Tag Archives: Valeri Kharlamov

Game 6 – They Needed To Win

Part 10

And win they did, 3-2, with absolutely no help from German officials Franz Baader and Josef Kompalla , who seemed to love the idea of sending a parade of Canadians to the sin bin and were living proof that when it came to refereeing hockey games, Germany made great cars.

No matter. Team Canada allowed a Soviet goal, then scored three in a minute and a half to take control in all aspects. Even Ken Dryden played well and finally beat his nemesis Soviets for the first time since facing them years before as an amateur.

This game had finally given us a glimmer of hope. The team played with poise and passion, they came together and played like they knew they could, and Paul Henderson, in the series of his life, scored the winner on a long slap shot that surprised everyone from Vladivostok to Victoria.

One particular incident on this night must be mentioned. It was time to stop Valeri Kharlamov, and John Ferguson provided an ugly-yet-brutally effective solution. “I think he needs a tap on the ankle,” Fergy told Bobby Clarke, and Clarke proceeded to chop and crack the Soviet star’s ankle, rendering the Soviet star useless and out of the series until game eight, where he looked absolutely non-Kharlamovian. Not one of Team Canada’s finest moments, but at this point, it was win-at-all-costs, which I understand. Although this tactic underlined what many at home and abroad had screamed loud and hard about – that the Canadians were thugs and weren’t playing the game the way it should be played.

Of course, no one mentioned the Swedes’ stick work and diving in Stockholm, or the Soviets’ exaggerated theatrics and their own particular brand of whining. And critics made no heed of the off-ice nonsense regarding Canada’s steaks and cokes going missing, and phone calls in the middle of the night to their hotel rooms with no one on the other end. Frank Mahovlich became so unnerved by the fact that his room might be bugged that he checked under the carpet and discovered what he thought was a KGB bug. The Big M then unscrewed it and promptly heard a loud crash as he realized he’d unscrewed a ceiling light from the room below.

The series had transformed into a bizarre, stressful, and unreal game of cat and mouse, but most importantly for Team Canada and the nation behind them, the Soviets were beginning to show some important cracks. Team Canada felt this thing was far from over, and Phil Esposito, as focused now as any man could be, was leading the charge like no other could. Years later, Espo would even say that he wasn’t a violent man but he would have killed to win if it had come down to that.

Below, Bobby Clarke, Bill White, and Tony Esposito see the sights of Moscow with their wives, while John Ferguson inspects some Red Army soldiers.

Woes In Winnipeg ’72

Part 5

We had them. And then we didn’t.

There were such high hopes coming off the big game two win in Toronto, and more of the same was expected in Winnipeg, now that the boys had rid themselves of their cobwebs and decided to get down to business. But as depressing as can be, Team Canada just kept blowing leads like 3-1 and 4-2 and let a major win slip away, with the game ending in a 4-4 tie.

The Soviet Kid Line of Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Bodunov, and Yuri Lebedev, in their first appearance in the series, accounted for five points, and Kharlamov was once again inserting daggers into all of Canada, with tonight a gorgeous shorthanded goal when he burst in alone on Tony Esposito, who was making his second straight start after playing so well in Toronto.

Added to the dismal atmosphere was the fact that Winnipeg wasn’t all that stirred up by the big show. Former Black Hawk superstar Bobby Hull, who had bolted to the WHA and was now playing for the Jets, wasn’t allowed to play for Team Canada because he was such a big, bad traitor, and many in Winnipeg felt the team should’ve been called Team NHL, not Team Canada. It also doesn’t take much to imagine how Hull would have helped.

Just not a great night overall, and it hurts that we blew these leads. Two victories and we’re rolling, but it not to be. We’re stuck with one measly win, a loss, and a tie so far, and the uphill climb is getting steeper.

Now it’s onward to Vancouver, where Phil Esposito gives us shit.

Game Two In ’72

Part 4

It’s quite a thing to see a team go from shell-shocked to terrific in just one game, but Team Canada took over in Toronto, winning 4-1 in front of a house full of satisfied and relieved customers, and it made us think that maybe game one in Montreal was just one of those things, with the boys not being quite ready both physically and mentally. Now that they understand the job needed to be done, it was time to put the hammer down.

In the big picture it wouldn’t work out quite like that, but it was nice to think at the time.

Everyone was raving about the Russians at this point, after what they had displayed in Montreal.  Even crusty Leafs owner Harold Ballard had apparently offered a million bucks for Kharlamov after seeing him just once, which must have amused the slick forward and his comrades to no end, considering they were earning less than 100 bucks a month at this point. The Russians after game one had become the new movie stars, and the Canadians, B-actors.

So it was quite pleasant when we kicked the shit out of them in game two.

This is when the Canadians started to play with more edge, and when Alexander Yakushev showed us that Kharlamov wasn’t the only superstar on the Soviet team. This is also when Peter Mahovlich scored a short-handed goal that has become a part of hockey lore.

The Canadians were leading 2-1 when Pat Stapleton was called for hooking, and if the Russians score, everything changes of course. We’d seen them come from behind in a big way just 48 hours prior and weren’t all that crazy about seeing it again. But Peter Mahovlich grabbed the puck at centre ice while killing the penalty, charged in with that big, lanky style of his, deked a couple of Russian d-men out of their jockstraps, skated in on Tretiak, made a couple of quick moves, and shoved it behind the stunned goaltender. (That’s Peter doing his thing in the Sun newspaper photo).

A sensational goal on a sensational night,  Maybe it’s how the series might unfold from here on in. A big 4-1 win, this time with Tony Esposito between the pipes instead of the shaky Ken Dryden. All’s well on the western front, and it seems everything’s back to normal now.

1972 First Game Blues

Part 3

Finally. The big night. The night we as proud Canadians will have our best hockey team teach a big honkin’ lesson to the Russkies, whom I feel sorry for because they’re going to get embarrassed and want to catch the next Aeroflot back to their mamas. Maybe we should let them score the odd goal.

The Russians and their fans back home are going to see how it’s really done. They’re going to be amazed by our skating and our big blasts and our hockey brains. They must be nervous, and I don’t blame them.

Pierre Trudeau drops the puck between Phil Esposito and Vladimir Vikulov, and of course our guy wins the faceoff handily. He’s suppose to win it, it’s protocol, but he’s done it with purpose, with pizzazz. No way that foreigner was going to get that puck. A statement made.

It’s the start of what should be a beautiful night, and when Esposito scores after just 30 seconds, and Paul Henderson then makes it 2-0 after only six minutes and change, it’s to be expected. Yes indeed. Maybe we’ll need a calculator to track the Canadian point-getters.

But something doesn’t seem right. The Russians seem to be playing as well as the Canadians, sometimes better. Often better, in fact. It’s disturbing. Why isn’t Team Canada toying with this bunch? How come the other guys have the puck so much?

Suddenly, and not totally unexpected at this point – a Russian goal. Then another. Then a couple of out-of-this-world markers by some guy named Kharlamov, who makes us sit up and ask, who the &%^$# is that?

It’s now 4-3 for the visitors in the third, and like a hammer and sickle to our hearts, the Russians get another still, then another after that, and yes, another after that. Goaltender Ken Dryden looks as average as can be, and why is that? He’s one of the players who knows how the Russians play. And he’s been standing on his head as a Montreal Canadien. But he’s mostly sitting on his ass tonight, and when the siren goes, I see the Russians almost wiping their hands after a solid day’s work.

Such party poopers.

7-3 Russians. This isn’t supposed to happen.

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.

Brand New Hab

A hearty welcome to Moscow-born (and Saskatoon Blades) forward Nikita Scherbak, chosen by the Canadiens with their first pick (26th), although Marc Bergevin says they had him at 15th for skaters and was surprised he was still around when it came time to choose.

From Moscow to Saskatoon, and sometime in the next few years, hopefully a full-time job in Montreal.

Time marches on. In 1972 when the Summit Series was played, Nikita’s mom and dad might not have been born yet.

Now we have Nikita, with a year in the WHL with the Blades under his belt, which not that long ago would’ve been unheard of, and speaking English, albeit with a heavy accent which is to be expected of course. You should hear my French accent.

I remember when it was truly strange to hear Valeri Kharlamov say a simple English “thank you” when interviewed with a translater in ’72. Completely unusual, although maybe you had to be there.

Now, after just a year in Canada, young Scherbak was a delight, and like Alex Galchenyuk a few years back, I liked him right away.

Again, welcome Nikita.

Meeting Serge

Savard

Serge Savard was at my workplace yesterday to sign a bunch of stuff, and because he was quite busy I really didn’t want to interrupt him. But I managed to chat with him a bit anyway.

I told him that not only did I follow his career through his many years as a Hab, but also during the 1972 Summit Series when he was a member of Team Canada.

He was friendly and more than happy to talk a bit about the Summit Series, mentioning that he wore number 23 in the series instead of his usual #18 because Jean Ratelle had seniority.

Serge didn’t play game one in Montreal when the Soviets shocked almost everyone with their 7-3 win, but Serge said he wasn’t surprised, he’d played against Russian teams as a junior, and he knew they were good. And he still disagrees about not dressing for that big game one.

“They decided to go with some slower guys like Don Awrey, who was conservative and would be down often from blocking shots, when I think a guy like me who was a bit more offensive should have played. I knew they were fast, and I would’ve been a better fit.”

Serge also brought up a point he seemed pretty darn proud of, and I don’t blame him. “Every game I played we didn’t lose. Four wins and a tie. I didn’t play in game one, had a bad foot for game four in Vancouver, and they rested me in Moscow for game five. But then I played the last three over there.”

I asked him about the magnificent Valeri Kharlamov. “One of the best ever,” said Serge. “I even got him into the Hall of Fame”! (Serge is an inductee selector). He also thinks Alexander Yakushev should be in the Hall.

It was cool to chat with a guy who has his name on eight Stanley Cups as a player and twice as Habs GM in ’86 and ’93, and who also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1969, was GM of the Habs in the mid-1980s, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, and was awarded the Order of Canada.

He also wears a big honkin’ Stanley Cup ring on his finger.

That was it. A handshake and I was off to give my usual 187% again. I went back down later and he was gone.

I also found out that on my day off last Friday, Serge’s teammate on the Habs and Team Canada, HOFer Guy Lapointe, was in the office.

Plus – A Joke Serge Played on John Ferguson

After game 8 in Moscow in 1972, Fergie, who was Team Canada’s assistant coach, went around the dressing room and had all the players sign a stick that he planned on mounting in his den when he got home.

When the team got back to Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau was there to meet them and Fergie followed Savard through the reception line. Trudeau and Serge shook hands, and then Serge said to Trudeau, “By the way, Mr. Prime Minister, look what John Ferguson has brought you from Moscow – an autographed stick.”

Savard took the stick from Fergie’s hand and gave it to Trudeau.

Fergie never got it back, although Trudeau’s office called him after hearing about the joke and offered it back. But Fergie said Trudeau could keep it.

 

 

 

 

Mercury Rising

004

It was the Edmonton Mercurys representing Canada in the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway, and they got it done.

Billy Dawe and the boys won their first seven contests and sealed a gold medal for Canada with a 3-3 tie against the U.S., and why they could only tie the Americans I’ve no idea.

And incredibly, the 1952 gold medal would be Canada’s last for the next 50 years as the Soviets in particular got better and better, winning eight of the next twelve Olympic golds until Canada finally reclaimed it in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

The. U.S. and Sweden would win two golds along the way, with the Czech Republic capturing one. But none for good old Canada, left in the dust.

The Russians especially were a powerhouse and that had to change. It was our game. They were good at soccer, ballet, and circuses, but we were great at hockey, even though we couldn’t beat them..

And thus begat the 1972 Summit Series. Bring in the big boys.

Now it’s 2014 and the Sochi Olympics and we’re bringing in the big boys again, although everyone else has their own big boys too.

Especially the Russians, and they’re going to be as tough now as they’ve always been.

Only instead of Bobrov and Kharlamov and Makarov and all the others over the years, now it’s Malkin and Ovechkin and Kovalchuk and the gang.

But regardless, I’m predicting Canada to bring home gold. Both men and women. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.

Go Canada!

 

1974 Team Cyrillic

The picture below was sent to me from a friend in Leningrad in the mid-1980s.

Team Canada 1974, stars from the rival WHA, taking on Kharlamov, Mikhailov, and Tretiak two years after the big one. (results at the bottom).

Rick Ley, second in the top row, was a boyhood friend growing up in Orillia, who knocked my front tooth out by accident when throwing a baseball. And he borrowed my hockey gloves and never gave them back.

Five players suited up at one time or another with the Habs – JC Tremblay, Rejean Houle, Ralph Backstrom, Marc Tardif, and Frank Mahovlich.

Three players on this Team Canada ’74 squad also played in the historic 1972 Summit Series before bolting to the WHA  – Paul Henderson, Mahovlich, and Pat Stapleton.

1974

Down the left side are coaches Billy Harris, Bobby Hull, and Pat Stapleton.

Top row left to right – Don McLeod, Rick Ley, J.C. Tremblay, Mike Walton, Rejean Houle

2nd row – Brad Selwood, Andre Lacroix, Tom Webster, Gordie Howe, Marty Howe

3rd row – Mark Howe, Ralph Backstrom, Tom Harrison, Rick Smith, Paul Shmyr

4th row – Paul Henderson, Serge Bernier, Bruce MacGregor, Marc Tardiff, John McKenzie

5th row – Al Hamilton, Frank Mahovlich, Gerry Cheevers

USSR Wins Series 4-1-3