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1987: The Final Chapter
                      Rendez-Vous 87

     In February of 1987 during the yearly festivities at the Quebec Winter Carnival, hockey organizers planned a two game exhibition in the same vein as the 1979 Challenge Cup. Two games would be played in Quebec City during the all-star break. It would be the Soviet's Nationals versus the NHL all-stars and would be the central event of that year's Carnival.
     Many famous sports figures were invited to attend the games such as Pele and Tretiak. In fact there was a three game rematch between the 1972 Summit Series's oldtimers. Canada won.
     This NHL all-star team is included because still a majority or the league's premier players were Canadian, although a new crop of Americans were rising to the forefront. Esa Tikkanen and Jari Kurri would represent Finland on this team. The Americans were represented by Chris Chelios and Rod Langway. The Swedes by Ulf Samuelsson and Thomas Sandstrom...
     The KLM line was back for the Russians and the new line of Andrei Khomotov, Viacheslav Bykov and rookie Valery Kamensky were now taking their place in production output.
     The first game went to the NHL 4-3  and the second game went to the Soviets by a score of 5-3. Kamensky was the new phenom and dazzled the Quebec audience with his scoring, speed and playmaking abilities.
    All-in-all, Rendez-Vous was an enjoyable atmosphere for the players and spectators. The feeling was much more good-willed than in any previous exchanges and no hostilites between either side were present. Was the rivalry waning? Would any future meetings between the two ever invoke such competitive and hostile feelings as those series that had come before?

1987 Canada Cup

     Canada Cup '87 would keep it's round robin, semi-final, and best-of-three final format. It was held the Septmeber before the next Olympiad, which would see Calgary as winter host. The Canadians were favoured and the Czechs, Swedes, Americans and Russians all looked formidable. Even lowly Finland looked their best ever (In 1984 they weren't allowed to come due to poor performances in 1976 and 1981, so instead were replaced by the West Germans in that year.)
     This was going to be a dandy, and they weren't kidding because this Canada Cup would prove to be the climax of the international hockey movement.
     Canada's new secret weapon wouldn't be Gretzky behind the net, but rather Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier on the offence together with Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey holding up the rear. It wasn't supposed to be that way but Mike Keenan just could not resist putting together the greatest line in history while he had the chance. Doug Gilmour, Dale Hawerchuck, Michel Goulet, Rick Tocchet and Larry Murphy were also standouts. Grant Fuhr was still between the pipes. Poor Steve Yzerman and Denis Savard were left off the team again.
      The Soviets, dawning their knew styled jerseys, came out with basically the same team they used in Rendez-Vous. The "Green Unit" were there and ready to play for their country. The only problem was they all hated coach Tikhonov, and they were already thinking about coming to play in the NHL. That's a whole other story though. Their new goalie was Sergei Mylnikov. The Soviets were always bringing in new goalies, but were never quite satisfied with what they found.
     The round robin went pretty much as planned, though there are always going to be some surprises in international hockey. Canada and the Soviets finished 1, 2 after they met in the last game of the round robin which ended in a 3-3 deadlock.
      Canada played the Czechs in the semis. This one was a nail-biter as they came up against a rookie goaltender named Dominik Hasek who kept it close until Mario took over and won the game for Canada, 5-3.
      The Russians met Sweden and escaped to the finals by a score of 4-2.   
      There it was- the finals the hockey world had hoped for. It's true that Canada avenged it's horrible defeat at the hands of the Russians in 1981 by beating them 3-2 in 1984. Still, they hadn't gotten to play them in a best of three final in any previous Canada Cup.
      Everyone knew it would be a tough battle but no one expected to be as close as it turned out. What was witnessed in those three games was nothing less than the greatest hockey ever played on any rink: anywhere, anytime.                                
     The first game was played at the Montreal Forum. This must have been another war. You could tell by the intense action, and by one foul play perpetrated by Craig Hartsburg in the 2nd period. Craig was a well respected defender it's true, but the cross-check he laid on Vladimir Krutov that night was downright nasty. Soon after this incident, with the score 4-1 for the Russians, Team Canada caught fire with the aid of Doug Gilmour's presence and came back to take a 5-4 lead in the 3rd. But as soon as Gretzky gave Canada the lead, The Soviets tied it up and sent the game into OT. The CCCP would win this one early in OT 6-5 on a superb play and wrist shot by Alexander Semak.
     The next game was the highlight in action and finesse. Played at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum, it proved to be another back and forth struggle with great goals. The outcome after three periods was the same as game one. With the score 5-5 in overtime, Gretzky and Lemieux worked some magic of their own to score in overtime. 6-5 for Canada. This was agreed as the best game of the finals too; while Gretzky considered it the greatest game ever played..
     The final game was quite a different story in the beginning than the first two. The Soviets held their ground and took a commanding 3-0 lead after Fetisov crept in from the right side and scored. Canada wasn't about to let their spirit go as they did in 1981. They worked very hard and came back to take the lead.
      Next thing the score again turned out to be 5-5, yet again, in the third period. Time was running down and you could feel that whoever had luck on their sides would score the next goal. There were so many chances, but time and time again the goalies came up with the big saves. Time was running down and Canadian coach Mike Keenan kept his big guns out just in case. Maybe Canada would score with 34 seconds left in the game and win 6-5, just like what had happened with Paul Henderson and Team Canada '72 fifteen years earlier. Maybe the Russians would get one by Fuhr again and end all the Canadian cheers.
       With just over a minute left Lemieux passed the puck up to a breaking-away Gretzky. Gretzky skated up through centre and Lemieux followed. Gretzky dropped the puck perfectly on to Lemieux's stick. Mario then deposited a precise wrist shot over Mylnikov's shoulder into the top right-hand corner. Canadian fans went wild as their country won the Canada Cup for the third time.
       What a finale it was! Those 6-5, 6-5, 6-5 games will never be forgotten by true hockey fans anywhere. Would you believe 6-5 was the exact same score as that from the last game of the 1972 Summit Series- the first true series between hockey's two greatest nations?

To see the final stats compiled from every series game between Canada and the Soviets
* In 1989 Soviet players started to emigrate to North American to play in the NHL. Soon in 1991 the Soviet Union would collapse, and with it, the system that manufactured that Soviet brand of hockey that flourished in the 1970's and 1980's. Future Canadian/Soviet confrontations would never match those heated, heyday years again.
                                             TEAM ROSTERS

Team NHL Rendez-Vous- Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Claude Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Glenn Anderson, Dale Hawerchuck, Kevin Dineen, Dave Poulin, Doug Wilson, Mark Messier, Michel Goulet, Normand Rochefort, Thomas Sandstrom, Kirk Muller, Chris Chelios, Ulf Samuelsson, Rick Green, Rod Langway, Craig Ramsey, Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Grant Fuhr, Clint Malarchuck

Soviet Union Rendez-Vous- Sergei Makarov, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Alexei Gusarov, Viacheslav Bykov, Andrei Khomotov, Valery Kamensky, Sergei Starikov, Mikhail Tatarinov, Mikhail Varnakov, Sergei Nemchinov, Anatoli Semenov, Sergei Priakhin, Vasily Pervukhin, Yuri Khymelev, Zinetul Bilyaletdinov, Igor Stelnov, Sergei Svetlov, Alexander Semak, Vyacheslav Lavrov, Yevgeny Belosheikin, Sergei Mylnikov

Team Canada 1987- Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Rick Tocchet, Doug Gilmour, Larry Murphy, Craig Hartsburg, Michel Goulet, Dale Hawerchuck, Brent Sutter, Norman Rochefort, Mike Gartner, Brian Propp, Glenn Anderson, Doug Crossman, James Patrick, Kevin Dineen, Claude Lemieux, Grant Fuhr, Ron Hextall, Kelly Hrudey

Soviet Union 1987-
Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Vladimir Krutov, Alexei Kasatonov, Alexei Gusarov, Vitali Samoilov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Igor Stelnov, Igor Kravchuck, Vasili Pervukhin, Anatoli Fedotov, Andrei Khomotov, Vyacheslav Bykov, Valery Kamensky, Sergei Svetlov, Anatoli Semenov, Alexander Semak, Sergei Priakin, Yuri Khmylev, Sergei Nemchinov, Andrei Lomakin, Sergei Mylnikov, Yevgeny Belosheikin
Team Canada celebrates the most thrilling victory of them all at Copps Coliseum in 1987.
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