Tag Archives: Stockholm

Leningrad ’91

The first time I went to Russia, with my two kids and first wife, was in 1991, when St. Petersburg was still called Leningrad, and when historic changes were underway. Statues of Lenin had been toppled, revolution was in the air, the U.S.S.R. and its communist ways were in the process of collapsing, and although we were warned not to go because it was such dangerous times, we went anyway.

Leningrad was exactly as I had pictured it and wanted it to be – dark, old, strange, just like in books and films, and I was so excited. We came in by train from Helsinki late at night and our Russian friends hadn’t received our letter saying we were coming, so we were alone and more than confused when we stepped onto the train station platform. Eventually, a fellow who spoke English asked if we needed help, and things got sorted out thanks to him. Surprised the heck out of our friends too.

Russia has changed over the years, with fancy cars, mega-movie theatres, high fashion, and serious money being thrown around now, but back then it was the real Russia to me, the one I expected and wasn’t disappointed with. It was also the bargain to end all bargains. Almost everything was dirt-cheap. Eight of us went to a restaurant one night, had chicken or beef meals with all the trimmings, plus a couple of pitchers of Cokes along with dessert, and the entire bill came to the equivalent of seven bucks. Now it would be several hundred at least.

Here’s a few photos from our big trip 21 years ago, when Russian citizens still had to line up for hours to buy a few things in shops, when many ordinary Russians had no choice but to share an apartment with several other families, and it goes without saying, when life wasn’t easy for all but the chosen few. It was also a time when it was very unusual for westerners to see the inside of a Russian home, it rarely happened, and I was very proud that we were able to experience that. (It took some serious red tape). I also attended a meeting of the Leningrad Montreal Canadiens Fan Club, where they made me their first non-Russian member.

When we got back home, I wrote a full-page account of our trip, which was published in the Calgary Herald. It was all very heady times, and I have wonderful memories of this huge trip, which also included Stockholm, Helsinki, and Copenhagen along the way..

Meanwhile, Back At Summit ’72 – “Stockholm”

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 villians for all concerned in this beautiful Scandanavian 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 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.




Sweden Was No Picnic For Our 1972 Boys

In 1972, Team Canada decided to play two exhibition games in Stockholm in preparation for the final four games against the Russians in Moscow. It was a way to have some ice time on the bigger ice, to deal with jet lag, to work on some things, and to have some solid European opposition before the main event took place. It wasn’t supposed to be serious, it was intented to be a bit of a brief vacation on their way to Russia. But because of what had happened in the first four games in Canada, losing two, winning one and tying one, the Swedish exhibition games became much more, because the Canadians were now in an ugly mood.

Canada played two games in Sweden, winning game one, 4-1, and tying the Swedes 4-4 in game two. Wayne Cashman almost lost his tongue when Ulf Sterner decided to insert it in Cashman’s mouth, and Swedish fans booed our boys incessantly for their hard-hitting and rough play. Their media also came out strong and labelled the Canadians a bunch of dirty rotten thugs and gangsters. The Canadians also got a first glimpse of the biased and inferior refereeing they would later encounter in Moscow. Team Canada didn’t have the fun they thought they were going to have in beautiful Stockholm.

This is a program from the Swedish games, with Ken Dryden as cover boy.

0017 0025 00330046


Rambling Notes Regarding Habs-Minnesota and The NHL In Europe… And, THE QUEEN!

The Canadiens ended their pre-season games with a 3-0 loss to Jacques Lemaire’s quite boring Minnesota Wild. So the final tally for the Habs was six wins and three losses.


And if you think 6-3-0 is okay, you’re right. But it really doesn’t say much about the upcoming regular season. These games, of course, are all about seeing prospects, deciding on lines, and getting your act together before the going gets tough.


Don’t forget, the Vancouver Canucks now sit at six wins and no losses in pre-season play, and they’re not going to be hoisting the Stanley Cup any time soon.


Max Pacioretty and Kyle Chipchura didn’t dress, and although Pacioretty was impressive these last few weeks, he’s been sent down to Hamilton along with hard-shooting Yannick Weber. There’s just not a lot of empty spaces on the Habs roster right now.


Saku Koivu and the rest of the wounded regulars are back, except for Georges Laraque and Francis Bouillon.




I woke up after working a graveyard shift just in time for the second period to start in Stockholm between Ottawa and Pittsburgh. It was amazing. For about the first seven or eight minutes of play in this period, the building looked half-empty, with big chunks of seats sitting deserted.

Then finally, with almost half the period gone, everyone was back in their seats and it looked to be a sell-out. What if Sidney Crosby scored some kind of mind-blowing goal while all these people were still in the lobby eating their smelt sandwiches?


I guess in Sweden, fans aren’t in a big hurry to get to their seats and watch the game they paid about a hundred bucks for.


My son says it’s good to have NHL games played in Europe, if only so Europeans can see how real referees and linemen handle games. Officiating in Europe has been horrendous since Moses had peach fuzz. 




Apparently, four American teams are on the bubble as money-losing franchises that could move – Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, and the Florida Panthers.

Why is the NHL so hesitant to bring a struggling team back to Canada?  Winnipeg in particular.




Remember the big picture of the Queen at one end of the rink in the old Winnipeg Arena?

For those of you too young to have seen it, here it is.





Unusual Little Fascinating Facts in the 1972 Summit Series

Right now, 36 years ago in 1972, Team Canada was not having a nice time with the Russian National Team. They were clobbered in Montreal and booed in Vancouver. They were tired and frustrated, and things looked bad. But in they end, as we all know, they pulled it out.

 But it wasn’t just on-ice things going on. Here’s a few rare little tidbits:

 Team Canada had a six hour stopover in Paris on the way to Stockholm. Goalie Ed Johnston said this about Paris: “What’s wrong is the same thing you find with all these European cities. Too many old buildings.”

 While in Stockholm, a Swedish fellow at the press conference mentioned that maybe Bobby Orr, who was injured and didn’t play in the series, wasn’t as good as Russian Valeri Kharlamov. “He’s good in the NHL,” said the guy, “but in Europe he’d be only average.” A Canadian who overheard this said, “Put this down. Bobby Orr-healthy-would eat any Czech or Russian alive. And he’d spit out any Swede.”

 In Moscow, the Canadians were seen coming back to their hotel at all hours of the night. While some of the boys were sitting around the lobby of the Grand Hotel, someone mentioned hearing that the Russians had put street crews with jackhammers outside the Canadian team’s windows in the early morning. “No problem,” said one player. “We won’t be in anyway.”

 Coach Harry Sinden celebrated his 40th birthday while overseas. “Ten days ago I was 29,” he said.

 Some Canadian fans who arrived in Moscow found out there were no tickets available for them. These included Maurice Richard, Punch Imlach, former referee-in-chief Carl Voss, and legendary wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Those left out were given three options: they could take an all-expenses paid 10-day tour of Copenhagen; they could fly home and be refunded; or they could stay and take their chances on finding tickets. Most chose the third option.

 Dennis Hull, after a tour of Moscow, gushed, “I really like the place. It reminds me of Buffalo.”

A Mats Sundin Story That Means Nothing To Anybody Except Me

In early September of 1991, my first wife and I and our two kids stopped in Stockholm for a few days on our way to Leningrad, Russia. (St. Petersburg).


It was pretty well exactly 17 years ago. Time flies, as they say.


We stayed in a nice little hotel in Stockholm which was a converted old prison, so our rooms were prison cells, but of course they were really nice.


The 1991 Canada Cup was underway back home, and I was in the lobby of this hotel and I saw a Swedish newspaper with a picture of Mats Sundin and big headlines that mentioned “Canada.” So I asked the girl at the counter if she would please tell me what the headlines said.


She looked kind of embarrassed and told me it said that Mats Sundin says Sweden will have no trouble at all with Canada.


Canada ended up clobbering Sweden in this semi-final game 4-0 and maybe Sundin learned then that you don’t make predictions like this.


The game was Sept. 12, 1991. I know this and the score because I googled it. 


 This is the prison-that-became-a-hotel in Stockholm. That’s my kids up there. They’re all grown up now with babies and mortgages and all that. My son’s a Habs fan. My daughter hates hockey. That other person is my ex-wife. She stopped liking me for some reason, and we split up in 1993.