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.