Tag Archives: Vladislav Tretiak

Orr and Gretzky Could’ve Been……..

Bob Davidson may have been Chief Scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and no doubt was responsible for guiding many great players to the Leafs, particularly in the 1960s when Toronto was winning four Stanley Cups, but he made the odd big error in judgement in his scouting career, and I mean big.

One 1972 Davidson faux pas is well-documented. It occurred when he and John McClellan travelled to Russia prior to the 1972 Summit Series to scout the Soviet squad, and came back with the report that the Soviets weren’t great shooters and their weakest spot was in goal. Of course, the squad turned out to be a powerhouse and the goalie’s name happened to be Vladislav Tretiak, who wasn’t a weak spot by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he stood on his head in that historical series and continued to stand on his head for the next decade or so.

The other big Davidson boo boo happened much earlier than 1972 and if he’d followed up on a simple letter, the course of Leafs, Bruins, and NHL history as a whole would have been drastically altered.

In 1960, a minor hockey organizer in Parry Sound wrote to Leafs coach and GM Punch Imlach about a 12-year old player named Bobby Orr and how good the little guy was, but Imlach thought little or nothing about it and simply passed the message on to Davidson. But Davidson, without checking the kid out, decided that young Bobby was indeed too young and maybe in a few more years they’d have a look again and see how he was progressing at that time.

The Orr family was disappointed. Bobby’s father Doug and grandpa Robert were both big Leafs fans and loved the idea of Bobby eventually playing in Toronto, but it wasn’t to be because Imlach and Davidson couldn’t be bothered.

Shortly after the Leafs passed on the kid, Boston brass saw the young fellow play in a tournament in Gananogue, Ontario, began making trip after trip to Parry Sound to wine and dine the Orr clan, and the rest goes without saying.

And while we’re talking about the Leafs, Wayne Gretzky almost played in Toronto following his brief St. Louis stint in 1995-96.

Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher was on the verge of having the deal sealed. Gretzky wanted badly to play in Toronto, it was his dream to finish his career there, and he was ready to sign for around two or three million. He’d even passed on an eight million dollar offer from Vancouver because he was so eager to play for the Leafs. Gretzky told Fletcher he’d do whatever it took to get it done, but Fletcher’s bosses decided they wanted to cut back on payroll and use any extra money for the building of the Air Canada Centre.

So Gretzky signed with the Rangers instead.

(The Gretzky and Orr information comes from the Damien Cox/Gord Stellick book – ’67 The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire. The wording in this post is mine).

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.

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.

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.

Should He Or Shouldn’t He? He Should

Should Paul Henderson be in the Hall of Fame?

Damn right he should, although Henderson didn’t exactly have what one would call a Hall of Fame career, racking up 236 goals and 241 assists for 477 points in 707 regular season games divided between the Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. These are decent numbers, not fantastic, but the true point is missed.

What Henderson did one September forty years ago should be enough. His goal in game eight made an entire country stand up and rejoice.(except for my dad, who was cheering for the Russians). I don’t know what else the guy could do – take turns replacing Dryden and T. Esposito in nets for the odd period? Take over flying the plane to Moscow after the pilot has a heart attack?

He was such a pivotal player during the 1972 Summit Series, notching seven goals and three assists, second only to Phil Esposito, and most remarkably, scored the winning goals in the final three contests of the Series, including the iconic marker in game eight with just 34 seconds remaining. He played in all eight games of the Series, on a line with Bobby Clarke and Ron Ellis, and they were by far the most reliable and consistent threesome on the squad.

I understand when people pose the question – does only a handful of big games merit the honour? But I say just forget about that and have a beer or something. Besides, Vladislav Tretiak and Valeri Kharlamov are in the Hall, and that can be a whole other conversation.

Paul Henderson is currently struggling with leukemia, and what a fine and fitting touch it would be to have him become a new member of the prestigious Hall. Damn right.

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 – Vancouver: “Can It Get Any Worse?”

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 starting September 22nd. 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.

Summit ’72 – Woes In Winnipeg

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.

Summit ’72 – “Rebounding In Toronto”

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, 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 Yakusov 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.