Category Archives: 1972 Canada-Russia hockey

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.

ticket stub

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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!

 

Sochi Games Underway

The Sochi Olympics are kicking off and should be a fine time and hopefully incident-free aside from the misplacing of 30,000 condoms and such.

I myself missed going to the 2012 London Summer Games because I never got an invitation. Apparently Canada already had their gymnastic team in place.

I’ve been to Russia six times, although never to Sochi. I was always in St. Petersburg, with one side trip to Moscow. I’d been fascinated by the country since the days when Father David Bauer’s Canadian National Team had such trouble against the teams they’d ice from there. And when the 1972 Summit Series took place, I was beside myself.

I was there in 1991 with my first wife and two kids, when the Soviet Union was collapsing, and I was there when the new Russia was rebuilding. I’d see the elderly and often wonder how they and their family and friends could live a life where at any time, a knock on the door could mean ten years in a Siberian work camp for usually the most pathetic of reasons, like being seen eating candy that was favoured by some of Stalin’s enemies.

I married my second wife, Luci, in Russia. And the day after the fairly unusual ceremony, I had to return to Canada and never saw her for a full year until she was able to join me.

I spent a winter there, saw hockey games, drank beer, and once was invited to a school to talk about Canada to young Russian students in an English class.

Russia can be difficult, it’s not North America, and although they now have supermarkets and fancy cars and luxury movie theatres, it’s still very different, and your patience can get a serious workout.

I strongly suggest that maybe sometime, instead of going to Mexico or on a Carribean cruise, go to Russia instead. You’d be amazed.

Here’s a little clip of Russian good samaritans.

Roadrunner In Action

Photo from my scrapbook of a peach-fuzzed rookie Yvan Cournoyer during the 1964-65 campaign, with Dickie Moore (as a Leaf), Jean Beliveau, Jean Guy Talbot, Bob Pulford, Ted Harris, Ron Stewart, and Charlie Hodge.

And below, although I never scrambled for a foul ball or flying puck, I did manage (very quietly) to get a Cournoyer goal puck through a trade, a goal he scored on Oct. 26, 1972, only a month after the ’72 Summit Series in which Roadrunner played a major role.

Yvan would retire at 35 after 15 seasons, all with the Habs, and 10 Stanley Cups.

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Yvan

“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot! Henderson makes a wild stab at it and falls. Here’s another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”

Roadrunner '72

And then there was that time he played on a line with Gaston.

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1974 Team Cyrillic

The picture below was sent to me from a friend in Leningrad in the mid-1980s.

Team Canada 1974, stars from the rival WHA, taking on Kharlamov, Mikhailov, and Tretiak two years after the big one. (results at the bottom).

Rick Ley, second in the top row, was a boyhood friend growing up in Orillia, who knocked my front tooth out by accident when throwing a baseball. And he borrowed my hockey gloves and never gave them back.

Five players suited up at one time or another with the Habs – JC Tremblay, Rejean Houle, Ralph Backstrom, Marc Tardif, and Frank Mahovlich.

Three players on this Team Canada ’74 squad also played in the historic 1972 Summit Series before bolting to the WHA  – Paul Henderson, Mahovlich, and Pat Stapleton.

1974

Down the left side are coaches Billy Harris, Bobby Hull, and Pat Stapleton.

Top row left to right – Don McLeod, Rick Ley, J.C. Tremblay, Mike Walton, Rejean Houle

2nd row – Brad Selwood, Andre Lacroix, Tom Webster, Gordie Howe, Marty Howe

3rd row – Mark Howe, Ralph Backstrom, Tom Harrison, Rick Smith, Paul Shmyr

4th row – Paul Henderson, Serge Bernier, Bruce MacGregor, Marc Tardiff, John McKenzie

5th row – Al Hamilton, Frank Mahovlich, Gerry Cheevers

USSR Wins Series 4-1-3

A Wild Stab At It

41 years ago today.

“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot! Henderson makes a wild stab at it and falls. Here’s another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”

Foster Hewitt described it. And I’ll never stop remembering and paying tribute to the wonderful series in ’72.

Unless I get Alzheimer’s.