In his day, there was no voice more prominent, or more widely heard throughout Canada, than that of Foster Hewitt. He was in the forefront as radio rose in popularity, broadcasting his first hockey game in 1923. He then became closely identified with another soon-to-be Canadian institution also in its first few years of existence – the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hewitt had been the master of ceremonies at the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens Nov. 12, 1931, and had personally overseen the construction of a gondola, located 54 feet above center ice, from where he would broadcast games to an ever-growing audience beyond the arena walls.
For the next four decades, Hewitt was the country’s premier hockey play-by-play voice on Saturday nights. Broadcast on Canadian national radio, Hewitt and the Maple Leafs attained a cross-country appeal never before seen, and Hewitt became famous for his unique phrases, most notably “He shoots, he scores!” as well as his sign-on at the beginning of each broadcast, “Hello, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland.”
Hewitt logged his final Leafs radio broadcast in 1968, and four years later he was made an officer of the Order of Canada. That same year he came out of retirement as the lead play-by-play voice on the Canadian television broadcast of the 1972 Summit Series.
So it was only fitting that the voice of hockey for generations of Canadians was there Sept. 28, 1972, at the Luzhniki Ice Palace in Moscow, providing the play-by-play for the most anticipated game in hockey history, the climax of a month that changed hockey forever. Twenty-seven days had led to the decisive Game 8, and in the moments before the puck dropped it was Hewitt, in his inimitable voice and style, speaking to millions of Canadians at home. As always, he set the scene with a simple, classic description. “So if you had been writing the script,” Hewitt said, “it couldn’t have produced a more dramatic and exciting final.”
PART ONE: THE SERIES
The premise of what would become known as the Summit Series was to create a true best-on-best series between the two leading hockey countries in the world. On one side, you had Canada, the longtime dominant power, versus the upstart Soviet Union, who had usurped the Canadians’ superiority in international matches over the previous two decades. But this time Canada was being represented by NHL players, not amateurs.
DENNIS KANE: (hockey fan from Sudbury, Ont.) I was a month shy of my 22nd birthday. I’m originally from Orillia, but I was living in Sudbury and working as a bartender. A lot of my shifts were at night, so I had to do a lot of switching, which was tough because I was the new guy. But I did manage to end up watching all the games in the series as they happened, alone in my room at the local Holiday Inn, on a small black-and-white 10-inch television. I should add that my signal came from the antenna, so it wasn’t exactly hi-def. I think I was like most Canadians: I thought the Russians had a good team – after all, they seemed to win all the time – but we all thought, “Wait until they play the NHL.” I know I had been waiting for that to happen for a long time.
IGOR KUPERMAN: (hockey historian from Moscow) I was 15 and had just started studying in a high school that specialized in English-language subjects when the Summit Series took place. I was the only one at the school who thought Canada would win the series eight games to none. Of course, I had spent many days since I was 10 reading anything I could find about the NHL. Back then, there weren’t many other people in the Soviet Union paying any attention to pro hockey. As a matter of fact, there was a weekly paper called Futbol-Hokkei (“Football-Hockey”) that would carry a few stories, and there was some extra coverage before the start of the series, but that was about it.
The schedule called for an eight-game series, with the first four games in Canada and the final four in Moscow. From the Canadian perspective, the series was widely expected to be a rout. In a poll of writers taken by The Hockey News, not a single scribe predicted as much as a single victory for the Soviets in the eight games. At best, some legendary Canadian sportswriters such as Milt Dunnell, Jim Coleman and Claude Larochelle allowed the Soviets might win a game.
PAUL HENDERSON: (Team Canada left winger) Honestly, I didn’t think it would be much of a series. The best players in the world were from Canada, we all believed that, me included. Not that we didn’t think the Russians weren’t any good. But we had just so much firepower on that team, I really thought that we’d be too much for them. How could we lose?
BRAD PARK: (Team Canada defenseman) We were obviously all aware that the Russians had been beating our amateurs, but in the back of my mind that meant nothing. We were professionals, and we had the best players in the world.
PHIL ESPOSITO: (Team Canada center) I had never seen the Russians play. I hadn’t even heard of any of them.
YVAN COURNOYER: (Team Canada right winger) I told Frank Mahovlich before the first game that I was scared. I didn’t know anything about the Russians. Even a video would have helped. The only report we had was they didn’t have a good goalie.
ESPOSITO: We underestimated them. That’s the kiss of death.
The 7-3 win by the Soviets in Game 1 at the Montreal Forum came as a shock to not only the Canadian hockey establishment but to the country at large. To the visiting Soviets, it was their biggest win ever, a victory that birthed the modern game.
VLADISLAV TRETIAK: (Soviet Union goaltender) I still get goosebumps thinking about it. Everything fell into place for us that night, we won handily, and we did it with speed, skill and grace.
But what people witnessed on TV that night went far beyond the confines of the hockey world.
LUDMILLA ZORKINA: (hockey fan from Baku, Azerbaijan) When the series happened, I was 20 and admittedly not much of a hockey fan. I watched the games with my mother and grandmother. Grandma was the biggest fan and also the ringleader. She gathered us all together, friends, family and neighbors, to watch the games. There was no one on the streets. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing, the Montreal Forum was so beautiful, and the Canadian players, with no helmets, their long hair, it was all new to us. After the game was over, everyone celebrated. At work the next day, it was all that everybody was talking about. We were all so happy.
The sport and the impressions of two distinct countries were being changed, and while that could all be reflected in time, there was still a series to play. And despite Canada squaring the series two nights later with a 4-1 win, a tie in the third game and a loss in the fourth game left Canada at a 1-2-1 disadvantage heading into the second half of the series – in Moscow.
HENDERSON: We were soundly outplayed in Game 4, and even worse, we were booed by our own fans (in Vancouver). They booed us all game and right off the ice. It was horrible.
ESPOSITO: I was picked as the star of the game for Canada, which meant I would do the post-game interview with Johnny Esaw. I was so angry that I still don’t even remember his question.
Bursting with emotion and before a national TV audience, Esposito passionately responded to the negative reaction festering throughout the country, a surge of disappointment based on the unfulfilled expectations of Team Canada’s dominance.
We were booed by our own fans. They booed us right off the ice. It was horrible.
– Paul Henderson, Team Canada
ESPOSITO: (on Sept. 8, 1972) To the people across Canada, we tried, we gave it our best, and to the people that boo us, geez, I’m really, all of us guys are really disheartened and we’re disillusioned, and we’re disappointed at some of the people. We cannot believe the bad press we’ve got, the booing we’ve gotten in our own buildings. If the Russians boo their players, the fans…Russians boo their players…Some of the Canadian fans, I’m not saying all of them, some of them booed us, then I’ll come back and I’ll apologize to each one of the Canadians, but I don’t think they will. I’m really, really…I’m really disappointed. I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps, we know, we’re trying like hell. I mean, we’re doing the best we can, and they got a good team, and let’s face facts. But it doesn’t mean that we’re not giving it our 150 percent, because we certainly are. I mean, the more, every one of us guys, 35 guys that came out and played for Team Canada. We did it because we love our country, and not for any other reason, no other reason. They can throw the money, uh, for the pension fund out the window. They can throw anything they want out the window. We came because we love Canada. And even though we play in the United States, and we earn money in the United States, Canada is still our home, and that’s the only reason we come. And I don’t think it’s fair that we should be booed.
During the two-week break between Games 4 and 5, Team Canada visited Sweden and played two exhibition games on Sept. 16-17 versus the Swedish national team. These games had been arranged beforehand to let Canada get used to the bigger ice surface in Europe. At the same time, it put space between the team and what was being said about them back home.
RON ELLIS: (Team Canada right winger) When we left Vancouver and then flew out of Toronto for Sweden, there wasn’t a soul at the airport other than us.
COURNOYER: I was glad that the games were over in Canada. That break in Sweden let us build as a team. The two games there helped us adapt to the rink, and the bigger ice surface in Europe, the angles are all different. The time in Sweden gave us time to get in shape, pick the guys who would play, and adjust to the size of the ice.
ESPOSITO: We became a team in Sweden. We couldn’t be beat and we weren’t going to be.
The series resumed in Moscow with Game 5 on Sept. 22. The Luzhniki Ice Palace was filled to capacity, including Communist Party general secretary Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin and Soviet head of state Nikolai Podgorny, as well as a large contingent of Russian military in dress uniform. Also, a contingent of 3,000 Canadian fans who had made the trek to Moscow, paying upwards of $600 for their flight, hotel and tickets for each of the final four games.
COURNOYER: Those 3,000 fans gave us so much. Their enthusiasm in their corner of the rink gave us that necessary spark, that energy we needed, but they also were so supportive when we weren’t playing, whether it be back at the hotel, on an off-day sightseeing in Moscow, you name it, they gave us that extra that we needed.
PARK: The 3,000 Canadians were our taste of home. They were having so much fun.
ELLIS: Our dressing room in Russia was really a long hallway with a couple of small rooms off of it, so the team never dressed all together. But that hallway was so long, and we started getting these telegrams and postcards from Canadians back home, we nailed them to the wall. You would always see the guys taking stops here and there just to read them. I think Phil’s speech had a huge effect on the country and bringing people onside.
HENDERSON: At our first practice in Moscow, our assistant coach John Ferguson took me aside and told me, “You’ve got to come up big for us.”
Despite Canada carrying the play in Game 5, the Soviets overcame a three-goal deficit and won 5-4 to take a commanding 3-1-1 series lead.
HENDERSON: Even though that loss was devastating, we took a lot of positives out of that game. We knew we had to win the next three games, that the refereeing would be a challenge, and that we were in a hostile environment, but to a man we felt we outplayed the Russians in that game, and believe it or not, we still were a confident group. We always believed we could beat them.
Team Canada won the next two games in Moscow, with Henderson scoring the winning goal in both contests to even the series 3-3-1, leading to a winner-take-all Game 8.
HENDERSON: With three minutes left in Game 7 (and the score tied 3-3), I jumped out for what I thought was probably going to be my last shift. Having scored the game-winner two nights before I was really feeling it, so when Serge Savard hit me with a pass at center ice, and I avoided one of their forwards, I found myself alone at their blueline and went for it. There were two Russian defensemen waiting for me, and the one to my left went for the puck, just as I was trying to slip it between his legs. The puck actually hit his skate, and I was able to pick it up again and keep going, with the other defenseman on my right moving over to take me off the puck. He ended up tripping me, but I still managed to keep the puck in front of me and my stick away from him. As I was falling, Tretiak dropped to his knees, thinking it would be a low shot, but I managed to shoot it over his right shoulder and just under the crossbar. That goal was the best one I ever scored. I’ll never forget after the game telling my wife Eleanor, “I can die a happy man now, this will be the goal I will always be remembered for.”
PART TWO: GAME 8
The story of Game 8 really began the night before, when a disagreement between the Canadian and Soviet officials threatened to derail everything. It centered around the two referees who would work Game 8, in particular West German ref Josef Kompalla who, much to Team Canada’s consternation had previously officiated the team’s second exhibition game in Sweden and Game 6 of the Summit Series. He was regarded by Canada as abysmal.
ESPOSITO: Kompalla sucked. He wasn’t supposed to even be there. That argument on the referees got so bad that we almost went home. Throughout that whole series, the Russians always were looking to change the rules.
ELLIS: There were so many things going on behind the scenes, which we were aware of, but that didn’t make matters any easier. But by Game 8, we were getting better at handling the adversity. Earlier in the series, it may have upset us and thrown us off our game, but not by this point.
In the end, Kompalla did officiate the game, alongside Czech referee Rudolf Bata whose presence had been insisted upon by Team Canada. And so with a deep sense of foreboding, Team Canada prepared for Game 8.
PARK: You wanted to get this going…you were chomping at the bit for the game to start.
Back in Canada, much of the country came to a halt to watch the game (which began at 1 p.m. ET), with students either playing hooky, being sent home to watch the game or given the chance to watch at school. Television sets were common in bars and places of business, and thousands of people gathered around TVs in shop windows. The game was broadcast to record television and radio audiences of up to 16 million across Canada and possibly topping 100 million in the Soviet Union.
HENDERSON: I will never forget standing on the blueline that night for the national anthem. To hear those 3,000 Canadian fans singing, I never heard the anthem sung like that in my life. I had shivers running through me.
It didn’t take long for Team Canada’s fears about the officiating to be realized. Just 2:25 into the contest, Canadian defenseman Bill White was whistled for a questionable penalty. Thirty-six seconds later, teammate Peter Mahovlich joined him in the box. With the game having just passed the three-minute mark, Team Canada found itself two men short. Alexander Yakushev scored to give the Soviet Union a 1-0 lead 33 seconds later. Less than a minute later, Kompalla fingered J.P. Parise for another Team Canada penalty that may have been the most dubious of them all. Full of fury, Parise entered and then exited the penalty box, skated around as if pondering his next move, then suddenly approached Kompalla, threatening to whack the referee on the head with his stick before pulling back at the last second. Parise was thrown out of the game.
PARK: We knew that the referee was partial to the Soviets and was going to screw us, but when it started to happen, J.P. lost it.
HENDERSON: At that moment everything reached a boiling point. Even amongst the 3,000 Canadian fans there was a chant of, “Let’s go home!”
ESPOSITO: There were times that I lost my composure too, more than once as a matter of fact. But I cared so much, too much really. This was war. I’m not proud of that, but it is what it is.
With the game seemingly on the brink, a sense of order, somewhat surprisingly, returned, and the refereeing – while still tight with infractions being called on both teams – became less of a focal point as the game wore on.
ELLIS: I still marvel at how we handled all that. We definitely weathered the storm.
A goal by Esposito, deflected in by Soviet defenseman Vladimir Lutchenko at 6:45, tied the game 1-1. At 13:10, Lutchenko redeemed himself on a Soviet power play before Park responded with just over three minutes remaining in the period. The first intermission saw the teams tied 2-2. Canada appeared to be in good shape heading into the second period. That feeling lasted all of 21 seconds, when the Soviet Union’s Yakushev fired a high shot over Canadian goalie Ken Dryden that hit the mesh netting and ricocheted into the slot, where Vladimir Shadrin had a tap-in. Team Canada sagged, and despite a goal by White and some spectacular goaltending by Dryden, the Soviets carried the play and led 5-3 through two periods. It would have been worse if not for some defensive heroics by Esposito.
ESPOSITO: I consider that play in the second period the biggest one of my life, and it wasn’t a goal. A Soviet player quickly came out from behind the right side of our net and caught Dryden out of position. I rushed to fill the open net, dove, and the puck hit my left skate and stayed out of our net. If not for that play, who knows?
Leading by two goals, at home, with 20 minutes remaining, the message in the Russian dressing room was direct.
ALEXANDER YAKUSHEV: (Soviet left winger) Our coach, Vsevolod Bobrov, gave us no particular instructions from a strategy perspective, such as emphasizing defense with the two-goal lead. You must understand that, in principle, Bobrov’s game plan was to be always on the attack. That’s how he played and thought the game. All he said to us was, “You have already proved yourself, you know you are great players. You already know you can play well against the pros. You must make a final point of it, prove it one more time.”
Despite being down by two goals with 20 minutes left, in a hostile environment, with all the distractions, and playing against an excellent team, members of Team Canada remained focused on the task ahead.
PARK: There was no pep talk in between periods. We knew what we had to do.
COURNOYER: I knew we had to win. We all did. We were at the point of no return. We all knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime deal and that there wouldn’t be a do-over.
ESPOSITO: We were not going to lose.
ELLIS: We had to get a quick goal in the third period. Paul Henderson and I sat beside each other in the dressing room, and I’ll never forget, right before we went out for the third period, he went over to Dryden, gave him a whack on the pads and told him, “Don’t let them score anymore, and we’ll win the game.”
It was a determined Canadian group that took to the ice for the third period in Moscow, with the indomitable Esposito as the team’s driving force.
HENDERSON: Phil was our leader, off and on the ice, the heart and soul of our team. Nobody was ever better in the slot, and his stamina, he was like a horse, our horse, and we rode him all series long and never more so than in that third period. We needed him, and he went out and played the greatest period any player has ever played.
Peter Mahovlich started swinging his stick at the soldiers, who had guns
– Phil Esposito, Team Canada
ESPOSITO: I don’t consider it the best third period. I would like to think that I played like that for the whole game.
ZORKINA: My grandmother and all of the older people gathered to watch the game couldn’t believe this “Phil.” I remember a couple of games earlier when he was sitting in the penalty box, the cameras caught him gesturing with a throat slash. Grandma yelled at the TV, “He can’t do that, he can’t do that!” They really didn’t know what to make of Team Canada and all of this emotion. It was so unlike what we had ever seen before.
Just 2:27 into the third period, Esposito delivered.
ESPOSITO: I was in the slot right in front of the net, and Peter Mahovlich attempted to pass the puck out to me, and it deflected high in the air. I caught it, dropped it down, and then swiped at it as quick as I could, and missed. I didn’t miss the second time.
With the Soviet Union leading by a goal, the third period became a reverse of the second period, with Team Canada dictating the play and the Soviets falling back into a defensive shell. Over the years, much has been made about the Soviet Union “playing for the tie” and then claiming series victory based on total goals. And while there has been debate about when and how Team Canada found out about this latest tactic, the players were aware, and they responded accordingly.
PARK: Before we went on the ice for the third period, we were told that a tie would give the Soviets the series win or that at the very least they would claim victory. In the backs of our minds, we wondered when this had been agreed to. But by this point, it didn’t matter, we had 20 minutes to win the game, and the series, and after Espo’s goal at the start of the third period we knew we had time.
Just past the midway point of the third period, with Canada pressing, Park hit Esposito with a long stretch pass. He barrelled through two Soviet defensemen, but his shot was stopped by Tretiak. Esposito pounced on the rebound, however, and dished it off to Cournoyer, who tapped it in to tie the game 5-5.
COURNOYER: If you want to score goals, put yourself in front of the net. Once I got the rebound and put it in, I thought to myself, “OK, now we have a chance to win.” There was still lots of time.
But before that, all hell broke loose again.
ESPOSITO: After Cournoyer scored, the goal light never went on. From his seat in the stands, (Canadian tournament organizer) Alan Eagleson saw it and angrily began trying to get his way to the goal judge from halfway across the rink. In response, the Russian soldiers attempted to arrest him and drag him away. Peter Mahovlich was the first to see what was going on, and he left our bench, skated over, jumped over the boards, and started swinging his stick at the soldiers, who had guns on their sides. To be honest, they were caught a little off-guard by Pete and soon we were all over there and took Alan back to our bench. In the end, Cournoyer’s goal counted, because the referee had seen it go in, and he overruled the goal judge.
ELLIS: With the score tied, the referees couldn’t play their games anymore. Now we could just play hockey. The last 10 minutes of Game 8 was the best hockey I’ve been involved with in my life. Both teams gave everything they had.
PART THREE: THE GOAL
ELLIS: I remember our line (Henderson, Ellis and Bobby Clarke) coming off the ice with around two minutes left in the game, and as soon as we got there being told by Harry (Sinden, Team Canada’s coach) to get ready, that we would be going right back on. He had the Esposito line (with Cournoyer and Peter Mahovlich) out, and he was going to come right back with us. With about a minute to go, I started getting ready for the line change. That’s when Paul stood up and yelled at Peter, and that’s how Paul got on the ice ahead of Clarkie and me.
COURNOYER: I was at the end of my shift, and I was tired, but I was at the other end of the ice and with the larger surface, my instinct was to stay on, I guess that confidence was based on my experience of knowing that in order to win, you have to always push a little harder. So I made the decision to stay on just a little longer. As a result, I intercepted the puck on the end boards when the Soviets tried to clear it. I often wonder what would have happened if I had decided to go off.
HENDERSON: As soon as I got on the ice I charged right towards the net and yelled for the puck. Yvan’s pass, however, was out of my reach and when I got tripped by the Soviet defenseman, my momentum took me into the boards behind the Russian goal.
ESPOSITO: The Russians seemed confused, and the puck just slid out to the faceoff circle. I was dead tired, but I got enough on the puck to get it on the net. For some reason, and I’ve often thought about this, Tretiak kicked the puck straight out, not off to the side. Hell, he could have froze it. But he didn’t. To be honest I think they all forgot about Paul.
TRETIAK: Especially for the last game, I was worn out. My strength had been drained. I was hoping the game would end fast.
HENDERSON: After hitting the boards, I thought to myself, “I still have time.” I was so calm and alone at the side of the goal, and when Tretiak couldn’t control the rebound, I panicked and whacked the puck along the ice, which he stopped, but the puck came right back to me, and it was right in front of me.
HEWITT: (from the original TV broadcast) Here’s a shot! Henderson made a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot, right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!
Team Canada now led 6-5 with 34 seconds left on the clock. Sinden sent out a makeshift line of Esposito, Ellis and Peter Mahovlich.
HENDERSON: After the goal I was done. I had nothing left.
ESPOSITO: I gave Harry a look. I wasn’t going to leave the ice until the game was over. Maybe I was too selfish, but I didn’t care. I needed to stay out there.
ELLIS: I felt good that Harry put me out there, but I had to compose myself. Let’s just say that in those 34 seconds I had my guy all locked up.
The last 34 seconds ticked off without incident as Canada won 6-5 and took the Summit Series four games to three with one tie.
PART FOUR: THE AFTERMATH
ELLIS: From all the telegrams and postcards coming in, we knew this was probably a big deal back in Canada, but we were so sheltered in Moscow, we had no idea how big a deal this was. I mean we were hearing things from the press, but we didn’t really know how big this thing really was until we got home on the plane.
Team Canada arrived home on Oct. 1. They were greeted in Montreal by prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau and an estimated crowd of 10,000 at Dorval Airport. The players based in Montreal departed while the rest of the team went on to Toronto, where they were welcomed by Ontario premier Bill Davis, Toronto mayor William Dennison and 80,000 fans.
HENDERSON: Just how big the whole thing was really sunk in over the next few months. I remember sitting down with my wife and having to make a decision. Do we run away from all of this or do we embrace it? We chose the latter.
If things were jubilant in Canada, the opposite was true in the Soviet Union.
KUPERMAN: On Soviet TV, the game ended and so did the telecast. There was no post-game analysis or interviews with players from each of the teams. It was just over.
ZORKINA: There was a real sense of disappointment from all of us. We were supposed to win and we didn’t.
The Soviet Union’s state-run newspaper, Pravda, covered the final game of the Summit Series with a 600-word story that was buried in the back of the next day’s edition.
PRAVDA: (Sept. 29, 1972) The deep-seated myth about the invincibility of the hockey founders was destroyed. Obviously our team is lacking in physical training in comparison with our rivals…we should mention that the game of professionals was marked with serious defects that are foreign to the real sport. The Soviet hockey fans were very friendly toward the Canadian guests, but they were disappointed by the tough methods of some Canadian professionals.
PART FIVE: THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN GAME
YAKUSHEV: I think after we won the first game in Moscow, our team became a little too self-confident the way the Canadians had been before the first game in Montreal. We felt we would likely win at least one of the remaining three games and win the series. And so, in total, we felt we should be all right. The overconfidence was a bad thing for us. In each of the last three games we fell just a little bit short, Maybe we had a little bad luck. We just couldn’t finish off plays that would bring us victory. I think it was a good lesson for all sportsmen and particularly for us that you have to fight to the very end. That’s a special trait of Canadian hockey.
VLADIMIR LUTCHENKO: (Soviet defenseman) I think we lost the 1972 series psychologically. There was something that wasn’t enough in us.
PARK: We had one advantage over them. We were all conditioned to play a seven-game series against one opponent. They were used to one game and then moving on. In a series, you make adjustments based on your opponent’s tendencies and who and what gives you the best chance to win. It’s the ebb and flow of a series, not too high, not too low. They had no experience with that.
In retrospect, the 1972 Summit Series was the birth of hockey as we know it today. In the years that followed, international hockey took on a new level of prominence, and best-on-best encounters became the norm rather than the exception. A year later saw a wave of European players enter the NHL, to later be joined by Russians following the fall of the Soviet Union, and then leading to the participation of NHL players in the Winter Olympics. In short, the game has become much more global, and that can all be traced back
In the aftermath of the Summit Series, Canada and the Soviet Union took the best from one another – with Canadian hockey placing a bigger emphasis on training, passing and skill, while the Soviets slowly adapted their approach to the game, incorporating the values of grit, tenacity and, above all, desire. Nothing would ever be the same after 1972, for hockey, and for those who were involved in the Summit Series, from the players on the ice to the legions of fans around the world who watched the drama unfold.
KUPERMAN: We liked the rugged style of play of the Canadians. During recess at school the day after Game 8, we played soccer in the hallways with a small cork from an old champagne bottle. We started hitting each other and saying, “This is Canadian hockey.”
ZORKINA: A lot of the older people who watched the series thought the Canadians were “rude” or worse. Maybe because I was younger, I saw all that as passion, and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and that got me more interested in learning about Canada. After the series was over, I started to learn the English language. My dream one day was to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.
KANE: Watching the series, I was fascinated by the Russian crowd. They were always stoic and barely showed any emotion, no matter what was happening on the ice. I wondered what they were thinking, what’s going through their minds. They were a real mystery to me.
A few years later, Kane, a Montreal Canadiens fan, started exchanging letters with a member of the Russian chapter of the NHL team’s fan club, a friendship that led to him to visit Russia for the first time in 1991, right before the fall of the Soviet Union. It was during this visit that he first met Zorkina, who fulfilled her own dream shortly afterward of visiting Canada. It was on one of Kane’s return visits to St. Petersburg a few years later where, after a short courtship, he and Zorkina became husband and wife, eventually settling in Powell River, B.C.
KANE: Needless to say, the Summit Series had such an impact on our lives. It got both of us thinking about each other’s country, and our mutual love of hockey, that eventually brought the two of us together.
ESPOSITO: I was so into that series, and winning, and the whole experience was so overwhelming. I had so much faith in myself that I took it all on myself. I don’t think that I ever played at that level again. But it was so special. I remember when we got back to playing in the NHL that next season and I would line up for a faceoff against Peter Mahovlich or Bobby Clarke, and we’d just look up and smile at one another. We’d been through a war together.
HENDERSON: I’m reminded of that series, that game, that goal every day. And you want to know what the best part is? It’s that people approach me and don’t ask me any questions. They want to tell me their story, where they were when “it” happened. It’s so wonderful, and making it all the more special is there’s no negatives to the whole thing. Well, maybe a little bit for the Russians.
ESPOSITO: I’ve gone back to Russia a bunch of times over the years, even more in the last decade. And I have to admit I’ve become great friends with those guys, Tretiak, Yakushev, hell, even Boris Mikhailov. We get together and have such a blast. It turns out that they were just like us.
PARK: So many important things happened in that one game. The whole thing was such a unique possibility. I can’t think of anything to match it.
– with files from Denis Gibbons