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Fischler Report: A Reflection on the Summit Series

Stan Fischler shares memories of the Summit Series, his thoughts on a recent interview with Alan Eagleson, the transformation of Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller's appointment into the US Hockey Hall of Fame and so much more.

STAN'S REFLECTION ON THE 'SUMMIT SERIES'

The 50th anniversary of the Canada-Russia Summit Series has produced a wealth of books, documentaries and more interviews than you can count dollars in The Bank of Montreal. It's a big deal in Canada, as it should be.

Not surprisingly, the reaction in Uncle Sam Land has been somewhere between temperate and "You mean there was such a series."

If anything, it demonstrates the difference in hockey thinking on one and then the other side of the border.

I speak firsthand because -- when the 1972 tourney was played -- I was in Washington State on vacation with my wife, Shirley. Merely finding a Summit game on U.S. tv was a feat in itself. After some hustling here and there, I did get to watch the telling match when Peter Mahovlich actually looked like a better player than his Hall of Fame brother, Big-M-Frank.

But I must tell you a few Summit things I remember that were significant to me on a personal basis as fan and critic.

1. THE SKILLED RUSSIANS: Long before the Summit tourney, U.S. amateur hockey czar Tom Lockhart imported a just-average USSR club to play an exhibition against an EAHL All-Star team at old Madison Square Garden. To put it mildly, we were dazzled by the Russkies innovative, pre-game workout and their enormous skill. Already we knew they'd taken the game very seriously, with different, creative ideas.

2. THE BRAGGING CANADIANS: Plenty of pundits north of the border figured the Summit series would be a snap for Johnny Canuck. My buddy, -- and Toronto Globe and Mail columnist -- Dick Beddoes, audaciously picked Team Canada in an eight-game sweep. Frankly, the braggadocio annoyed some of us, Stateside. But we stopped being annoyed after Team Canada learned a lesson in Game One.

3. THE DRAMA AND CONCLUSION: No Hollywood screen writer could have scripted the unfolding story line and pulsating finale. It was as special as special can be and a very good reason for the NHL to restore the World Tourney which seems to be in the works.

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VERY PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON CONTROVERSIAL 1972 SUMMIT EMPRESARIO ALAN EAGLESON:

The supreme irony of current Summit Series celebrations is the fact that the S-S supreme producer-enabler, Alan Eagleson, has been virtually forgotten -- or should I say, ignored -- for his role in creating the tournament.

The fact that The Eagle was incarcerated for fraud and embezzlement thrust him from hockey hero to black sheep, despite his previous accomplishments.

This is the same Eagleson who became an agent-king and virtually single-handedly created the National Hockey League Players' Association, among other accomplishments.

I got to know Big Al in the 1960s when he still was an unknown Toronto lawyer When the Maple Leafs were winning Stanley Cups, their best defenseman, Carl Brewer touted me to The Eagle.

"I got a good story for you," said Brewer. "Write this name down now and you'll see what I mean. It's Alan Eagleson."

"Who's he?" I shot back and Carl pointed out Eagle was his pal and would be doing big things for the NHL players. "In a year or two," Brewer went on, "and you'll find out what a big story he'll be in the NHL."

Carl was right. Big Al got to rep Bobby Orr, formed the union and soon became he NHLPA's first executive director while, simultaneously, the foremost player agent. Eagle repped all the biggies, starting with Orr.

Thanks to Brewer's introduction, I got to know Eagle. As president of the NY Hockey Writers' Association at the time, I invited Eagleson to visit one of our luncheon meetings in Manhattan and he obliged.

At the time nobody in New York knew the guy but Eagleson dazzled with his speech and his conviviality thereafter. In the ensuing years, Al got bigger and bigger. He still repped the best players and iron-fistedly ran the union and was planning world tourneys all over the place.

Since Eagleson was a one-man hockey cartel, the then Hockey News editor Steve Dryden sent me to Toronto to interview him. It was timely because -- slowly but relentlessly -- Eagle was being criticized for what some considered a conflict of interest. With that in mind, I put the question to him:

"How can you justify these three jobs you handle since it appears to be a conflict of interest?" Big Al answered on the short hop.

"When I do the NHLPA business, I one hat. Then, when I'm representing players, I put on another hat. And when I deal with world tourneys, I take off my agent's hat and put on another."

Eagleson made it seem so simple and, at the time, logical.

Meanwhile, he was treating me as if I was the best friend he ever had. And, truth should be told -- when Eagleson repped Bobby Orr -- Al got me an interview with his storied client. Only later did his problems began to multiply.

I don't recall spending much if any, time with Al after that and when the mud hit the air cooler, frankly, I began to realize that Eagleson's three-hat routine didn't go over with Orr and others as it did that day in his office.

That said, I was delighted to read that Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons recently interviewed Eagle. It was superb Simmons' journalism with lots of meat. The Eagleson line that stuck with me was this: "If it wasn't for me, there wouldn't have been a Canada-Russia series. And after that, there wouldn't have been Canada Cups and there wouldn't have been world junior tournaments with Canada. That was me!"

And he didn't mean maybe either.

My THN colleague Adam Proteau makes a pertinent point writing:

"Not once in his interview did Eagleson express regret for all the damage he caused."

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THE AMAZING TRANSFORMATION OF HENRIK LUNDQVIST

It wasn't that long ago when Henrik Lundqvist was the long-running monarch of the Rangers crease, seemingly between the pipes for life. But since all good things must come to an end, King H got older and eventually was succeeded by the younger, talented Igor Shesterkin.

Lundqvist --a maybe future Hall of Famer -- easily segued onto the MSG Networks TV stage as a so-good analyst that he appeared set for on-camera for life. But what have we here now? Egad, what a cad! Hammerin's Hank has yet another gig. And unless there are two King Henriks on the same MSG throne, Lundqvist now is getting paid time-and-a-half for overtime.

Sacre bleu! The chap the MSGers already have knighted as "legend" has become an overnight executive. Yesiree, Bob, his newest gig is so special it doesn't even have an exec-type title. Along Seventh Avenue, they're calling it a "Newly Created Business Operations Role".

Translated from Madison Avenue-ese, it means that Henny will "represent MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment in a variety of business, partnership and sponsorship endeavors, as well as supporting the work of the Garden of Dreams Foundation."

As one who's known His Majesty since his rookie season, I'm sure he'll be a 100 percenter because -- as he so accurately puts it -- "I'm a Ranger at heart and Madison Square Garden is my home."

Guardians Of The Goal author George Grimm has chronicled Hank's career from the beginning. When I asked Grimm for his view of this somewhat curious Lundqvist gig, George said he's good with it. "The fans will still get to enjoy his plain-spoken, yet insightful between-period analysis (on MSG Networks) during Rangers home games."

The King is still a Big Apple monarch but now on new thrones!

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U.S. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME 

As an American and previous U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, I hold Uncle Sam's ice shrine very deep in my heart. And when I heard that Ryan Miller, East Lansing, Michigan's favorite son is among the new inductees, I grew still fonder of the HOF.

That's because I was the first to interview Miller as an NHL rookie with the Buffalo Sabres and became a fan of this swell guy ever since -- as a player and person.

That Miller belongs in the Hall goes without saying. After all, he's the winningest American-born goaltender in NHL history. Or as the U.S. Hockey Hall puts it:

"Miller's extraordinary playing career also includes backstopping Team USA to an Olympic silver medal and being the only goalie ever to be named the best goalie in the NCAA, the AHL, the NHL and at the Winter Olympic Games."

Hey, that's just for starters. Get this: The 2010 Vezina recipient as the top netminder in the NHL, Miller played 796 games across 19 seasons (2002-2021) in the NHL and finished with 391 wins, the most ever by American-born netminder, and a .914 save percentage.

The Michigan State alum spent 11 of those seasons with the Buffalo Sabres after being their 12th (138th overall) pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Later in his playing career, Miller spent time with the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks, before retiring after 4 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks.Miller played 540 games in a Sabres jersey, the franchise record for a netminder. He also holds Sabres' goaltending records for most career wins (284), most wins in a season (41 in 2009-10), and most shutouts by an American-born goaltender (28). Hooray for Ryan Miller!

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MY NEW, PERSONAL FAVORITE GOALIE

Going 'way back to Turk Broda, Al Rollins and Glenn Hall, goalies have been my fave players. My latest is Jake Oettinger. I like the fact that he unabashedly says, "I wanna play in Dallas my whole career." And I also love this Jake comment. Even though he was victimized in a playoff game in which he made more than 60 saves, Jake sagely says, "A Game Seven of the playoffs is the most fun you can have playing hockey."

(P.S. A Dallas reporter questioned Jake about "best" hockey movies. Oettinger mentioned Mighty Ducks, Goon, Slapshot and Miracle. And since nobody is perfect, Jake missed the best of them all -- Mystery Alaska.)

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WHY I LOVE THE SHOOTOUT.

Never mind player polls that suggest NHLers want the Shootout removed. The Shootout is for fans and many still love it. My buddy, Irad Chen, gives you his reasons why:

"When the NHL brought the shootout to our lives, I was a young boy living in Israel and didn't know what hockey was all about. But when I got older and started to get into hockey, some of my favorite highlights were all about the shootout."I'll never forget Sidney Crosby popping the water bottle in his first shootout attempt. I loved watching Pavel Datsyuk make goalies look like Peewees and Patrick Kane's dazzling moves. There was nothing more suspenseful than Rangers defenseman Marek Malik's 15th round between-the-leg goal nor Jussi Jokinen gaining a reputation as a top shootout specialist going 9 for 9 to start his career. "Critics claim that the shootout can be an anticlimactic end to a hockey game, I say it's the best way to finish a tight contest. You get to see the best players from each team go one-on-one showing their skill. For my money, it can't get better than that. So what's not to like?"

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WHO SAID IT? "I never reported it, because the guy is spending about $200 a month less than my wife did!" (ANSWER BELOW.)

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THE BIG Q: HOW MUCH MORE INTENSE CAN ANALYTICS GET?

(If you revere Hockey Analytics as The Maven does NOT, then you'll love the latest breakthrough. Our Washington State reporter, Glenn (Call Me Seattlebird) Dreyfuss has no analytics allergy so we let him do the interview.

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Yay Boo

YAYS AND BOOS:

YAY TO THE US HOCKEY HALL OF FAME for recognizing the feats of Steve Cash. The Overland, Missouri native is one of five inductees into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022. What's so special about Cash is that he's a three-time Paralympic gold medalist and five-time world champion. Add to that, the guy nicknamed "Money,"ranks among the most decorated sled hockey athletes of all-time. Cash, whose right leg was amputated due to osteosarcoma (bone cancer) at age three, was named the 3009 Paralympic SportsMan of the year by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

BOO TO THE CITY OF OTTAWA AND THE SENATORS: Stop sitting on your hands and hammer out a deal for what the city and improving team need; a new arena. Put it Downtown not like the current Kanata barn that's closer to the North Pole than City Hall.

YAY TO KEITH KINKAID for coming up with the best new goalie mask. Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore is the featured face on it.

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DIDJA KNOW? Madison Square Garden organist Gladys (Two D's) Goodding holds the world record for playing six hockey-team-related tunes in one day.

It went like this: For a Sunday afternoon amateur hockey double-header, she played "Tiger Rag" for the Sands Point Tigers and "East Side, West Side" for the Manhattan Arrows.

Pre-Game Two, Gladys played "Easter Parade," the NY Rovers theme, and "Pennsylvania Polka" for the visiting Philadelphia Falcons.

For the evening Detroit-Rangers tilt, Ms. Goodding knocked off "The Rangers Victory Song," and "Pretty Red Wing." If the Black Hawks had been in town, naturally, the tune would have been "Chicago" while the Bruins would get "Paree," based on their 1928 exhibition barnstorming tour of France. The Maple Leafs' tune was -- geographically speaking -- a weird one called "Saskatchewan." Appropriately, for the Habs, Gladys did her usually upbeat version of "Allouette."

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SPECIAL HOCKEY PEOPLE -- AUTHOR JEFF MICLASH

The all-time definitive Bruins book is out and a must for any Beantown hockey fan. Author Jeff Miclash -- by any standards -- is the ultimate Boston ice historian. His work speaks for itself. It's called "Total Bruins 1929-39 -- A Game-By-Game Illustrated Account Of The Boston Bruins." In our exclusive interview, the Canadian air force veteran addressed these topics:

INSPIRATION FOR THE BOOK AND TIME REQUIRED TO WRITE IT: As a lifelong Bruins fan and historian, I've been fascinated with 1930s hockey. The game was more visceral and the paucity of equipment combined with copious amounts of bodychecking made it a much rougher game than we know today. Also, The Game changed more in that decade than any other -- gameplay, rules and league management. There was so much to learn about that era yet I couldn't find a book that explored it in detail. The book took three years of concentrated effort to pull together. I also used sources and contacts I'd spent most of my years accumulating.

KEY RESEARCH SOURCES: I largely relied on newspapers and programs -- and lots of footnotes. Given that the players from that era are deceased I relied on those who saw the games, who interacted with the Bruins and wrote about them for a living. I found that anecdotal accounts can often lead to inaccuracies. A lot of myths have taken life from the era. My book refutes them, including that Jack Crawford wore a helmet because he was bald and that Eddie Shore was a vicious, dirty player; he wasn't and that was the opinion of some of his big rivals.

WHY HIS BOOK IS A MUST-BUY: No book provides as much detail on the 1930s Bruins. At any part of any season, you'll find well-referenced detail on what the team was doing. What moves the book along are the images. There are more than 1,000 embedded in the 526 pages. Nearly every page has several which are captioned and dated. That's why I put so many photos on the cover, as proof. I even have high-quality action photos from the second-longest game in NHL history. I have stories and findings that even the most learned Bruins fan won't know.

KEY REVELATIONS: I didn't appreciate how much Bruins owner Charles Adams did for the league and Boston. He had a lot of pitched battles with NHL President Frank Calder over fairness and how league discipline was managed. He finally quit the Board of Governors in March 1933 in protest over Calder's refusal to make any changes. It was only then that Calder hired Frank Patrick as director of officiating. Good thing, too, given that the Eddie Shore-Ace Bailey incident happened during Patrick's second month on the job. I cover the incident in detail and relate what all parties there observed.

THE AUTHOR'S WANTS: I make three key suggestions to the current Bruins organization. First; retire the #1 for goalies Tiny Thompson and Frank Brimsek. So far, the Bruins never have retired a number in honor of a goalie, Second; Retire #10 for Bill Cowley, the Wayne Gretzky of his era. And, finally, add the six captains they've missed to the official records of the team. Four of those were in the 1930s and my book provides copious evidence and photos as proof. Eddie Shore was one missed.

THE AUTHOR'S ALL-TIME BRUINS ALL-STAR TEAM: First Team: Goalie, Gerry Cheevers; Defense: Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr; Forwards: Phil Esposito, Bill Cowley, Milt Schmidt; Second Team: Goalie Tiny Thompson; Defense: Ray Bourque, Dit Clapper; Forwards: John Bucyk, Patrice Bergeron, Cam Neely.

NOTE: Miclash's book is self-published. It can be bought on eBay, $40 USD/$45 CAD.

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ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Rangers coach Herb Brooks, after his wife's
American Express card was stolen.

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