Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the 1972 Summit Series was not just about hockey, it also broke down cultural barriers between Canada and the former Soviet Union.

Harper joined many of the players who took part for a gala dinner in Toronto to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic hockey clash.

He said the game helped smash the notion that people in the Eastern Bloc were Canada's enemies.

Harper says the game was a clash between two political systems.

But he said it also helped Canadian hockey fans get to know those supporting the rival Soviet team, and warmed diplomatic relations.

Harper also hailed the Soviet team for showing Canadians a new, more creative style of hockey.