet Union was a scheduled trip to Sweden. Team Canada played two games against the Swedish national team in Stockholm on Sept. 16 and 17. Alan Eagleson wanted the players to get used to the larger ice surface.

It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

It took the players away from the seemingly hostile environment back in Canada. In reality, while they players had vivid memories of the wrath of the Vancouver fans, Canadian hockey fans were actually affected by the powerful post-game interview by Phil Esposito. It galvanized them and they put their support behind the now surprisingly "underdog" Team Canada.

The stop in Sweden served as the days that brought Team Canada together off the ice, as well. Most Canadian members say this is when they truly became a team rather than a group of individuals.

The first game in Sweden was also an introduction to two key individuals for the upcoming games in Moscow -- Josef Kompalla and Franz Baader. They were the referees for the first game in Sweden.

In a few weeks time, they would be known to Canadian hockey fans as "Baader and Worst!"

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