On this day, September 28th, exactly 36 years ago, Team Canada and Team Russia played their eighth and final game of the historic 1972 Summit Series. Paul Henderson pulled it out with 34 seconds to play on kind of a broken play, and the Canadian players, coaches, and most of the entire country of Canada breathed a huge sigh of relief.
This is a ticket stub from this game. I wasn’t in Moscow, but I watched every game, glued to the TV, in Sudbury, Ont. where I was working as a bartender.
A year or two ago, I had a chance to buy this ticket, along with the fan’s travel itinerary, Moscow bus tickets, and various other souvenirs from this guy’s trip to Moscow. I have no idea why he wanted to sell it. It was done through a collectables organization, so maybe he’d passed away and the family just wanted to get rid of everything. I paid $200 for the lot, and the ticket now sits in a handsome frame on my wall.
This series changed hockey. We saw the way the Russians trained in 1972, the way they began and finished plays, and the way they could skate. And we knew that Canada was very lucky to win this series.
Almost everyone benefitted from this series – the NHL, fans everywhere, and hockey in general, even today. Everyone, that is, except many of the Russian players. In the eighth game, the Russians players not in the lineup were not even allowed to go to the game unless they could buy a ticket somehow. Some ended up standing outside Luczniki Arena while the game went on inside.
And most tragically, many of these innovative and beautiful skaters ended up destitute or dead. They got absolutely nothing from this series except a free trip to Canada.
Vladimir Vikulov, one of Russia’s most skilled forwards, who played in six of the eight games, became a serious alcoholic and from all reports has struggled for years.
Evgeny Mishakov ended up broke, living in pain with arthritis in a small apartment, collecting a few bucks a month from the government.
It’s rumoured that Valeri Vasiliev joined the Russian mafia to make ends meet.
Team manager Valentine Sytch somehow made many enemies in the years after, and was eventually gunned down by the Russian mafia.
And even the successful players from the Russian squad didn’t come out smelling like roses. Alex Maltsev had his apartment broken into in Moscow and all his gold medals, trophies, and various mementoes from 1972 were stolen.
Valeri Kharlamov and his wife died in a car accident in 1981 outside of Moscow.
And others died prematurely as well, such as coach Vsevolod Bobrov , Vyacheslav Solodukhin, and others. Alexander ‘Rags’ Ragulin ballooned to well over 300 pounds before he passed away four years ago.
But of course, many have done well and made lots of money. Vladislav Tretiak, Boris Mikhailov, and Alexander Yakushev all became outstanding Russian citizens, both at and away from the rink.
Vyacheslav Anisin’s daughter became a gold medal figure skater.
But it’s the ones who found vodka and poverty, the ones the hockey world forgot, who should be helped by the NHL. These people are owed. They helped make the game what it is today.
To the NHL owners and Players Association, throw a bunch of money their way. They need it.
And it’s never too late.