The Summit Series (Part Seven): Games Seven and Eight

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Heading into Game 7, Canada was revitalized as the team had easily won the last game with a flurry of three goals in the space of only 90 seconds.

While Ken Dryden had stood on his head to push back against the Soviet onslaught, he would be replaced with Tony Esposito in net.

For the Soviets, Valeri Kharlamov was out after the slash from Bobby Clarke.

There were new referees as well, replacing the two referees who seemed to have it out for Canada with the number of powerplays they gave the Soviets.

The first period saw a flurry of goals as Phil Esposito scored twice, and the Soviets answered with two goals of their own to end the period 2-2.

The second period would be scoreless as both sides tried to take the lead in a pivotal game.

In the third period, Rod Gilbert scored to put Canada ahead, only for the Soviets to answer and tie the game once again.

At 16:26 in the third, Gary Bergman was kicked twice by a Soviet player during a scuffle. Bergman would promise not to publicly berate the Soviet coach Bobrov over the matter, in exchange for ensuring that the two referees for Game 7 were the same referees for Game 8. More on this a little later.

With the score tied, Henderson skated into the Soviet zone at 17:54 and put a pass through the feet of a Soviet player, then skated around him and picked up the puck and went in on a breakaway against Tretiak. As he shot, he was tripped and Henderson went into the boards, while the puck went into the net.

The goal light lit up, and then went off almost immediately. To ensure there was never any doubt about the goal going in, Team Canada rushed onto the ice to congratulate Henderson.

Henderson would say of the goal that it was the one that gave him the most personal satisfaction ever, which is saying a lot considering what happened in Game 8. Phil Esposito once again dominated on the ice, playing longer than most of the defencemen as he simply refused to come off the ice.

Team Canada had won the game 4-3, and now it was time for the eighth game, with the series tied at 3, with one tie. Whoever won game 8 was going to be the champions. Even if there was a tie, the Soviets stated they would claim victory due to having a goal lead in the series at that point. For Team Canada, it was a win or nothing.

Coach Sinden said that the eighth game might just be the most exciting game of hockey ever played. He would not be far off.

As Game 8 was about to start, the Soviets backed out of their agreement over the referees, wanting to have the German referees from Game 6 officiate the game. In response, Alan Eagleson threatened to pull Team Canada out of the last game entirely.

Eventually, a compromise was used, with one German referee from Game 6, and one referee from Game 7 handling the game.

The Soviets then cancelled the pre-game ceremony, but restored it on the insistence of Team Canada, as they had brought a totem pole as a gift. Eagleson said:

“We are going to take this totem pole and bring it to centre ice and they’ll have to take it, or skate around it the whole game.”

Along with the 3,000 fans in the arena in Moscow, all of Canada was watching the game with some estimates putting it at 90 per cent of the country. Throughout the country, it was an unofficial half-day and many students either watched the game in school, or were sent home to watch it. Even the Montreal Stock Exchange reported a slow trading day as most of the traders were watching the game. Cab ranks in cities across the country were deserted as drivers were in taverns to watch the games. Construction barely happened in Canada, with most workers choosing to watch the game instead of work. Most people would simply say that on Thursday, Sept. 28, 1972, Canada was closed.

At Montreal’s Central Station, 5,000 fans watched 10 television sets to see the game. The game was broadcast both on CBC and CTV, and in French on TV Radio-Canada.

It would become the most-watched sporting event in Canadian history, a record that would last until the gold medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. At the time, it was double the amount of people who had watched any single Canadian television show before.

After a few early penalties, the Soviets took the lead 1-0 early in the first period. After J.P. Parise was called for interference, emotions boiled over and he received a further penalty for banging his stick on the ice. When the misconduct penalty was given, Parise raised his stick and nearly swung it at the referee, who gave him a match penalty. In response, Coach Sinden threw a chair on the ice.

Due to this, many believe that the rest of the game was refereed fairly and capably.

Canada was able to prevent the Soviets from scoring on Parise’s penalty, and Phil Esposito scored to make it 1-1. The Soviets moved up 2-1, but Brad Park scored his first goal of the series to tie it for Canada and the first period ended 2-2.

In the second, the Soviets scored 21 seconds in, and then scored a few minutes later to bring the score up to 5-2, before Canada was able to get closer with one more goal in the second to make it 5-3. It would have been 6-3 if not for Phil Esposito, who stopped a puck from going over the goal line after Dryden missed it.

In the second intermission, Sinden told his players to play defensively and not let the game out of hand, to not gamble until they were closer to tying the game.

Almost as soon as the third period started, Esposito scored to put the Canadians within one of tying the game. Tensions began to rise in the arena and soldiers were dispatched for security in the building. At the 10-minute mark, the Soviets began to play more defensively to save their lead, and Sinden saw this. He adjusted the play of Team Canada to press more, and this resulted in Yvon Cournoyer scoring to tie the game 5-5.

With that goal, the referee signaled it was a goal, but the goal judge refused to turn on the goal light. Alan Eagleson erupted over this, and tried to reach the timer’s bench but he was stopped by Soviet police who began to take him to the nearest exit. At the same time, Canadian players headed over to confront the goal judge, with Peter Mahovlich jumping the boards to confront police who had Eagleson.

Eagleson would say after,

“The next thing I knew, I was on my way to Siberia.”

The players were able to grab Eagleson and take him to their bench. While this was happening, 30 police began marching into the arena. Ambassador Robert Ford’s wife was also apparently shoved with both hands during the incident.

Eventually, things died down even though Eagleson shook his fist at the Soviets and several Canadian supporters gave the finger to the Soviets.

With the tie, the Soviets continued to play defensively, content with the tie due to the goal differential.

With one minute left, Phil Esposito, Yvon Cournoyer and Peter Mahovlich were on the ice. Henderson called Mahovlich to come off the ice, and Henderson jumped over. He would say later he had a strange feeling he was about the score the winning goal.

Bobby Clarke was supposed to replace Esposito but he refused to come off

With Esposito, Cournoyer and Henderson on the ice, Canadian history was about to occur.

[The Goal audio]

The picture of Henderson scoring as he is hugged by Cournoyer would become an iconic photo in Canadian history, and Henderson would forever be associated with the goal as millions of Canadians erupted in cheer. Fans in Toronto would offer to buy him a car if he didn’t receive a reward for his heroics on the ice.

After the game, Henderson said,

“It was the biggest thrill of my career to be named to this team. The next biggest thrill was to make the team. And now, three winning goals in a row, who can believe it?”

Anticipating the flurry of people who would want to see Henderson, his family put a sign on their door stating there were no autographs left and they would not be answering the door anymore.

Ken Dryden said of the win,

“This has to be bigger than the year we won the Stanley Cup and I won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.

Bob Hughes of the Leader-Post wrote,

“This wasn’t a hockey game. It was insane. Canada’s 6-5 victory over the Russians yesterday defied logic. It carried the unexpected as a partner and it overwhelmed you. You didn’t have to be with those 3,000 frenzied Canadian fans in Moscow to grasp what happened yesterday on the sprawling ice surface of the Lenin Sports Palace.”

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was in the midst of beginning an election campaign, and he would say that he was proud and happy that the team had won. He would also send a telegram to Sinden, congratulating him and the team on the victory in the series.

Across the sky in Montreal, someone flew a light plane trailing a banner that said Brave Team Canada. Parades erupted in Montreal and Toronto. Along Younge Street, cars drove up and down the street, with Canadian flags waving and the occupants of the cars singing O’Canada. In Ottawa, people waved flags that read Esposito for Pope and Esposito for Prime Minister.

Victoria mayor Peter Pollen had a different assessment of the series and game, stating that the behaviour of Team Canada was disgraceful and added that it gave the children of Canada their first lesson in violence and bad sportsmanship. He only reluctantly agreed to send a congratulatory telegram to Sinden. Even brand new Canadians were caught up in the celebrations. Sudendra Dattani, who had just arrived from Kampala, was shocked by the outpouring of emotion and simply said she couldn’t see how men could stand on the ice like that. Restaurants and bars did excellent business, with many stating they had their best phone-order day ever.

Across Canada, it was considered the biggest party Canadians had thrown since VE day in 1945.

At the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, hundreds of fans descended on the area and began to celebrate outside of the building. A huge welcome for the team was also planned in Toronto, but I will be talking about that in the next episode.

The Soviets were unhappy with the outcome, which is understandable, and Soviet media would state that the Canadians had won using prohibited and permitted methods. It would come out and simply say in several places that the Canadians had violated the rules to win.

Not all would feel that way, Boris Kulagin, assistant coach for the Soviets said,

“This is what happens when two great teams meet. We were not weaker than the Canadian team in this game. We lacked a little supporting luck.”

While Henderson is seen as the hero of the series, it should be noted that Phil Esposito had a four point game in Game 8, consisting of two goals and two assists. Esposito was the only player on both teams to have four points in a game.

The Victoria Times Colonist wrote,

“For one completely dominating personality for Team Canada, Phil Esposito stands head and shoulders above all the rest. He has been the team leader, right from the beginning.”

With the game over, Canada had won the series four games to three, with one tie, and Canada could be happy that despite the rocky start, the team had come together and had made Canada proud with their Summit Series win.

Information from Macleans, Canadian Encyclopedia,, Wikipedia, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal, Regina Leader-Post, Victoria Times Colonist, Vancouver Sun,

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