Tag Archives: Boris Mikhailov

Game 7 – Henderson Huge Again

Below, pucks that came with bottles of Bacardi Rum:

And Gary Bergman, one of Canada’s most solid performers.

Paul Henderson’s second straight game-winner, with just two minutes and sixteen seconds remaining, was a work of art which absolutely solidifies his standing as one of the tournament’s premier performers. Henderson has been a revelation, and his goal on this night, which evens the series and sets the stage for dizzying drama in game eight, was a goal of epic proportions that saw the Leaf star find himself behind the Soviet defence with a shot that fooled a surprised Tretiak.

4-3 Canada with one game to go. Several million Canadians are already calling in sick for, coincidentally, the same day as game eight.

Henderson has said often in the years following that his winning goal in this game seven is the goal he never gets tired of watching. And although our eyes were being opened wide by the exploits of Henderson with his consistency in this Summit Series, he had scored 38 goals the previous season with Toronto, and 30 the year before that, so the guy had come with good hands. We just hadn’t been paying attention.

Russian officials had promised the Canadians that the two German referees, Baader and Kompalla, would not be used on this night, but only if the Canadians assured them that Gary Bergman would stop skating by the Russian bench and heckling coach Bobrov. Midway through the game, after Boris Mikhailov had tossed several barbs at John Ferguson behind the Canadian bench, Team Canada sent a note over saying they were sticking to their Bergman promise, so back off with Mikhailov. And that was the end of that.

Game seven also saw some on-ice nastiness involving Bergman and Mikhailov. Mikhailov turns out to be a kicker, a practice rarely if ever seen in the NHL, and the skate dug into Bergman’s skin, which not surprisingly, upset the Canadian to no end. For Canadians, it was arm-waving time to see Bergman losing his cool with the obnoxious Russian star, and for Soviet fans, just another example of Canadian greasiness, and showed their disgust and displeasure by their shrill whistling. (Both Henderson’s goal and the Bergman/Mikhailov scuffle can be seen below).

More craziness, and a Canadian win. Canadian fans at this point couldn’t care less what Russian fans thought about our players, but over the years I would learn that Russians far and wide held great admiration for our boys. They just weren’t allowed to show it.

Gary Bergman, “a rock” in the series as described by Bobby Orr, passed away in 2000 after a battle with cancer. He was only 62.

Sudbury And The Summit

Sudbury_watertower

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.

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.

Summit ’72 “Aftermath”

Immediately following their stunning game-eight victory, Team Canada had to hit the road to Prague to play the Czechoslovakian national team the next night. This should have been better thought out by Hockey Canada, with an escape clause written into the contract. The team was both emotionally and physically spent, and it was unfair to subject them to this. It was time to go home, not play a meaningless game. They also felt it might take some of the lustre off the Russian Series, and they had absolutely nothing to gain and much to lose.

But the Prague game had to go on whether the team wanted it to or not.

Czech-born Stan Mikita, who was sent to live with an aunt in Canada when he seven, was named captain of Team Canada on this night, which was a classy and loving touch from coach Harry Sinden and others. Mikita had played just two games during the Summit, but in Prague it was his night. He was king. His mom and brothers and sisters were at the game, and Stan was given a long standing ovation.

As far as the game went, Canada pulled another one out of that, as they had shown often recently, by tying the game at three with just four seconds remaining, when Serge Savard stuffed it home.

And then it was time to come home.

Fifteen years after the fact, Team Canada and the Soviets played two games in celebration of the Summit Series, in Ottawa and in Hamilton. I was at the Ottawa game, and I remember being disappointed that the Soviets didn’t wear the same type of sweater that they had worn originally. And although both teams had the majority of original players in their lineups, Canada added Bill Barber, Gordie Howe, Mike Walton, Reggie Leach, Jacques Lemaire, and Darryl Sittler to the squad.

Six players, three from each team, have passed away. Bill Goldsworthy in 1996, Gary Bergman in 2000, and Rick Martin in 2011. The Russian bear, Alexander “Rags” Ragulin passed in 2004, and fellow defenceman Valeri Vasiliev died recently, in April of 2012.

And of course the great Valeri Kharlamov, killed, along with his wife, in a car crash outside of Moscow in 1981.

The “Father of Russian Hockey” Anatoli Tarasov, who had to step aside for the Summit Series, passed away in 1995, and his successor Vsevolod Bobrov, who coached the ’72 squad, died in 1979. Bobrov’s bench assistant Boris Kulagin checked out in 1988.

Sadly, John Ferguson, who was a force to be reckoned with not only in 1972 but throughout his career on and off the ice, left us in 2007. Fergie stayed beside Harry Sinden throughout the pressure cooker, and was a true inspiration as assistant coach. Some folks, however, might not agree with that moment in time when he advised Bobby Clarke that maybe Kharlamov needed a tap on the ankle.

Foster Hewitt signed off permanently in 1985. Sure he butchered Yvan Cournoyer’s name in the beginning of the series, but he got it right as he went along, and he did a fine job of describing the games for us in his own Foster Hewittian-way. Foster was 69 years old, had come out of retirement to call this series, and what a way to cap off a 40-plus year career, one that included coming up with such iconic catch-phrases as “He shoots, he scores!” and “Henderson scores for Canada!”

Many of the Canadian and Russian players became friends over the years, although Boris Mikhailov still might not win any popularity contests.

And say what you want about Alan Eagleson, but without him, the Russians may have gotten their way way too often, and there might not have even been a series in the first place.. Eagleson took care of business, and was the guy who got it done off-ice. Unfortunately, Eagle was later discovered to have stolen from the players association and various clients, and ended up doing six months in prison for fraud and embezzlement. He was also kicked out of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which must have been a cruel blow for the disgraced lawyer and player agent.

But he was immeasurably important for the 1972 Summit Series.

Summit ’72 Game 7 – Another Colossal Step

Below, pucks that came with bottles of Bacardi Rum:

And Gary Bergman, one of Canada’s most solid performers.

Paul Henderson’s second straight game-winner, with just two minutes and sixteen seconds remaining, was a work of art which absolutely solidifies his standing as one of the tournament’s premier performers. Henderson has been a revelation, and his goal on this night, which evens the series and sets the stage for dizzying drama in game eight, was a goal of epic proportions that saw the Leaf find himself behind the Soviet defence with a shot that fools a surprised Tretiak.

4-3 Canada with one game to go. Several million Canadians are already calling in sick for, coincidentally, the same day as game eight.

Henderson has said often in the years following that his winning goal in this game seven is the goal he never gets tired of watching. And although our eyes were being opened wide by the exploits of Henderson with his consistency in this Summit Series, he had scored 38 goals the previous season with Toronto, and 30 the year before that, so the guy had come with good hands. We just hadn’t been paying attention.

Russian officials had promised the Canadians that the two German referees, Baader and Kompalla, would not be used on this night, but only if the Canadians assured them that Gary Bergman would stop skating by the Russian bench and heckling coach Bobrov. Midway through the game, after Boris Mikhailov had tossed several barbs at John Ferguson behind the Canadian bench, Team Canada sent a note over saying they were sticking to their Bergman promise, so back off with Mikhailov. And that was the end of that.

Game seven also saw some on-ice nastiness involving Bergman and Mikhailov. Mikhailov turns out to be a kicker, a practice rarely if ever seen in the NHL, and the skate dug into Berman’s skin, which not surprisingly, upset the Canadian to no end. For Canadians, it was arm-waving time to see Bergman losing his cool with the obnoxious Soviet captain, and for Soviet fans, just another example of Canadian greasiness, and showed their digust and displeasure by their shrill whistling. (Both Henderson’s goal and the Bergman/Mikhailov scuffle can be seen below).

More craziness, and a Canadian win. Canadian fans at this point could care less what Russian fans thought about our players, but over the years I would learn that Russians far and wide held great admiration for our boys. They just weren’t allowed to show it.

Gary Bergman, “a rock” in the series as described by Bobby Orr, passed away in 2000 after a battle with cancer. He was only 62.

The Stacked Red Army Squad

Russian National teams have historically been made up from the majority of Moscow Central Red Army players. Talented players from around the country were recruited to play for Red Army whether they wanted to or not, and because this powerhouse league team won handily every year against other Russian squads, the sport’s popularity sagged drastically throughout the homeland.

Everyone knew Red Army would win on most nights against their fellow countrymen, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. It just became too predictable and too boring for Russian hockey fans. But Red Army was the team that played the Montreal Canadiens on New Year’s Eve 1975, which made for such a classic battle royale, and so many of us are grateful the Russians had this stacked bunch. (Although the Canadiens outshot them 38-13 in a 3-3 tie).

Below, seven players – Bloheen, Zhlutkov, Adonin, Kovalev, Adunen, Popov, and Savtsillo – didn’t take part in the Summit Series, while stars such as Tretiak, Mikhailov, Petrov, Vikulov, Kuzkin, Lutchenko, Gusev, Kharlamov and others saw their names in lights on the world stage.

(Thanks to Luci for the name translations).

Click to make it bigger if you want. You can see Kharlamov at the bottom middle, with Tretiak two above him and Mikhailov two over from Tretiak to the right. The heading reads “Nineteen times USSR champions. Hockey CSKA (Red Army)

 

Summit ’72 – Tuning In From Sudbury

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 on this 40-year anniversary, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ll be posting throughout the next several weeks. It was great to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. See, there are some good things about being old.

 

 

Pole Dancing

The Poles, for whatever reason, just haven’t been able to up their game and become a hockey powerhouse. I don’t know why – it can get cold and snowy in those parts during winter so skating and shooting should be a given.

You would think, anyway.

But there just doesn’t seem to be much going on in the way of hockey madness in Poland, and their national team is ranked way down around 21st. (I will say this, though – I was friends with a Polish couple in Calgary and the wife was one of the most beautiful  creatures I’ve ever seen. So the hockey might not be fantastic but some of the women are).

Poland did have one big moment of glory though, when they beat the powerhouse Soviets 6-4 in the 1976 World Championships. And yes, the Soviets in this game boasted Kharlamov, Mikhailov, Yakushev and all those others who gave the Canadians fits back then. It’s just weird, and you can read about this shocker right here – Poles Stun Soviets, if you’re not too busy swimming or playing croquet.

There’s also been several Poles who made it to the bigs, including Krzysztof Oliwa, Peter Sidorkiewicz, Woitek Wolski, and Mariusz Czerkawski, who saw less-than-memorable action as a Hab during the 2002-03 season.

Maybe it’s a good thing there’s not a lot of them, especially on the Habs. It would be an ongoing headache trying to spell their names.

Below, the Polish National squad takes on the New Westminster Royals of the old Pacific Coast Junior League in December of 1966. How they made out, I’ve no idea.

Kovalchuk Is Probably Much Better Off In Atlanta

Ilya Kovalchuk, whom we saw play the other night when the Atlanta Thrashers came to Montreal, is looking for a huge contract in the Alex Ovechkin stratosphere. The $100 miilion figure is now being thrown around. Imagine.

And if contract negotiations fall through with his NHL clyb, Kovalchuk has the option of joining St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL (Continental Hockey League).

I’ve seen several SKA games in St. Petersburg, and I get and don’t get what Kovalchuk might be thinking here. Sure, Russia’s his home, although not St. Petersburg, and of course he’ll be closer to family and friends, and eating  food he probably prefers. But the absolute fact remains – the KHL is not the NHL. The rinks aren’t as good, (although St. Petersburg has a nice, modern one now), teams throughout the league often don’t sell out, the quality of hockey is inferior, and even the travel doesn’t measure up. I don’t know about now but it was only a few years ago that Aeroflot would oversell their seats and allow extra passengers to stand in the aisles.

In general, going there isn’t going to the big leagues, at least not yet. It would be like a star baseball player leaving the Yankees to play in Japan. Or a big-time soccer player packing it in with Manchester United to play in North America.

If Kovalchuk moved to St. Petersburg, he might want to consider living in one area especially, the centre of the city near Nevsky Prospekt, the main downtown artery. This is where canals run through, where the city reminds one of Paris, is its’ most cosmopolitan part, and where world-class hotels and astonishingly beautiful buildings sit. It’s where the most expensive real estate in the city is found, and where basically, especially for a young guy like Kovalchuk, all the action is. Boris Mikhailov, who captained the 1972 Russian squad and became coach of SKA before the KHL came into being, has a pad just off Nevsky with an indoor swimming pool. This is what I mean for a guy like Kovalchuk with a bunch of millions in his wallet.

Much of the rest of St. Petersburg isn’t at all like the Nevsky area, and the suburbs can be slightly less lovely indeed. It’s not Atlanta, that’s for sure. It’s where working-class Russians do their thing day in and day out, riding the subways throughout this massive and sprawling city, avoiding the street hustles, just trying to survive in a concrete jungle. Sounds like it could be Atlanta but trust me, it’s not.

Russians are lovely people, generous and kind, but just not always outside their homes. And one thing you don’t do in St. Petersburg is wear white running shoes, because they’ll be black in a day or two from the grime that envelopes the area.

I don’t understand any player bolting the good life of the NHL for the KHL, unless of course there was no team here showing interest. But that’s not Kovalchuk’s situation. He’s a young sensation who probably hasn’t even reached his prime yet. He’s living the good life, the great life, with the Atlanta Thrashers, a team who doesn’t want him to leave. 

This must be some kind of hardball-playing by Kovalchuk and his agent to get the contract he’s looking for with the Thrashers. The thought of “pay me or I’m out of here.”

I love St. Petersburg, it’s a fascinating place. But Ilya, stay where you are. You can always go home to the motherland in the summer.

On This Day 36 Years Ago, We Celebrated. But What About Those Russian Players?

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.