Tag Archives: Alan Eagleson

Game 8 – C’mon Canada

Game eight. A game that almost didn’t happen because both sides couldn’t agree on which two referees would suit up. The Russians, of course, lobbied for both Josef Kompalla and Franz Baader, the two West Germans who heavily sucked up to the Russians, probably in search of future Olympic and World Championship gigs in which Russia held a weighty voice. Canada’s choices were a Swede, Uve Dahlberg, with their second being Czech Rudy Batja.

Thus, in the 11th hour it was decided that Kompalla and Dahlberg would handle the duties, until Dahlberg allegedly fell ill with food-poisoning. So then it became Kompalla and Batja.

However which way you slice it, the officiating situation was a mess.

And so it began, with Ken Dryden in nets after Tony Esposito had performed well two nights prior in Canada’s 4-3 win.  It was a game of wonderful and breathtaking hockey, with weirdness thrown in, including J.P. Parise blowing a fuse when he was assessed an interference call in which Kompalla waved it off and then Batja called it anyway. Parise complained, was given a ten-minute misconduct, and in a fit of rage skated to Kompalla with his stick raised, as if to chop the poor bugger’s head off. Needless to say, Parise took an early shower.

Both teams, in glorious fashion, went back and forth, with players coming close as the goalies held their ground time and time again. Phil Esposito roamed about and made the Soviets nervous. Alexander Yakushev continued to give Dryden fits, and the first period ended at two apiece, which seemed rightly so. Every inch had been fought for. JP Parise watched from the sidelines in his street clothes.

In the second, Russia took the lead, Bill White tied it, but then Russia scored two and it was 5-3 when 40 minutes had expired. Could Canada actually come back in the third period and win this? It didn’t look good. It was a two-goal Soviet lead, and a two-referee Soviet advantage. I can’t remember if I had any booze around or not, but surely I needed it.

But just two and a half minutes into the final frame, Esposito whacked one home, and at 12:56, Yvan Cournoyer tied it. A country jumping for joy, until we noticed a commotion from the penalty box area and wondered if we should be happy or not.

It turned out that the goal judge decided not to put the red light on when Cournoyer scored, prompting Alan Eagleson to freak out and be restrained by soldiers who began to lead him away, maybe to a train bound for Siberia. But Pete Mahovlich came to the rescue, others followed, and the Eagle was taken to the safety of the free world, otherwise known as the Canadian bench. But not before he got in a couple of one-finger salutes to the despicable goal judge.

Back and forth players went and the clock clicked down, which was fine with the Soviets. They had decided that they would claim victory in case of a tie, considering they had scored one more in total goals during the eight games. This couldn’t happen. We could not witness a smug, smiling and celebratory Soviet contingent, not after clawing back over a period of several games, and then having them claim victory on a technicality. A tie would be like kissing Leonid Brezhnev’s wife, or Leonid Brezhnev.

And then it happened, and maybe I should let good old Foster Hewitt take you home.

“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot. Henderson makes a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot, right in front. THEY SCORE! HENDERSON HAS SCORED FOR CANADA!”

Yes he did, with 34 seconds remaining. And a nation rejoiced.

Moscow – With One Little Stopover

Part 7

Things didn’t go nearly as planned during Team Canada’s two-game stopover in Stockholm on their way to Moscow. The first night, Sept. 16, the Canadians won 4-1 against the Swedish National Team, (with Borje Salming on defence for Tre Kronor), but Canada found themselves surprised by the blatant diving and other theatrics from the Swedes. The crowd seemed to dislike Team Canada immensely, and between the paying customers and the Swedish players, the stage was set for a damn fine good guy/bad guy scenario.

The following night, Sept. 17, became a night of penalties and lost composure. And as it was, it took a Phil Esposito shorthanded goal in the final minute to allow Canada to escape with a 4-4 tie. It just seemed that throughout both games in Stockholm, it became the difficult problem of getting used to European refereeing. The men in stripes just weren’t NHL calibre, frustration boiled over, and Team Canada became perfect villains for all concerned in this beautiful Scandinavian city. In the eyes of Swedes, the Canadians were thugs and overly-aggressive, and didn’t play the game the way it should be played.

During the first period of game two, Wayne Cashman and Sweden’s Ulf Sterner, who had suited up for four games in the NHL as a member of the New York Rangers in 1964, went into the boards and Sterner’s stick apparently entered Cashman’s mouth. The feisty Bruin had his tongue slit down the middle, but he waited until the end of the period before letting doctors look at him. It was only then that Cashman was finished in Sweden.

In period three, Vic Hadfield cut Lars-Erik Sjoberg with a high stick and Sjoberg then proceeded to give an Oscar-winning performance, waving off his trainer and doing a slow skate as blood poured out from his face. With the crowd hoping to lynch Hadfield, Sjoberg skated past the penalty box, looked at Hadfield, and pointed to his bleeding face. Sjoberg went to his bench, sat down for a few minutes before finally getting up and slowly skating to his dressing room, all the while letting the blood pour from his face for everyone to see. In Ken Dryden’s book “Face-Off At The Summit,” Dryden tells us that Sjoberg then waited at the bottom of the ramp so Swedish photographers could take pictures of the nose from all angles.

The fallout a day later was sensational. Swedish papers ran photos of Sjoberg’s bloody nose on their front pages. No photos of Cashman’s split and swollen tongue were mentioned. Sterner called the Canadians “gangsters.” The Canadian ambassador to Sweden, Margaret Meagher, said Team Canada behaved like animals.

Through it all, though, Alan Eagleson defended his players. (Again from Dryden’s book). “Certain things acceptable here in Sweden are not acceptable in Canada. You people are good with your sticks, particularly with spearing. Spearing is one of the worst sins in Canada; it’s not even part of the hatchet man’s style. And fighting is part of our game but not part of yours. We just play two completely different games.”

And when the man Eagleson was talking to said that Canada would lose in Russia, Eagleson replied: “No, we won’t lose, because despite all the things we have going against us, we still have it here.” He pointed to his heart.

Uproar In Game Four

I think it was after this game that my father began cheering for the Russians, which pissed me off to no end. But I can see why, I guess. He also can’t stomach Alan Eagleson, whom he thinks is equal parts son-of-a-bitch, P.T. Barnum, and arrogant bullshit. He’s probably right.

Team Canada not only lost the final game in Canada by a score of 5-3, but they lost in boorish and undisciplined fashion, and many people, including my dad, are fed up with what is transpiring. Bill Goldsworthy, who seemed to have lost his mind, sat in the penalty box while the Russians scored twice. Frank  Mahovlich sat on Tretiak and wouldn’t let him up for about 30 seconds. It was frustration bursting at the seams, from both the Canadian players and the fans, and the Vancouverites showed no patience whatsoever.

So much for that laid-back West Coast.

The Vancouver crowd booed and jeered lustily, showing in angry, deafening fashion that they weren’t one bit crazy about the roughhousing of such a beautifully disciplined Soviet team that just wanted to play hockey. The crowd was frustrated at their team’s inability to display much of anything, although there was one moment to cheer about when Gilbert Perreault danced in in classic style and banked one off a Soviet player and in behind Tretiak. But overall, Vancouver was such a low point, to say the least. That damn Tretiak is sensational and simply killing us, and possibly our guys are now psyched out so much they may never recover in time to make at least a half-decent showing in the remaining four games.

Canadian hockey has just taken another major hit, maybe even more so than game one.

It was a nasty night. Canada’s record at home stands at one win, two losses, and a tie. Life sucks. And then Phil Esposito came out after the game and reminded everyone it wasn’t all that great for him and the boys either, which you can see in the video below. Later on, Frank Mahovlich, in Ken Dryden’s book Face-Off At The Summit, would mention that “after the seeing what the Russians did to to us at our game in Canada, I’m afraid nothing in sports is sacred anymore. If someone gives them a football they’ll beat the Dallas Cowboys and win the Super Bowl in two years.”

Now it’s on to Moscow for four games. It’ll be good for the team to get out of Dodge, especially after realizing that many Canadian fans aren’t admiring them so much right now. It’s going to take some kind of serious miracle to pull this one out, even to look somewhat respectable.

Below, cuff links and tie clip, presented to Canadian players from C.C.M., one of the many sponsors of the tournament.

Sudbury And The Summit

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I was a month shy of 22, living and tending bar in Sudbury, Ont. when Team Canada and the Soviet National Team met in 1972. The news of this series had swirled in the wind for months, and I’d been on pins and needles waiting for it to begin. When it did, I managed to see every game, usually by myself, and except for the devastating  losses involved, of course it didn’t disappoint. It was scary, nerve wracking, surprising and frustrating, but it didn’t disappoint. Drama like this doesn’t come along very often.

I remember travel ads in newspapers for plane fare to Moscow, tickets for all four games, plus hotels and sightseeing, for $1000, but I was barely paying my rent in Sudbury, so such a trip was of course out of the question. How I wish I would have found a way to come up with the money. The 3000 Canadian fans who actually did go, saw and became part of magical hockey history, all for a lousy thousand bucks, which was probably about $900 more than I had at the time.

I wasn’t any different than several million other Canadians before we had our eyes opened. I had watched our amateurs lose on a regular basis to the Big Red Machine, but I always told myself, like everybody else, that it was because those Russians employed their best while we didn’t. It was simple. It was one thing to obliterate our amateurs, but meeting our NHL stars would be another matter altogether. I rubbed my hands with glee and prepared for a Cold War slaughter.

The Russians, as you know, came, saw, and conquered. Valeri Kharlamov was poetry in motion. Vladislav Tretiak was like a cat. The tall, lanky Alexander Yakushev was far too dangerous, probably the most dangerous of them all. The whole damn bunch of them were magnificent. They played as a definitive team, nothing haphazard, everything in order, always moving, always circling, and it was extremely beautiful to watch. Disheartening but beautiful.

What a team, these Soviets, and the Canadians quickly found out they were the fight of their hockey lives. The training camp smiles and good cheer vanished for our boys after game one, replaced by guts and fear and heart. But they dug deep, gradually found themselves in better shape, and finally in Moscow they pulled it out in the end when things didn’t look at all promising.

I was alone in my apartment in Sudbury for game eight, watching on a small black and white television, and my sigh of relief might have been felt all the way to the Inco mines on the other side of town when Paul Henderson broke the tie with 34 seconds left. It was a giddy moment, but I also knew the Canadians were fortunate, and that the Russians were absolutely world class and NHL calibre to say the least.

Something new was in the air. These strange cyrillic-writing, vodka-drinking creatures were to be admired and respected. We had just found out that people played hockey in another country as well as they did here. They  had learned their craft in only a handful of rinks across their frozen country, and how could that be?

Immediately after the series, Alan Eagleson and Hockey Canada officials boldly announced that these mysterious players would soon be competing for the Stanley Cup, even as soon as the following year. It wasn’t to be, but I suppose the Eagle and others meant well.

Hockey changed after 1972. Gradually the NHL’s doors were thrown wide open, and stars now fill the ice from distant ports. I feel extremely fortunate to have seen things from the beginning, to have witnessed the historic Summit Series as an adult, and I became a lifetime student of what had transpired during that September of forty years ago.

I met a few of the Soviet players while I was in St. Petersburg years later and they were quite pleasant, although Boris Mikhailov seemed to have cared less when he learned I was Canadian. But he was a rotten bastard on the ice too, one who enjoyed kicking with his skate blade, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. I will say this about this excellent forward and yapper. Mikhailov was his team’s true leader. He was the Phil Esposito of the Russian squad.

I’ve put some things together for this 44-year anniversary, which I’ll be posting over the next little while, and I hope you’ll enjoy.

Orillia The Good

(Re-posting a previous post, for no particular reason)

I think you should include Orillia in your future travel plans.

Why would you not? It was the home of Gordon Lightfoot, Stephen Leacock, Rick Ley, and Dino’s pool hall for goodness sakes. It’s historic.

In Bobby Orr’s book “Orr, My Story”, he says his hockey school with Mike Walton was in the Muskokas. It wasn’t. It was just outside Orillia, which is below the Muskokas.

In fact, the only time he mentioned Orillia was when he said his former agent and ex-friend Alan Eagleson had a cottage near there.

It took Gordon Lightfoot about twenty years into his career before saying he was from Orillia and not Toronto.

Stephen Leacock changed the name from Orillia to Mariposa in his book “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”.

Dino’s pool hall burned down.

Rick Ley has always seemed a proud Orillian, even though he hasn’t lived there since the 1960s..

My ongoing unofficial poll, which I’ve conducted for years, asks old friends who now live in places not called Orillia. “Could you ever live in Orillia again?”, to which about 98% say no.

I could, I think. But maybe not.

And about the Lightfoot thing, maybe it didn’t help that a guy I knew went in through an unlocked back door at a Lightfoot concert at Orillia’s Opera House and stole Gordon’s or one of the band member’s leather jacket. It must have put a sour taste in Gordon’s mouth, which is understandable.

Below, Gordon’s boyhood home in Orillia.

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Cool Clear Watters

Bill Watters, Bobby Orr, Mike Walton, and Rob Street at the Orr-Walton Sports Camp in Orillia. (from the Orillia Packet and Times).

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Thanks to Ron Green, Mike Mohun, and Don McIsaac for sending a story from the Orillia Packet and Times about Bill Watters, which you can see right here.

Watters, from Orillia, was, among other things, a players agent with Alan Eagleson, Team Canada bigwig, assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a TV analyst for Sportsnet. Quite a resume.

Don mentions that Rob Street, on the right, was one of two Orillians to ever hoist the Memorial Cup, the other being Rick Ley.

Eagleson On Front Page Challenge 1972

Midway throught the 1972 Summit Series, after Team Canada and the Soviets had completed their four games in Canada where Canada recorded one win, one tie, and two losses, organizer and hockey czar Alan Eagleson went on CBC’s Front Page Challenge to talk about the series.

Soon after, Eagleson would hop on a plane and join the Canadian contingent in Moscow, where we know what happened in the days to follow.

I’d never seen this before and just stumbled on it by accident as I was looking for the Front Page Challenge episode in which Bobby Orr was on, which I never found.

If you know the format of FPC, you’ll know that the first part involved the four panelists trying to guest the identity of the mystery guest. Here it jumps right to the part where the panelists talk to the guest. I’ve no idea if any of them guessed Eagleson’s identity or not.

An Old Molson Photo Shows Up

It’s the beauty of the internet.

I think about a year ago, Don, a fellow I knew back in Orillia when I was young, found me through my blog and we’ve had some nice chats. He lives in Houston, Texas now, and over the past several weeks has sent me several hockey books, including a couple about Bobby Orr, and two dealing with Alan Eagleson.

Today the mail arrived, and along with the normal bills was an envelope from Don which had one of those great old Molson team pictures in it.

The Canadiens used to send these 7 x 10 photos out to fans who wrote, and I have two in my scrapbook, from the 1961-62 season and 1959-60. Don’s, as you can see, is from the ’62-’63 campaign, and you can see how the back looked, which is impossible with the ones in my scrapbook because they’re glued in.

These are nice things to have. Big and beautiful glossy team pictures from Molson. Nowadays, the team sends out photos about half this size. The more money they make, the smaller things get. Like programs. And team pictures.

Thanks a lot, Don. It’s coming to a loving home.

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These are the two I have in my scrapbook.

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The Infamous Orr Article

In my opinion, Bobby Orr is the best who ever played. At least the best I’ve ever seen. The way he controlled things by speeding up or slowing down, the way he’d take the puck end to end and swoop and circle and set up others, or simply score himself. All from a defenceman who would then rush back and help out in his own end until it was time to dazzle again.

It was new and fresh. It was genius.

Bobby Orr turned 65 today, and in thinking about him, I recalled an old magazine story from Oct. 1982, written by the late, great Earl McRae, and one that people still talk about. It wasn’t a normal sports story, it was in many ways a mean-spirited piece, and McRae seemed to go out of his way to show us that Orr wasn’t the saint that many thought.

I have this magazine, and I dug it out from a trunk and re-read it. Yes, it shows Orr in a poor light, as being moody and bad-tempered at times. And because I was such a big fan of Earl McRae’s Ottawa newspaper columns, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know whether he set out to do such a job but it wasn’t an overly-kind portrayal, and I’d like to believe McRae simply strove to write a story that wasn’t the same old jock thing we’d see time and time again.

It just came off as very unflattering to Orr and it’s too bad. McRae had the talent to do a much different type of story.

McRae passed away in October of 2011.

Below, photos from the magazine, and under those, some samplings from the article.

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“I met him at the airport a while ago, so we sat together on the plane. He seemed a very troubled and confused young man. The Bruins, the Hawks, Eagleson, the NHL. He had very little good to say. He was very down. I felt for him. To think what he gave hockey and what he gave us only to have fate deal him the queen of spades. It’s a goddam shame. We can only pray.” – Munson Campbell, former NHL governor.

“They echo his every laugh, every chuckle, mirror his every grin, every smile, every frown. That much hasn’t changed in the world of Bobby Orr: the fawning, the flattering, the toadying, the aphrodisiacs of stardom.” – Earl McRae

“I did a humorous takeoff on Orr’s endorsements. He was into everything then. It was a total fun thing, but a few nights later I’m called out of a banquet to take a phone call. It’s Orr. He called me every rotten name in the world. He didn’t see the humor in it. I couldn’t believe it. I learned one thing: you didn’t mess with Bobby Orr’s image. He hasn’t talked to me since.” – Eddie Anderson, Boston sports broadcaster.

He grits his teeth, looks around and draws me aside. “Now, listen,” he seethes. “You’re not going to my home, you’re not travelling with me. Is that clear? I’m starting to get a little pissed off. What’re you after, anyway? If you want to talk, you can see me me at my hotel. Between noon and 1 p.m. tomorrow. And that’s it. I’m very busy” He jots his room number on a piece of paper and thrusts it at me. And no photographer.” – Exchange between Orr and McRae.

“Poor Bobby. I can appreciate the trauma he’s suffered, but a lot of the problems he’s gone through are because of the way he’s been. He wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with, he could be demanding and moody. He used to call me up if he read where I had talked to certain reporters about him. “What the hell are you doing talking to that jerk for?” he’d scream.

“Bobby had trouble communicating with the players (in Chicago). He’d give them hell if they didn’t measure up to his standards. It got to where he wasn’t talking to them. Bobby seemed to forget that his talent was God given, that others had to work. It got to where the players were so uptight, they had trouble performing. One of the players went to Pully and said get that guy off the ice or there’ll be a full-scale riot. Pully took him off.” – Eagleson

“I used to be great friends with Bobby. I used to help at his hockey school, I golfed with him. But in Chicago he changed. I couldn’t do anything right as far as he was concerned. He began isolating himself from the players and a resentment built up toward him. He stopped talking to me. He hasn’t talked to me since.” – Dale Tallon, former Hawks defenceman.

Following a game in Chicago against the Vancouver Canucks, a number of players went to a bar called the Rusty Scupper. Orr joined them. One of the Canuck players was Hilliard Graves, a tough little winger with a reputation as a reckless body checker. “Bobby was giving the Vancouver players hell for not putting out,” says Graves. “He was very belligerent, very mean. Then he started on me. He said if he ever came back, he was going to get me. He was really mad. I said if he did, I’d take his knees right off. He punched me in the chest, knocked me off my stool. I threw him to the floor, but he jumped up and punched me under the eye. I nailed him twice, one on the nose and one on the eye and he went down. A few moment later I see him standing at the door to the washroom and he’s calling me over. Bobby was almost in tears. “I’m really glad you hit me,” he said. “I deserved it. I’ve been acting crazy lately. I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me. I’m so frustrated. I’ve been looking for something, I don’t know what.”

“He was in trouble all the time in Chicago, couldn’t get along. Too much of a damn perfectionist. For a while after he quit, he was horrible to get along with, you could hardly talk to him. I imagine his wife had to put up with a lot.” – Doug Orr, Bobby’s father.

“I hope he grows up some day.” Harry Sinden

“He had no diplomacy. There was only one way: his. I guess when you’re used to getting your own way all your life, it’s hard to change. The Black Hawks are in my blood and as far as I’m concerned, Bobby Orr was an outsider.” – Don Murphy, Hawks publicity director.

“Bobby phoned me and tried to get me to support Bill against Al. I said no, they’re both friends, I know nothing about it and, besides, Al’s been very good to me. Bobby called me all sorts of names, hung up and hasn’t talked to me since. We used to be best friends.” – Mike Walton

 

 

 

Summit ’72 – Cournoyer

There was a strong contingent of Montreal Canadiens on Team Canada ’72 – Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Frank and Pete Mahovlich, and Yvan Cournoyer, and all, in their own way, contributed mightily to the cause, including Dryden who struggled at times but showed enough to coaches Harry Sinden and John Ferguson to be called upon for game eight duty.

Serge Savard played in five games, never in a losing cause, and he went about his business with poise and steadiness, which must have rubbed off on his somewhat frazzled teammates in a big way. Pete Mahovlich killed penalties and scored a classic shorthanded beauty in game two in Toronto. Brother Frank only had one goal and one assist, but was a strong, experienced leader and great puck carrier with that long stride of his. Guy Lapointe played in seven games and did for Team Canada what he did for as a Hab – skate and carry the puck better than most, and equally important, was the definitive team guy who kept teammates loose. And being loose was crucial in a series like this, where stress was the order of the day.

But maybe it was Cournoyer who had the greatest impact of all.

Cournoyer played in all eight games of the series, one of only seven players who did, and managed three goals and two assists, which placed him behind only Phil Esposito, Paul Henderson, and Bobby Clarke in team points. And most importantly, it was he who provided plenty of fodder in the final game.

At 12:56 of the third period, Cournoyer tied the score at 5-5, but the red light didn’t go on. It was an obvious goal, everyone saw it, and eventually, after Alan Eagleson almost set the Cold War back ten years with his angry antics, the goal stood, and Canada had clawed their way back after being down 5-3 going into the third. So what a huge, historic goal it was from Yvan Cournoyer.

Then with the score tied and less than a minute to go, Cournoyer intercepted the puck at the far boards, near the Soviet blueline, and sent it across the ice to Henderson, who initially lost it until it came back out to him in front of the net from Phil Esposito. Henderson beat Tretiak with 34 seconds left on the clock, and the first into the arms of the jubilant Henderson was Yvan Cournoyer, with the two immortalized forever in an iconic photograph.

The most famous goal in Canadian hockey history, and our great Roadrunner was in on it in a big way.