The 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series of Hockey changed the game forever
The 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series of Hockey changed hockey forever, playing out dramas of national identity, pride, politics, and ideology while the world watched, enraptured, during the Cold War.
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the series, Summit 72 will premiere on Wednesdays starting Sept 14 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. As the only documentary series sanctioned and supported by 1972 Team Canada players, Summit 72 will have unrestricted access to the official game tapes and a trove of archival footage.
This series will tell the definitive story of the legendary 1972 eight-game 'Super Summit' through a modern lens, and explore its legacy and lasting influence on Canadian national identity, framing it against the political and cultural climate of the times in both countries, and around the world.
The series will also explore how Canada and its relationship to hockey has changed since then, and what seeds of change were made visible in this clash of cultures.
With never-before-seen 16mm archival footage restored in stunning 4k, and exclusive interviews with key players, Summit 72 will bring an unforgettable moment in Canadian history to life on screen as never seen before. Audiences will relive — or experience for the first time — the adrenaline-fuelled, edge-of-your-seat drama of one of the most monumental cultural proxy battles of the Cold War, and trace its many reverberations in the zeitgeist right up to the present day.
Episode 1: Hockey Nations
Nobody thought Team Canada could lose to the Soviets. But the young, disciplined Soviets were about to show the NHL greats something they had never seen before.
Game Day. The Montreal Forum is sold out for the widely anticipated first meeting between the best Canadian NHL players and the Soviet national team. It's the middle of the Cold War, and both sides are suspicious of each other — but also intrigued.
Team Canada is the favourite, and as that first game starts, the crowd goes wild. Phil Esposito scores 30 seconds in. Paul Henderson scores a few minutes later. It's pandemonium.
But wait: by the end of the second period, the Soviets are up 4-2. They've been training year-round with military-like discipline.
The Canadians are out of shape; they didn't take training camp seriously. They've badly underestimated their adversaries, and as the game slips away from them, there's shock and dismay — on the ice and in the crowd. Hockey is supposed to be Canada's game, but the home team has been outclassed by a team from behind the Iron Curtain.
The eight-game Summit Series — what Canadian goaltender Ken Dryden calls "the most transformative hockey series ever played" — instantly goes from a friendly exhibition contest to a proxy war between political ideologies.
Episode 2: Clash in Hockey Culture
The Soviets show their victory in Game 1 was no accident, and Canadian fans show their frustrations as Team Canada struggles to keep up with Soviet-style hockey.
The shocking Game 1 upset in Montreal lies in Team Canada's wake as they travel west for the three remaining games in Canada.
To overcome the unexpected challenge of a brilliantly skilled Soviet team, they must reach to the core of Canadian hockey with hard-hitting play. Games in Toronto and Winnipeg are followed by a final Canadian match in Vancouver — where home fans boo Team Canada off the ice.
Episode 3: Finding Each Other Behind the Iron Curtain
Team Canada and a legion of loyal fans travel into hostile territory behind the Iron Curtain for the final four games of the series.
After experiencing disaster and humiliation in Vancouver, Team Canada arrives in Europe. They play two exhibition games in Stockholm against the Swedish national team, and emerge with more confidence and, finally, a sense of teamwork.
In Moscow, Team Canada is one of the first groups of professional athletes from the West to compete behind the Iron Curtain. Their rooms are allegedly bugged; their every move surveilled.
After Game 5, the cheering of some 3,000 vodka-silly Canadian fans drowns out the whistles of the Soviet audience.
In Game 6, centre Bobby Clarke cracks Soviet star Valeri Kharlamov's ankle with a two-handed slash, neutralizing him for the rest of the series. After Game 7, the series is tied heading into the defining final game in Moscow.
Episode 4: 72 Summit: Legacy
Team Canada confronts the challenge of a lifetime in the final game of the Summit Series.
September 28, 1972. The Summit Series is tied going into Game 8.
Team Canada has steadily improved, leaving the Soviet national team with the creeping feeling that a Communist triumph is in doubt. Anticipation and dread settle over the preparations for the deciding Game 8.
Canadians back home will stop everything to watch, transfixed.
A refereeing controversy threatens Game 8, but the puck drops on a game for the ages: one of the greatest ever played. Intensity crosses every face, and every jump over the boards is infused with purpose. A blistering affair unfolds, featuring goals, hits and a pace beyond any Stanley Cup Game 7. There's cheating. Emotions boil over. A ruckus in the stands. Communist leaders cast steely gazes.
The tension in the Luzhniki Ice Palace builds as the clock ticks down on a match that will decide not just superiority in hockey but also how these two nations see themselves.
Everyone including players, fans and members of the press feel that whatever the outcome, hockey and Canada will be changed forever.