Thoughts from the magnificent 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series

THE SERIES TOUCHED ME 

From time to time I pull out my videos of games and behind-the-scenes footage from the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. It’s a time and place that is part of my life, and I’ve studied this eight game series with love and fascination. It has touched me, and I feel I could write a book about it. I was a 21 year old bartender in Sudbury, Ont. at this time, and before the series had started, I was more than eager to see our indestructible boys destroy those lesser talents from the evil empire. Wow, did I have my eyes opened.

YOU KNOW THE OBVIOUS

I don’t need to explain any of the obvious about this event. You know, or have probably heard, about the society comparisons, about the Henderson and Esposito heroics, about Canada winning with 34 seconds to go in the 8th game. But there’s more than the obvious about this series that has entered my life, and I’m very proud of it.

THE SERIES HELPED ME FIND THE WOMAN OF MY DREAMS 

Through a series of bazaar happenings which are too complex to mention here, I ended up marrying a Russian woman who had only known what little she knew of Canada because of this series. Luciena had indeed watched the big series from her side of the world, and she was not only proud of her hockey stars, but was also amazed by ours. She liked that Canadian players were without helmets. She loved the look of a young Bobby Clarke with his front teeth missing. Phil Esposito seemed bigger than life to her, and she laughed when he slipped on a flower petal while being introduced. She found it incredulous that 2700 Canadian fans packed Luchnicki Stadium in Moscow and made so much noise, because her fellow Russians weren’t permitted to show extreme emotion in the building. It just wasn’t part of Soviet upbringing.

GETTING TO KNOW SOME OF THE RUSSIAN PLAYERS 

Years later, Luciena took me to a St. Petersburg Ska, a Russian Elite League team, practice, where the great ’72 star and captain Boris Mikhailov was coaching. She called him over and introduced us, telling him I was Canadian. Not surprisingly, the always intense Mikhailov didn’t seem all that interested, and looked right through me.  I went to various games in Russia during my six times there, and met other ’72 stars like Evgeny Zimin and Victor Kuzkin, who were usually there scouting. I was introduced to the great Valeri Kharlamov’s son, Alexander, who was playing for Red Army at the time. And some of my Russian friends over the years have collected autographs for me from  ’72 players like Alexander Ragulin, Vladimir Petrov, and others.

MIKHAILOV’S DOING BETTER THAN YOU AND ME 

The last time I was in St. Petersburg, in May of 2007, we stayed with an elderly woman whose son-in-law had played for Ska under Boris Mikhailov, and the apartment we lived in had been arranged for by Mikhailov, who of course had serious pull in such matters.  Zena, the old woman, told us that Mikhailov had an apartment in the expensive Nevsky Prospekt downtown area, and had an indoor swimming pool. So it was obvious the feisty captain the 1972 Russian National team had done well for himself.

VIKULOV ISN’T

I find it interesting as well that during the 8th and final game of that series, the Russian players who weren’t dressed for the game that final night weren’t even allowed in the building. Imagine. And many of the Russian players haven’t ended up successful like Mikhailov, Tretiak, Anisin, and Yakushev have. Some are dirt poor with meagre government pensions, and one player, Vladimir Vikulov has become such a down-and-out alcoholic that even his old teammates don’t want to discuss him now.

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