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1972 and 1974 Summit Series: The Beginning of the Rivalry
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    1972 Summit Series
     When Team Canada was finally chosen in 1972 the entire hockey world was certain of Canadian victory: the Russian fans believed this too. How could Canada lose with names like Esposito, Mahovlich, Mikita, Orr (unable to play due to knee problems), and Cournoyer on the roster? The unknown Russians would be lucky to even score a goal, especially with Ken Dryden in net. Bobby Hull would have been the icing on the cake, although he wasn't permitted to play due to his joining the newly formed WHA. Two Soviet legends sat the series out too. Anatoli Firsov and Vitaly Davydov protested the new coaching take-over of the national team and were staunch supporters of their ex-coach Tarasov. They were stars every bit as talented as Orr and Hull in the Soviet Union, and so in a way this evened the playing field perfectly for both sides, as the series would later prove.
     Many incidents occurred before the series started. Stan Mikita knew some Russian language and went around telling kids how to swear at the Soviets by saying "Rooski Chooyu" which meant "Russian penis". Not only did Canadians doubt the Russians chances, but they were also prepared to laugh them out of the rink.
     Reporters had seen the Russians in practice and concluded that their young goaltender, Vladislav Tretiak, was the weakest part of the team. They said he was too young and inexperienced and would be scored on easily by the Canadian sharpshooters. Others like the great NHL goalie Jacques Plante commented, " It's their whole team. Everything they do is slower- passing, shooting, and making plays. They're not used to playing against this kind of competition- and they won't be able to keep pace."
     Newspapers and sports writers were predicting an eight game sweep, and the Russians might win one if they were lucky. As Alan Eagleson put it, "Anything less than an unblemished sweep of the Russians would bring shame down on the heads of the players and the national pride."
     Needless to say Team Canada themselves felt a similar sentiment and never obeyed the golden rule. You see, the Soviets had been watching Team Canada very closely in practice and on paper. They may have been the underdogs, but at least they were prepared.
     The match of the century began in Montreal on Sept. 2nd, 1972. To everyone in the country that game was over almost as soon as it began. Phil Esposito scored after only 30 seconds of play and then Paul Henderson scored 6 minutes into the game. Then suddenly for some unforseen reason, the Russians took over. "With the score 2-1 the USSR wheeled back into action- time and time again they caught the Big Line of New York- Ratelle, Hadfield, Gilbert, out. They zipped around Brad Park and Don Awrey and Gary Bergman and Guy Lapointe, suckered Rod Seiling into repeated errors and give-aways. Worse, they frequently left Frank Mahovlich waving his stick as the play flew past him: Phil Esposito looked lumbering: even Yvan Cournoyer, usually the fleetest Canadien of them all, when on the ice with the USSR's Maltsev or Kharlamov looked bulky and inelegant."
     When all was said and done the final score was 7-3 for the Soviets. Not only had Team Canada disgraced their country, but they also left the ice in an unsportsmanlike fashion without the normal handshakes.
     The next day a reporter had to eat his newspaper because he vowed to if Canada lost. Many NHL clubs were in a frenzy to sign up Valery Kharlamov for his impressive showing in that game. They had just seen him once and were already considering him the finest winger they had ever seen. Everyone realized that any one of these Soviets could make the NHL. The Canadians knew that this was a declaration of war!
      (For indepth coverage of the rest of the series click this
link here.)
     Anyway, as the series went on, the Canadians did eventually win because of Paul Henderson's heroic goal with 34 seconds left in the final game. Canadian pride had been restored, but at a cost. Canada won by using their bumping, grinding and pugnacious force. The Canadians after all were bigger and stronger than their Russian counterparts. However, the Russians held many of the statistics from that series in their favour. Had Henderson not scored, the series would have been tied. I often wonder how they would have settled that had it come down to it?
      (*Remember when Alan Eagleson stood up and got angry that the red light didn't come on after another Canadian goal in that game. Well the Russian officers tried to remove him out of the arena, which prompted Team Canada to go into the stands to get Eagleson back. Pete Mahovlich swung his stick at one of the Russians as tempers sweltered in the crowd. They grabbed Alan and carried him over to the Canadian bench while giving the Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and his delegation  the "f...you" salute! Or remember when Boris Mikhailov kicked at Gary Bergman and cut his leg open; or when Esposito gave the ref and some Soviet players the throat slit gesture; or when JP Parise almost chopped the ref (Joseph Kompalla's) head off with his stick; or when Bobby Clarke was told to take out Valery Kharlamov and did so by swiping at his leg, breaking his ankle so that he could no longer play; or when the Soviets purposely lost Team Canada's luggage to put them off their game, as well as the feeling that their rooms had been bugged!! )
      "Canadian fans were saying that they'd been crazy to play any series in September, before they were in shape, and that if they played in the mid-season they'd take those Russians, eight straight. Ken Dryden couldn't understand how the fans' minds worked. Neither could anyone else who played in that first great long-series confrontation between the two major hockey powers of the world."

1974 Summit Series
     The next eight game Summit Series which many Canadians have forgotten about took place two years later. It is worth mentioning because it also involved Canada's best pros from the WHA but not from the NHL. It was a legitimate struggle because of some of the talent on the Canadian bench and the fact that this time they were prepared. The USSR's team was pretty much the same as their 1972 team. Team Canada had hall-of-famers like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovlich, Gerry Cheevers, and yes, Paul Henderson again. The format was the same as 1972 with four games played in each country. The Russians won this series quite easily outscoring Canada 32-27 in the eight games. They won four, lost one and tied three. For indepth coverage of this series check out
Arthur Chidlovski's site
*(Valery Kharlamov, the Soviet's flashy winger, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. To see the most incredible goal he ever scored be sure to get a copy of game 1 from this series played in Quebec City).

On to the first Canada Cup in 1976 and the Challenge Cup in 1979- click on the flag
Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull talk after 1974 Summit Series game. photo courtesy: Ryan Hoffman (WHA fan site).
                                            TEAM ROSTERS

Team Canada 1972- Phil Esposito, Stan Mikita, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Bobby Clarke, Marcel Dionne, Gil Perreault, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Yvan Cournoyer, Paul Henderson, Ron Ellis, Bill Goldsworthy, Gary Bergman, Bill White, Wayne Cashman, Rod Seiling, Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle, Dale Tallon, Jocelyn Guvrement, Brian Glennie, Bobby Orr (knee injury), Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden, Richard Martin, Jean Paul Parise, Pat Stapleton, Don Awrey, Red Berenson, Rod Gilbert, Dennis Hull, Ed Johnstone, Mickey Redmond

Soviet Union 1972- Valery Vasiliev, Boris Mikhailov, Vladimr Petrov, Yuri Blinov, Valery Kharlamov, Alexander Yakushev, Viktor Zinger, Alexander Ragulin, Viktor Kuzkin, Evgeny Zimin, Vyasheslav Starshinov, Vladimir Vikulov, Yevgeny Mishakov, Vladimir Lutchenko, Gennadiy Tsygankov, Yuri Liapkin, Alexander Maltsev, Vladimir Shadrin, Alexander Sidelnikov, Vladislav Tretiak, Yuri Shatalov, Yuri Lebedev, Alexander Gusev, Alexander Volchkov, Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Budonov, Vitaly Davydov, Alexander Martyniuk, Evgeny Paldiev, Alexnader Pashkov, Viacheslav Solodukhin

Team Canada 1974- Rick Ley, Paul Henderson, Gordie Howe, Marty Howe, Mark Howe, Pat Stapleton, Bobby Hull, JC Tremblay, Mike Walton, Rejean Houle, Brad Selwood, Andre Lacroix, Tom Webster, Ralph Backstrom, Jim Harrison, Rick Smith, Paul Shmyr, Bruce McGregor, Serge Bernier, Marc Tardiff, John McKenzie, Al Hamilton, Barry Long, Pat Price, Frank Mahovlich, Wayne Dillon, Gavin Clark, Dennis Sobchuck, Ron Chipperfield, Gilles Gratton, Don Mcleod, Gerry Cheevers

Soviet Union 1974- Alexander Yakushev, Valery Kharlamov, Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Vladimir Shadrin, Alexander Maltsev, Alexander Gusev, Valery Vasiliev, Yyacheslav Anisin, Yuri Lebedev, Vladimir Vikulov, Vladimir Lutchenko, Victor Shalimov, Gennaddiy Tsygankov, Alexander Budonov, Yuri Tyurin, Yuri Shatalov, Sergei Kapustin, Victor Kuznetsov, Alexander Volchkov, Yuri Federov, Alexander Filippov, Vladimir Popov, Alexander Sapelkin, Alexander Golikov, Sergei Kovotkov, Alexander Kulikov, Vladimir Polupanov, Vladimir Repnev, Vladislav Tretiak, Alexander Sidelnikov
Vladimir Shadrin chases Phil Esposito in Moscow (1972).
*Early History Notes -

     Ice hockey was created by English Montrealers. There was also evidence of games being played on ice with sticks earlier in Holland, England, Halifax and Kingston. The earliest historic record of the modern game was played in Montreal on March 3rd, 1875. It was around this time that the Canadian style of hockey was introduced. There were reports of hacking, tripping and roughing. Spectators were known to throw bottles and even attack the opposing team. Four players died from such violence in 1904 while playing in the Ontario Hockey Association.
     Eventually pro hockey was established in 1910 with the formation of the NHA. Next the NHL was formed in 1917 and became a basic part of Canadian culture. There were many teams from all over the nation that joined the leaugue and then quickly folded. After the Great Depression there were six solidly built teams. Too most, it was obvious Canada was the sole hockey power throughout the 1st half of the 20th century.
     The Russians, in the beginning, played a field game called bandy, which was like field hockey on skates. They really began to concentrate on hockey in 1947 after they learned the game from the Czechoslovakians. The two countries played each other and the Czechs won most of the games at the start, but soon the Russians took over.
     When they started they didn't have gloves, pads or helmets; and they wore speed skates. There was no artificial ice in the country, so they practiced on tennis courts all year long. The first rink was built in Moscow in 1952 and was used for figure skating when the Russians prepared for their first Winter Olympics. The Central Red Army got permission to use it for hockey from 2-6:00 am in the morning. They trained in the 12m x 12m rink for seven years, eleven months each year. Soon they felt they were good enough to play internationally. Their first competition was a Swedish team- they won 6-0. Then they hammered the Swiss Nationals 13-1. The Soviets were on their way to future triumphs in world competition.
     The Russians had emerged as the best team in Europe between 1952-1954 and conquered their Swedish, Czech and Finnish counterparts, who had all been playing the game for a longer time. They were ready for their first big competition, the 1954 Stockholm World Championships. This was the year that hockey was changed forever. The president of the Swede hockey team stated that the Russians in only seven years "appear to have mastered the sport and the time has passed when Canada could send a scrub team to Europe confident that it would be good enough to win."
     Canada's East York Lyndhursts were Canada's reps that year. In order to win they partly relied on goon tactics. Some papers predicted that Canada would not even beat Norway or the Swiss. They were certainly off base in their summation because Canada won 8-0 and 8-1 consecutively over these two teams. The CCCP demolished the two by similar scores. The USSR and Canada ended up in the final in which the Russians won easily 7-2. Even though the Canadians weren't favoured there was an uproar back home. People who didn't know much about international hockey were confused over how a country who had just laced up their skates seven years prior could end up being world champs. Still, it would be many years before our best players from the NHL would be allowed to take part in this amateur competition.
     With the rise of Soviet hockey, our two nations had developed a love/hate relationship. The Canadians had the all-American bias towards anyone living under a communist regime, and the Soviets respected the Canadians for their talent and love of the game. In the 1955 World Championships, anti-communist feelings arose to a level similar of that in 1972. Billy Warwick of Canada's contingent that year, called the Penticton Vees, gave a Swiss player an elbow and then started badmouthing him. The Swiss could not understand such behavior. Warwick called the player a 'dirty communist', and the coaches had to convince Billy that Switzerland was not a communist country. In another instance Warwick refused to shake hands with members of the Soviet delegation.
     Even though the Soviets had won the year before, they had not yet become THE dominant force on the international arena. The Vees brought home the Cup that year to Canada where they felt it should stay.
     The next year, 1956, was an Olympiad and thus the world's were not held. At those Cortina, Italy Olympics the CCCP triumphed over Canada 2-0 and went on to win the gold medal for the first time. Still, it would be another seven years before they would win a major competition again.
     In 1957, Sweden took home the cup; and in 1958, at Oslo, Whitby, Ontario's "pride and joy" the Dunlops, with players like Bob Attersley and Harry Sinden, were victors winning 4-2 over the USSR.
     The Belleville McFarlands comprised Team Canada at the world's in 1959 at Prague. They came out on top scoring a 3-1 victory over the Russians. At the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley the Dunlops handled the Russians again, but couldn't take the gold due to a red-hot American squad. The following year would be Canada's last World Champ 1st place finish for many-a-year to come. Sweden won again in 1962 partly due to the fact that the Soviets didn't even send a team. It was not surprising because the competition was held in the USA at Colorodo Springs.
     It was in 1963 that the Soviets reached their peak. They dominated for the next 30 years and won almost every world's in that period. That year they beat the Trail Smoke Eaters 4-2.
     Canada knew they would have to form a national team from this day forward to keep up with the new powerhouse across the ocean. They wished they could use professionals and felt it totally unfair that the Soviets could send their best players. Amateurism was defined differently in Communist countries back then.
     "In Russia the term 'amateur hockey player' has really no other meaning than 'Russian hockey player'...there is simply no alternative. For them, the word 'professional' does not exist in sport. A Russian player may train and play hockey for nine or ten months of the year, and for this may receive a very good living but he does so as a member of the Red Army, a student, or holder of some post in the Civil Service, and is not at all thought of as a professional."
Brian Conacher.

Anatoli Tarasov- The dominance that the Soviets had in the mid-to-late 1960's and early 1970's was due greratly to the coaching tactics of the national team coach Anatoli Tarasov.
     When hockey was introduced in the USSR, Tarasov, like the rest of the nation, fell in love with the game. It was his ideals and philosophies that shaped the Russian game into what it is today- fast, graceful, non-individualistic, and patriotic. To him, real teamwork was based on a common aim- comradeship and caring for each team member. This is why he introduced a rule that in order to make the  line-up the team had to approve of each player
     Anatoli devised many new training techniques. Most of them centred on passing, for he felt passing was the key to their success, "after all, the ultimate aim of a pass was to get a free player. So if our opponents make 150 passes in a game against our 270, this means we had 120 more playing opportunities."
     Tarasov's practices included the use of pylons and simple drills that would have looked silly to Canadians, but to the Russians they had great meaning as they looked to perfect each skill. While performing these he had his players in constant motion. He called this the assembly method.
     Many great players developed under his system in the 1960's. Among these were heroes like: Davidov, Firsov, Starshinov, Alexandrov, Ragulin, Yakushev, Loktev, and goalie, Konavolenko. Then these were followed by other greats who would represent the CCCP in 1972 against Canada. These included: Mikhailov, Petrov, Vasiliev, Maltsev, Kharlamov, and a brilliant young goaltender named Vladislav Tretiak.
     Tarasov was the biggest factor in the develoment of this goalie, Tretiak, who would be destined to become the most skillful and cherished in international history. In the earliest days of his career, Tarasov had him doing three practices a day as hard as possible while using the maximum consumption of oxygen (MCO). In one instance a Swede player came to practice in the USSR with Tarasov, but he couldn't last. He reportedly said, "We Swedes don't' grow up to practice like this. I don't want to die."
     According to Tretiak, "If I let in just one puck, Tarasov would ask me the next day "What's the matter?" If it was my fault (and it usually appears to be the goalkeeper's fault), my punishment would follow immediately. After everybody else had gone home I had to do hundreds of lunges and somersaults. I could have cheated and not done them at all, since nobody was watching me- the coaches had gone home too! But I wouldn't even have considered doing one less lunge or somersault. I trusted Tarasov, trusted his every word, even when he criticized me for letting the pucks in my net during practice."
     It was quite apparent the loyalty and trust the Soviets had in coach Tarasov's every word.

Other 1972 Summit Series Notes:

A: Canada was noted for its excessively aggressive play through-out the series. The main culprits were: 1- Bobby Clarke 2- Bill Goldsworthy 3- Wayne Cashman 4- Phil Esposito 5- Guy Lapointe 6- Rod Gilbert 7- Stan Mikita 8- Gary Bergman 9- Yvan Cournoyer 10- Frank Mahovlich 11- Vic Hadfield 12- JP Parise.

B: Canada outshot the Soviets in the series; however, the USSR had higher puck control and completed pass percentages in games 1,3,4,5,7 and 8. Canada had the upper hand in this department in games 2 and 6.

C: Both teams had goals that were the result of a great individual play. Canada had 3 goals to the Soviets 1 in this department. Game 1- Kharlamov, Game 2- P. Mahovlich, Game 4- Perreault, Game 7- Henderson.