Forty years ago, on this day, August 13, 1972, they strolled into their first day of training camp in Toronto confident and somewhat annoyed that their summer had been cut short. They had been summoned from their cottages and golf courses and barbeques to prepare for a series of four games in Canada and four games in Moscow against a Russian squad which had run ragged over Canadian amateurs in the past, and it was time to correct this problem.
Most of the Canadian players were out of shape but it was fine, because they had almost three weeks to be ready. All they had to do was cut down on the beer, get through some push-ups and three intra-squad games, and they’d be fine. No one knew what the Russians thought about things, but it mattered little. We hoped they were nervous, we licked our lips in anticipation, and Phil Esposito and the boys lit their cigars and joked with reporters.
One coach and just eight of thirty-five Team Canada ’72 players knew what it was to face the Russians – coach Harry Sinden had been a star defenceman with the Whitby Dunlops when they defeated the Russians in the 1958 World Championships, and had been with the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen in losing in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley. Ken Dryden had been a member of the Canadian National team just before it was disbanded in 1970. Defenceman Brian Glennie had been part of the losing Canadian National team at the 1968 Olympics at Grenoble, France, centre Red Berenson had been on the 1959 World Champion Belleville MacFarlanes. and defenceman Rod Seiling was a Nat during the 1964 Olympics at Insbruck, Austria.
Mickey Redmond, Bobby Orr, Serge Savard, and Gilbert Perreault had all faced various Russian teams during their junior careers.
That was it. No one else on Team Canada had a clue. All they knew was that they were expected to win eight straight against the so-called amateurs from Russia and they figured they would. They were NHL stars, for goodness sakes. How hard could it be?
On September 2, 1972, game one in Montreal, these Canadians, still not in game shape, would find out they were in a heap of trouble.
Forty years ago. What a series it was.
Throughout September I’ll be posting examples from my collection of Summit Series memorabilia, along with chatting about the series as we go along.