HALIFAX – It took almost 32 years for someone to honour the team that won the 1976 Canada Cup but Bobby Hull never doubted that it was remembered fondly.
“I didn’t think we were forgotten,” he said. “It seemed like every time I went to a hockey event I was asked about the ’76 team. “This was just icing on the cake.”
Players and coaches from that squad attended Canada’s game at the IIHF World Hockey Championship on Tuesday and saw the home side play the U.S. in vintage uniforms from their era.
They were also part of a luncheon with fans earlier in the day and were honoured during the first intermission with a video montage and standing ovation at the Metro Centre.
“It has been a blast,” said Lanny McDonald, who was a young forward with that team.
He would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 but McDonald said there was nothing more special than winning the Canada Cup.
The same goes for Bobby Orr, who believes that playing for his country was even better than lifting the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972.
“The Stanley Cups were great,” said Orr. “But for me, (the Canada Cup) was the highlight of my career. It was the first and only time I played for my country at an international tournament.”
It was also one of the last times he was able to play at a high level.
Orr was named the tournament MVP after putting up nine points in seven games. The man who many consider to be the greatest defenceman of all-time would only see action in 26 NHL games after the event before serious knee injuries forced him to retire.
The 1976 Canada Cup was the first of five such events and featured many of the best players in the world as the World Hockey Association allowed the release of its players – including Hull, who was unable to play in the 1972 Summit Series after signing a WHA contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
“Not being able to play for Canada in ’72 was the biggest disappointment of my career,” said Hull.
It made the Canada Cup experience even better. The Golden Jet scored five goals over the seven games.
Scotty Bowman coached the team and still remembers his lines and how he matched them up against the opposition.
“It’s only 30 years ago,” said Bowman. “You can’t forget these players.”
Many consider it the best national team ever assembled.
Canada beat Czechoslovakia two games to none in the best-of-three final, with Darryl Sittler scoring the overtime winner in the deciding game. Eighteen of the players on the team have since been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Greatest team ever put together,” said Hull.