The night when Canada won the Cold War
Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.
Please note: This is the original broadcast. The signal was relayed from Moscow, to London and finally to Canada, therefore the quality is rather poor and there are occasional audio/visual glitches.
Controversy ensued when the Soviets wanted to back out of the refereeing agreement. The Soviets wanted to include the German pair of referees, originally scheduled for the game. Eagleson threatened to pull Team Canada from playing the eighth game. In a compromise, Kompalla refereed along with Bata instead of Baader. The ill will spilled over into the presentation of a totem pole as a gift from Team Canada. The pre-game presentation was cancelled by the Soviets, but restored on the insistence of Team Canada. According to Coach Sinden, Eagleson stated that they “were going to take this totem pole and bring it to center ice and they’ll have to take it or skate around it the whole game.”
Heading into the eighth and final game, each team had three wins and three losses and one tie, but the Soviets were ahead in goal differential by two goals. In Canada, much of the country enjoyed an unofficial ‘half a day’ holiday, with many students in Toronto being sent home the afternoon of the game, while many others watched the game at work or school. In Montreal’s Central Station, 5,000 fans gathered around ten TV sets to watch the game, which was simulcast in English on CBC Television and CTV, and in French by Radio-Canada. Until the men’s hockey gold-medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics, it was the most-watched sporting event in the history of Canadian television.
Team Canada took a number of questionable early penalties. With two Canadians (White and Peter Mahovlich) off, Yakushev scored to give the Soviets the lead 1–0. The game was delayed after a mistaken call against J. P. Parise, (he was called for interference, but Parise admitted later he was guilty of cross-checking) and emotions boiled over. Parise was called for a misconduct for banging his stick on the ice, and when he saw the misconduct called, he dashed across the ice with his stick raised. Parise nearly swung his stick at Kompalla and got a match penalty. Sinden threw a chair on the ice. Some writers have commented that the incidents resulted in the rest of the game being refereed capably.
After Parise’s penalty was served, it was Canada’s turn to go on the power play, and Esposito scored his sixth goal of the series to tie it at 1–1. The teams exchanged power plays before Lutchenko scored a power play goal on a slap shot to put the Soviets ahead 2–1. Brad Park then scored his only goal of the series at even strength to complete some pretty passing between Dennis Hull and the Rangers’ team-mates of Ratelle, Gilbert and Park to tie the score. The period ended with the teams tied 2–2.
In the second, the Soviets started with a quick goal by Shadrin after 21 seconds. The last ten minutes saw two goals from the Soviets: Yakushev scoring his seventh of the series followed by Vasiliev on the power play to put the Soviets ahead 5–3 after two periods. White had countered for Canada midway through the period. It was one of few moments for Canada to cheer as the Soviets played an excellent period. The other was a goal-saving play by Esposito who stopped a shot by Yury Blinov who had faked goaltender Dryden out of position and had an empty net to shoot at. Blinov was denied by Esposito who stopped the puck with his stick on the goal line. Blinov and the crowd had prematurely celebrated the apparent goal, and Blinov shook his head in disbelief.
The famous photograph of Henderson by Frank Lennon
Sinden told the players to try to get one back quickly, but play tight defensively and not allow the game to get out of hand. Don’t gamble until after the half-way point if need be. Esposito scored to put the Canadians within one. The tension rose at the rink, and extra soldiers were dispatched for security. It was matched on the ice as Gilbert and Yevgeni Mishakov had a fight. Foster Hewitt noticed: “You can feel the tension almost everwhere!”
At the ten-minute mark, Sinden noticed that the Soviets had changed their style, playing defence to protect the lead, rather than pressing. However, the strategy back-fired on the Soviets. The change in tactics gave the Canadians more chances to score and Cournoyer scored to even it up.
After the Cournoyer goal, the goal judge refused to put the goal light on despite the fact that it was signalled a goal on the ice. In response, Alan Eagleson (seated across the ice from the Team Canada bench) attempted to reach the timer’s bench to protest, causing a ruckus in the crowd as he made his way to the timer’s bench. As he was being subdued by the Soviet police, the Canadian players headed over and Peter Mahovlich jumped over the boards to confront police with his stick. Eagleson was freed and the coaches escorted him across the ice to the bench. In anger, he shoved his fist to the Soviet crowd, as a few other Canadian supporters also gave the finger to the Soviets.
The Soviets continued to play defensively. Sinden speculates the Soviets were willing to accept the tie and win the series on goal differential. In the final minute of play, with Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer and Peter Mahovlich out on the ice, Paul Henderson stood up at the bench and called Mahovlich off the ice as he was skating by. Bobby Clarke was supposed to replace Esposito, but Phil didn’t come off (“There was no way I was coming off the ice in that situation” Esposito said). Cournoyer picked up a puck that had been passed around the boards by the Soviets in a clearing attempt. He missed Henderson with a pass, but the Soviets mishandled the puck in the corner and Esposito shot on Tretiak. Henderson, who had fallen behind the net, got up and went to the front of the net where he was uncovered. Henderson got the rebound of Esposito’s shot, shot and was stopped, but put the rebound behind Tretiak with only 34 seconds to play. “I jumped on the ice and rushed straight for their net. I had this strange feeling that I could score the winning goal”, recalls Henderson. This play was captured on film by cameraman Frank Lennon. The picture became iconic in Canada. The call of the play by Foster Hewitt would become an indelible memory for millions of Canadians: “Cournoyer has it on that wing. 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!” Canada held on for the win in the game and thus the series. Pat Stapleton picked up the puck after the game.