Category Archives: 1972 Canada-Russia hockey

The Sudbury Gig

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In early 1972 I was a dazed and confused 21-year old living with a few friends and strangers in a rented house on Edith St. in Toronto. It was a fine party house, where we got our kicks from drinking wine, cranking up the music, and making immature wisecracks to the couple in the nearby bedroom who just wanted be alone.

It was also a serious dead end. I was a high school dropout with a pathetic grade 10 education, with no car, no girlfriend, no money, and no future. I had pretty well nothing, except for maybe a cool jean jacket and several face pimples.

One day, while walking along Bloor St., I saw a sign in a window that read ‘Toronto Bartenders School’, and within a day or two I was enrolled and shaking, stirring, and pouring like crazy. It was almost like going to college. A two-week long college. One that accepted bums.

We learned how to make about a hundred and twenty different drinks and cocktails, which seemed ridiculous, but that was the course and I was in it to graduate. But there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d remember more than about twenty in the real world. There was a reason I was a dropout.

It was a couple of interesting weeks, though. Our teacher added egg whites to the coloured water so it would make a foam head on drinks, and he dazzled us with the way he would demonstrate, because he’d been a bartender for decades and we were raw rookies.

When the course ended, I was asked if I was interested in working at the Holiday Inn in Sudbury, where a job had just opened up. I said sure, and away I went. Just like that.

One moment I was down and out on Edith St., eating cereal for supper, and the next, off to a job up north where I wasn’t going to get dirty, and with drunken females all over the place!

In Sudbury I rented a room at the YMCA across the street from the Holiday Inn, and soon after reported for work at the two bars in the hotel – Dangerous Dan’s, a raunchy and incredibly busy hard rock joint, while on the other side of the wall was Flanagan’s, an Irish pub that featured lounge acts. I wore a red vest with sparkles, a white shirt, black tie, and black pants with a red stripe down the sides.

The first thing the bar manager had me do was pour two pints of beer from an automated push button draught dispenser, and I confidently grabbed two mugs, held them under the taps, pushed the buttons, and checked out the ladies. Several seconds later the manager bodychecked me and grabbed the glasses, because I had them upside down and beer was all over the place.

That fall the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series unfolded, and through some serious switching of shifts I was able to see all eight games on various TVs. I bought my first car at this time, a second-hand Toyota Corona, and on my first date with the lovely Joanne from Flanagan’s, we got in the car and the piece of shit wouldn’t start.

Joanne was magnificent, with a body to stop traffic, but she ended up living with the bar manager for some reason. I still have scars.

I was eventually fired from my job after a carload of buddies from Orillia came to visit me, rented a room in the hotel, and caused so much commotion that the hotel manager, who was Italian, showed up with security, knocked on the door, and when one of my buddies answered, he shouted “Holy &%^$, it’s the Mafia!” I happened to be in the room at the time, which the manager wasn’t crazy about.

Months later, after being forgiven, I was back at it, but not for long. The hotel chef and I suddenly quit, hopped in his car, and for whatever reason, drove to Vancouver.

I came back (to Orillia) in a year or so and was busted for possession of marijuana, but remembered what a fellow bartender and his wife had said while in Sudbury. They were moving back to Ottawa and told me that if I was ever there, I’d have a place to stay.

So right after my court appearance, where I was given a conditional discharge, I hopped on a bus to Ottawa, stayed with my friends for awhile, and eventually found a job and a wife, helped produce two kids, became a tractor trailer driver (which I ended up doing for a big part of my life), and stayed in the nation’s capital for 17 years before moving on.

It all seems so long ago.

I wonder how Joanne is doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live, From The Edmonton Gardens

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Neat old 4-page program I came across years ago, featuring the visiting New York Rangers playing the minor pro WHL Edmonton Flyers in an exhibition game prior to the 1955-56 season.

It’s actually a yellow program, but my camera gives it a bluish tint.

The Rangers lineup is packed with familiar names, including future HOFers Gump Worsley, Harry Howell, Bill Gadsby, and Andy Bathgate.

But the Edmonton Flyers has its share of names too, with Al Arbour, Jerry Melnyk, Bill Dea and a handful of others, plus #17 Aggie Kukulowicz, who, along with playing four games with the Rangers between 1952 and ’54, acted as a translator for Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

The Flyers, which existed from 1940 to 1963, were a Detroit Red Wings farm club, and also shows Johnny McCormack, who played for the Canadiens from 1951 to ’54, in the lineup.

Players on the Rangers who would don the Canadiens sweater at one time or another include the Gumper from 1963-64 to 1969-70; Ivan Irvin, who skated with the Habs for 4 games in the 1952-53 season; Lou Fontinato, with117 Habs games under his belt in 1961-62 and ’62-63; Jean-Guy Gendron, who was a Canadien for 43 games in 1960-61; and Bronco Horvath, who wore the CH for one game in1956-57;

And coach Phil Watson, who laced ’em up with the Habs for 44 games during the 1943-44 campaign.

I hope I haven’t missed anybody.  If I have, feel free to mention it.

The Edmonton Gardens, where this game took place, was built in 1913 and demolished in 1982, although years before the demolition, in 1974, the WHA Oilers moved over to the new Northlands Coliseum.

 

Little Sovietski

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This old Russian doll was sent to me from a fellow in Leningrad, back in the mid-1980s.

It’s a little 6″ vintage Soviet National Team doll, still in it’s original packaging, and judging by the style of the jersey, is from the 1970s.

He’s wearing number 12, and during the 1972 Summit Series, big and burly Evgeni Mishakov wore this number, while in the 1974 series between WHA all-stars and the Soviets, it was Victor Kuznetsov who owned number 12.

Kuznetsov would also wear number 12 in the first Canada Cup, held in 1976.

 

 

Lots To Read (If You Want)

I once phoned Hall of Famer and ex-Hab Bert Olmstead in Calgary (he was in the phone book), hoping to get him to talk about the old days with the Rocket and Stanley Cups etc. He hung up on me.

When I had my sports bar in Powell River, Frank Mahovlich and Red Storey came in while on an oldtimers tour. Frank told me the Montreal organization was so much better than the Leaf organization. We fed them a spaghetti dinner. That night, referee Storey, with a microphone, told the crowd that the spaghetti at Kane’s was the best.

I spoke to the Habs’ Jim Roberts after a game at the old Forum when I was about 13 , several years before it was renovated in 1968. He was nice to me and I decided to start a Jim Roberts fan club. I didn’t because I figured it was too much work and he wasn’t a good enough player.

I met the Rocket when he was refereeing an oldtimers game in Calgary. I told him he’d sent me a Christmas card when I was about 8 years old and he said he used to send out lots of cards but didn’t remember much at all about the old days. My sister took a picture of him, then the Rocket said he wanted me to take a picture of him with my sister.

My dad took me to a Montreal-Toronto game back in the 1950s. Somehow he corralled coach Toe Blake in the lobby and asked him to take my hockey book into the dressing room and get Doug Harvey to sign it. Blake did.

My peewee coach in Orillia, Jack Dyte, played 27 games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1943-44 season. He had one goal and 31 penalty minutes.  He played alongside Punch Imlach for the Quebec Aces in the old Quebec Senior League and against the Rocket before Richard joined the Habs.

When I lived in Ottawa, it was well known that a somewhat down-and-out Doug Harvey was living in a railway car (which was once used by Canadian PM John Diefenbaker) at the race track across the river in Hull. And what did I do? Nothing. Didn’t go there. Didn’t bring him any smokes or a bottle. Didn’t invite him home for a turkey dinner. Nothing. It’s a big regret.

I had breakfast with HOF goalie Glenn Hall when he came to Powell River for the Allan Cup back in the late-1990s. After breakfast I drove him around the area in my Hyundai Excel.

Butch Bouchard didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and just four years later he’d made the NHL.

I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. He and I would sometimes skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve had plastic in my mouth ever since.

In the late 1960s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

Bep Guidolin played his first NHL game in 1942 with Boston. He’s the youngest player ever to play in the league, at 16 years old.

Floyd Curry attended his first Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1940 at just 15. He didn’t make the team but it’s still quite a feat.

Bobby Orr played for the Jr. A Oshawa Generals when he was just 14.

Hall Of Fame goalie Johnny Bower didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 30 when he was called up from the minors to the NY Rangers. He played one season, then three more in the minors. After that he was traded to Toronto when he was 34 years old (maybe older). Amazingly enough, Bower played goal all those years with poor eyesight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Claire Alexander, who played defence for the Leafs in the mid 1970s, came into the league when he was 29. Before that, he was a milkman in Orillia, Ontario (my hometown).

In the early 1960s, when I was about 12, my parish priest, Monsignor Lee, was somehow connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think it had to do with St. Michael’s College. At one point he took my buddy Ron Clarke and I to Peterborough to see an exhibition game between the Leafs and Chicago, and the afternoon before the game, we had dinner at the hotel with the Leafs’ brass. The players were in an adjoining room. Ron and I had dinner with the Monsignor, King Clancy, and Jim Gregory, who is now in the builder’s category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In the 1950s, New York tough guy Lou Fontinato (who later was traded to Montreal), got into a scrap with Rocket Richard. Fontinato got Richard’s sweater off and proceeded to rip it to shreds with his skates. A few weeks later, Fontinato received a bill from the Canadiens for $38.50.

I was a milkman in Calgary for awhile and Doug Risebrough was one of my customers. His wife, who looked after the milk situation, gave me a small tip at Christmas. Risebrough played 13 years in the NHL, with both Montreal and Calgary. When he was eating his Cheerios with the milk I had faithfully delivered, he was coaching the Flames. I remember years before, in Ottawa, when the Habs played a pre-season exhibition game at the old Civic Centre, the buzz in the papers was the new promising rookie who would be playing that night in his first NHL game. That player was Doug Risebrough.

I played on the same Midget team as Dan Maloney for one game in Barrie after our Orillia team got eliminated and three of us were loaned to Barrie. I remember he was big, and a real leader even then. We were about 16. I also spent an afternoon with him hanging out and playing pool. Dan Maloney played for four teams (Chicago, LA, Detroit, and Toronto) over 11 seasons, and eventually went on to coach. He was truly a great guy and a tough bastard.

Toe Blake’s real first name was Hector. He got the name ‘Toe’ from his younger sister who pronounced the last part of Hector as toe, as in “Hectoe.”

Turk Broda, who was the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie from 1936 to 1952, had the nickname “Turk” because as a child, his neck would turn red like a turkey when he got angry. His real name is Walter.

During the time I owned my restaurant in Powell River, the Hanson Brothers (from Slapshot) came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, two of them, the Carlson brothers, came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

When I was 12, my peewee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers, in his early-20s at the time, was the umpire.

When I was about 11 and at the opening of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the CNE in Toronto with my dad and sister, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, but because he was in a deep discussion with someone, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my sister had to get it for me.

Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

In the early ’60s when I was about 13 or so, my previously mentioned buddy Ron Clarke and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave Ron and I sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester, although I only know this from the lineup sheet I still have.

Toe Blake said “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

1950s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin would at times eat glass (probably after several pops), and also wrestled a bear or two. And once, while at training camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “Hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.”

Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago. But it was found several years ago in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

I saw Bobby Orr twice in my home town of Orillia. Once when I was sitting in the park down by the lake, he and his wife strolled by. He had a hockey school with Mike Walton in Orillia at this time. The other was out at one of the local beverage rooms, and he and a bunch of people I knew a little, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away several years ago, introduced me to goaltender Richard Brodeur, who was in town on an oldtimers tour. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh. I don’t want to talk to you.” (He was joking. I think.)

I was also introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager when the Hansons came to town. I held out my hand and he asked “Do you wash your hands when you take a crap?” I said of course, and it was only then that he shook my hand.

A kid I played minor hockey with for four or five years, John French, ended up getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played a couple of years with the club’s farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. But it was the early 1970s and extremely difficult to crack the Habs line up, so French signed with the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association instead. He played with Gordie Howe and another good Orillia boy, his old friend Rick Ley, who had played for the Leafs before jumping to the WHA.

The best seat I ever had at a game was in the first row at the Montreal Forum in the late-1970s, behind the net, just to the right of the goal judge.

The worst seat I ever had was at Edmonton’s Northland Coliseum for a game between the Habs and Oilers, and we were in the very first row behind the Oilers bench. John Muckler and his two assistant coaches stood right in front of us, so the only time we could see was when the play was down at either end.

Canada’s greatest pool player, Cliff Thorburn, is a long-time Habs fan.

The first two artificial rinks built in Canada were in Victoria and Vancouver.

From a documentary I learned that Russian Czar Peter the Great would often go incognito to Europe, with a shaved mustache and old hat, and from a painting of him shown in the doc wearing these,  he looks a dead ringer for deceased Russian hockey star Valeri Kharlamov.

When the Rocket was playing for the Verdun juniors in 1939, he took boxing lessons in the off-season. He became so good at it that he was entered into a Golden Gloves competition, but a damaging punch in the nose by his coach prevented him from participating.

Leaf star Darryl Sittler and his wife Wendy were staying at Paul Henderson’s house and looking after their three daughters when Henderson scored those big goals during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Team Canada had a six-hour stopover in Paris on the way to Stockholm. Goalie Ed Johnston said this about Paris: “What’s wrong is the same thing you find with all these European cities. Too many old buildings.”

While in Stockholm, a Swedish fellow at the press conference mentioned that maybe Bobby Orr, who was injured and didn’t play in the series, wasn’t as good as Russian Valeri Kharlamov. “He’s good in the NHL,” said the guy, “but in Europe he’d be only average.” A Canadian who overheard this said, “Put this down. Bobby Orr-healthy-would eat any Czech or Russian alive. And he’d spit out any Swede.”

In Moscow, the Canadians were seen coming back to their hotel at all hours of the night. While some of the boys were sitting around the lobby of the Grand Hotel, someone mentioned hearing that the Russians had put street crews with jackhammers outside the Canadian team’s windows in the early morning. “No problem,” said one player. “We won’t be in anyway.”

Coach Harry Sinden celebrated his 40th birthday while overseas. “Ten days ago I was 29,” he said.

Some Canadian fans who arrived in Moscow found out there were no tickets available for them. These included Maurice Richard, Punch Imlach, former referee-in-chief Carl Voss, and legendary wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Those left out were given three options: they could take an all-expenses paid 10-day tour of Copenhagen; they could fly home and be refunded; or they could stay and take their chances on finding tickets. Most chose the third option.

Dennis Hull, after a tour of Moscow, gushed, “I really like the place. It reminds me of Buffalo.”

 

 

 

Jean and His Buddies

Below, a photo that was once part of Jean Beliveau’s personal collection, and which now sits in my home in Powell River.

It’s Jean in the stands at Luzhniki in Moscow in 1972, flanked by two Soviet stars, the legendary Valeri Kharlamov and lesser-known Vladimir Vikulov.

Vikulov was no slouch, having been the leading scorer in the 1972 Soviet Championship League (34 goals), and was a pivotal guy with numerous medal-winning Russian squads back in the day.

He was the one who took the ceremonial faceoff against Phil Esposito before game one of the Summit Series in Montreal.

When I was in Russia years ago I was told that Vikulov was going through hard times after retiring from hockey, which is sad but not all that surprising.  Only a few from that legendary 1972 squad, guys like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Yakushev and a handful of others, did well over the years and enjoyed fine lifestyles, while many struggled in their personal lives in the years that followed.

This skilled right winger, who played in six of the eight Summit games, notching two goals and one assist, and who also played in the 1976 Canada Cup, died in August of 2013.

If It’s Friday, It’s Sudbury

We’re in Sudbury on our way to the Coast, and I realize we haven’t exactly made great time but that was the plan anyway. First off, our cat is under the weather and isn’t able to give her usual 110%.

And secondly, Wacky Wings, which has 107 different wing sauces, was closed yesterday so there was no point going all the way from Montreal to Sudbury in one shot if Wacky Wings was closed.

I was a bartender in Sudbury in 1972, only days and weeks shy of my 22nd birthday, when the 1972 Summit Series was played.

A year after the ’72 Series, when I was still there, I saw Red Army play a team at the Sudbury Arena, probably the Junior A Wolves but it could’ve been a university team, with  the Soviets boasting mostly those who suited up during the legendary ’72 tourney.

But I’m cloudy about the details. I’m cloudy about yesterday.

I remember I went to that game with a waitress I worked with, a good-looking gal with big big breasts who ended up having an affair with my boss. My buddy from Orillia, Bruce Traviss and his girlfriend, who later became his wife and then ex-wife, went to the game with us too. Other than that it’s a fuzzy mess.

I know I liked Sudbury though, and it’s interesting to be back.

Tomorrow we’ll probably reach Wawa, a place where my girlfriend (not the waitress) and I got stuck for about 30 hours when hitchhiking across the country in 1970. And it wasn’t just us who did the stranded thing. There was a telephone pole near the highway back then, filled with names carved on it and how long they were stuck there.

When we eventually got picked up, it was in a semi hauling brand new cars and the driver let us ride in one of the cars on the back, which of course is completely illegal.

Not long after, my girlfriend latched on to another trucker who had picked us up and that was the end of her and I. After that I had to start figuring out how to get laid again.

Wawa remains famous for hitchhikers getting stuck back in the day, and if there’s a snowstorm in that area tomorrow, it’s going to be deja vu except for a different reason.

Below, Wacky Wings, with the Sudbury Arena behind it.

Sudbury

Only 42 Years Ago

Geez, only forty-two years ago.  I look in the mirror and see I haven’t changed a bit.

Forty-two years ago today, Paul Henderson slid one past Vladislav Tretiak, and Team Canada narrowly avoided the shame.

Below, hanging on my wall, a ticket stub from the historic game 8 in Moscow. No, I wasn’t there. But the stub was.

And below that, a couple of stubs from game 2 in Toronto. I wasn’t there either.

But I did see the games as an almost 22-year old bartender in Sudbury.

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Meeting Serge

Savard

Serge Savard was at my workplace yesterday to sign a bunch of stuff, and because he was quite busy I really didn’t want to interrupt him. But I managed to chat with him a bit anyway.

I told him that not only did I follow his career through his many years as a Hab, but also during the 1972 Summit Series when he was a member of Team Canada.

He was friendly and more than happy to talk a bit about the Summit Series, mentioning that he wore number 23 in the series instead of his usual #18 because Jean Ratelle had seniority.

Serge didn’t play game one in Montreal when the Soviets shocked almost everyone with their 7-3 win, but Serge said he wasn’t surprised, he’d played against Russian teams as a junior, and he knew they were good. And he still disagrees about not dressing for that big game one.

“They decided to go with some slower guys like Don Awrey, who was conservative and would be down often from blocking shots, when I think a guy like me who was a bit more offensive should have played. I knew they were fast, and I would’ve been a better fit.”

Serge also brought up a point he seemed pretty darn proud of, and I don’t blame him. “Every game I played we didn’t lose. Four wins and a tie. I didn’t play in game one, had a bad foot for game four in Vancouver, and they rested me in Moscow for game five. But then I played the last three over there.”

I asked him about the magnificent Valeri Kharlamov. “One of the best ever,” said Serge. “I even got him into the Hall of Fame”! (Serge is an inductee selector). He also thinks Alexander Yakushev should be in the Hall.

It was cool to chat with a guy who has his name on eight Stanley Cups as a player and twice as Habs GM in ’86 and ’93, and who also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1969, was GM of the Habs in the mid-1980s, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, and was awarded the Order of Canada.

He also wears a big honkin’ Stanley Cup ring on his finger.

That was it. A handshake and I was off to give my usual 187% again. I went back down later and he was gone.

I also found out that on my day off last Friday, Serge’s teammate on the Habs and Team Canada, HOFer Guy Lapointe, was in the office.

Plus – A Joke Serge Played on John Ferguson

After game 8 in Moscow in 1972, Fergie, who was Team Canada’s assistant coach, went around the dressing room and had all the players sign a stick that he planned on mounting in his den when he got home.

When the team got back to Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau was there to meet them and Fergie followed Savard through the reception line. Trudeau and Serge shook hands, and then Serge said to Trudeau, “By the way, Mr. Prime Minister, look what John Ferguson has brought you from Moscow – an autographed stick.”

Savard took the stick from Fergie’s hand and gave it to Trudeau.

Fergie never got it back, although Trudeau’s office called him after hearing about the joke and offered it back. But Fergie said Trudeau could keep it.

 

 

 

 

Mercury Rising

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It was the Edmonton Mercurys representing Canada in the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway, and they got it done.

Billy Dawe and the boys won their first seven contests and sealed a gold medal for Canada with a 3-3 tie against the U.S., and why they could only tie the Americans I’ve no idea.

And incredibly, the 1952 gold medal would be Canada’s last for the next 50 years as the Soviets in particular got better and better, winning eight of the next twelve Olympic golds until Canada finally reclaimed it in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

The. U.S. and Sweden would win two golds along the way, with the Czech Republic capturing one. But none for good old Canada, left in the dust.

The Russians especially were a powerhouse and that had to change. It was our game. They were good at soccer, ballet, and circuses, but we were great at hockey, even though we couldn’t beat them..

And thus begat the 1972 Summit Series. Bring in the big boys.

Now it’s 2014 and the Sochi Olympics and we’re bringing in the big boys again, although everyone else has their own big boys too.

Especially the Russians, and they’re going to be as tough now as they’ve always been.

Only instead of Bobrov and Kharlamov and Makarov and all the others over the years, now it’s Malkin and Ovechkin and Kovalchuk and the gang.

But regardless, I’m predicting Canada to bring home gold. Both men and women. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.

Go Canada!