Reflecting on the 1972 Summit Series – Part 2

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

When I started re-watching the 1972 Summit Series a couple weeks ago, I started reflecting on the significance of it all.

I decided to write a post about my thoughts – and reach out to a couple friends for their perspective. One thing led to another and Part 1 ended up being more than I could have expected. Great perspective from wonderful people in every area of the hockey world.

The Paul Henderson goal still ranks among the greatest moments in Candian hockey history – but as time passes it has more and more company. Mario Lemieux in 1980, Sidney Crosby in 2010, Marie-Philip Poulin in 2014 – for many in my generation, these moments are right there with 1972.

Since the post came out, the response has been incredible. It’s seems to have sparked reflection on the series from a lot of people, some of which wanted to contribute their own thoughts.

To go along with the great people of Part 1, here are some more thoughts on a hockey series that will always have its place in history.

Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) – Host Hockey Central on Sportsnet

When I watch the series now I’m amazed at how if the Soviets played a Canadian style of dump and chase Team Canada would have been sunk. This was a horribly out of shape Canadian team and instead of making them turn and skate the soviets hung on to the puck and continued to cycle back allowing Canada to save energy for their solo bursts.

All the Soviets had to do was adapt slightly and surrender the puck more and it would have been a clean sweep. That Canadian team was bagged and thought this was going to be a cakewalk. True to form, after a period of intense physical – and in some people’s eyes, controversial – training by the, you couldn’t even lift the Soviets’ sticks of the ice.

They were the superior team in almost every way, other than their inability to alter their game even in the slightest – but I guess this was supposed to be an ‘our system vs theirs’ style challenge.


Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) – Writer for InGoal Magazine

My father told me of the Summit Series with the same patient, nuanced intensity he described Russian tactics in World War Two. When you underestimated the Russians, I knew, you paid the price.

Dryden’s game was ill-suited for the sweeping Soviet style of attack. Rather than engage in risky border battles, the Russians simply retreated further into their own territory until the blank white winter claimed the enemy army. They did not surrender the puck. Attack quality was prized over quantity.

Tretiak was a study of efficient grace. They worked as a single, relentless mechanism that was somehow also a work of art. My father was as fair and balanced a historian as you’ll find, and although he told this tale as a heroic triumph of Canadian perseverance, his honesty made it plain that the Soviets were the superior side. This wasn’t presented with grudging reluctance, nor qualified with excuses: it was simply a fact.

Canada lumberjacked its way to victory over the ice-poets. I learned, through these talks that threaded through my childhood, that you could be proud of something, even deeply in love with it, without lying to yourself about its flaws. For me, born five years too late into a changing world, the Summit Series in itself has always meant little (I’m glad we won). What mattered was the chance it gave to see my dad, entirely unguarded, show me who he was.


Jordyn Moussa (@jordynmoussa) Brock University Masters Student, focusing in Sport Management

Around the age of 13, I discovered an interest in hockey but this interest didn’t develop into a full-fledged passion until I was 16 or so. For those of my generation, the first unforgettable moment in hockey history that occurred was the 2010 Vancouver Olympics (unless you want to consider my personal favourite moment: Jordan Eberle’s 2009 World Junior semi-final tying goal – against Russia).

For the longest time, all I knew about the 1972 Summit Series were memories my grandfather had shared with me. How he could remember my mother and uncle coming home from school saying they had been pulled from classes to watch the games live. How he had been yelling at the television set so loudly that he would startle my grandmother, who wasn’t paying attention to the games. How, before the series started, he had no idea who “that Tretiak guy” was. The way he recounted Vladislav Tretiak so nonchalantly struck me as ironic. If Canada had lost that series, I don’t think he would have been so loose.

As a student studying development in hockey, what intrigues me the most is the way the term “The Canadian Way” has changed since 1972. The Soviets played a very well structured, organized, and skilled game, while the Canadian’s played a very rough game – that’s not to say they weren’t talented, that would be an insult to the players who donned the maple leaf 44 years ago. They simply displayed their talent in a completely opposite way from the Soviets. The Canadian playing style has changed over the years to display the natural talent our players have, while still getting physical, when necessary. It has become a hybrid, of sorts, of the way the Soviets and the Canadians played in that series. Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, or Steven Stamkos would never play the game the way it was played in 1972 but they have been known to throw hits for the greater good of their team.

Another aspect to “The Canadian Way” that has since shifted is the way the players are perceived, whether it be through the media or recounts of personal experience. Outspoken, and outgoing players are chastised for having a voice and just being themselves, while the majority of Canada’s superstars in the game have been so well trained to deal with fans and media that they’re deemed as robotic – and they’re praised for it. The 1972 Soviet’s were described by Canadian media for having been robotic, though unlike the Canadian stars of today, they were mocked for it, even though that was the Soviet Union’s culture.

After having watched the series through an old, grainy CBC recorded VHS tapes my grandfather’s had for likely 30 years, I don’t know if I could ever call Crosby’s Golden goal, or Marie-Philip Poulin’s 2014 Olympic final tying and game winning goals the best moments in Canada’s hockey history, though they are among my personal favourites.


Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) – Buffalo correspondent for

My view of the 1972 Summit Series is a bit obstructed. Not just because I’m an American, but because it happened seven years before I landed on Earth. That said, being an American didn’t do much to help my knowledge of the event because… it was never talked about much here to begin with. In case you didn’t hear, America had its own major

In case you didn’t hear, America had its own major international hockey event with the “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid in 1980. It’s been talked about a little bit and wound up having its own ramifications for the Soviet Union and the United States in both hockey and how it was coached and taught and in politics.

I’m sure the same is said of the Summit Series. A team loaded with the best of the best from the Soviet Union taking on Canada’s best in hockey at a time when feelings about the Soviets weren’t exactly warm. It’s a great story and it made Paul Henderson a household name in Canada and put Bobby Clarke on the map for playing with a vicious edge.

I know that because I’m a fan of the game and have been studying it since I was a kid. Ask the regular American about any of that and you’ll get the blankest of stares. Why? It just doesn’t resonate here. Call it nationalism or call it ignorance of hockey, call it whatever you want my dear Canadian pals but the Summit Series just doesn’t hit the same notes as the Miracle on Ice here in the States. It’s for the same reason the Miracle is a boring (old) story about the last time the U.S.A. won gold to you: We only give a crap about our country’s own accomplishments and that’s fine. …But the Miracle on Ice was better.


Ryan Fancey (@ryanfancey) – Writer at The Leafs Nation

My parents were only 5-years-old when the Summit Series took place, so emotionally I don’t really have an attachment to it, nor do I have anyone in my immediate family who does. But I’ve had my share of exposure to it anyway, as it’s obviously difficult to go through life as a Canadian hockey fan and not dig into that ’72 story.

It might sound strange, but the thing that intrigues me the most about that series isn’t even the hockey. It’s how the fans would have taken it in.

Before the World Cup of Hockey gets going next month, we’ll get almost-daily updates on how players on each team are feeling, then full coverage of practices, mini videos on Twitter, the whole ride. This’ll be on top of the fact we’re already incredibly familiar with each and every one of these players, both stylistically and in terms of basically all their accomplishments to date. If we want to see breakdowns of all their statistics, that’s a Google search away. It must have been a funny feeling for fans back in in the seventies to have this Summit Series coming up and know next to nothing about the opposing team – this mysterious Soviet club, playing during the Cold War no less. Sounds intense.

Any research you’d want to do about the opponents back then would likely be done through reading the papers or listening to a handful of so-called analysts on the radio, and even those sources likely didn’t know much. Supposedly when the series was approaching The Hockey News ran a poll of hockey experts in Canada, and not one picked the USSR to win a single game. It seems fans from that era are always talked about as being humbled by the Soviets when they crushed Canada in that opening game, but they likely didn’t have enough information at the time to be anything other than over-confident.


Bill West (@BWest_Trib) – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Penguins beat writer

As someone born in Pittsburgh 14 years after the series, I lacked the resources necessary to even begin to learn about this thing that Canadians held — and apparently still hold — in such high regard. Even as I became a hockey fan in the late 80s and early 90s, that part of Canadian lore remained off my radar — the most important hockey players in my life were a French Canadian who disowned the rough, rugged playing style embraced by his country; a Czech; and a Massachusetts native (Kevin Stevens, for those wondering).

Like any American, I knew the bare minimum about the 1980 Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice”, and like many, I long assumed the Americans beat the USSR for gold, which of course wasn’t the case. International hockey history just didn’t matter that much. “College kids beat the badass Red Army” — that’s all you needed to know.

Fast forward to 2010, and as best as I can recall, something in the hockey world outside of the NHL mattered to me for the first time. Canada beat the U.S. for the gold medal in the Olympics, and I felt torn. Pittsburgh’s star, Sidney Crosby, buried the winner in dramatic fashion. Yet my country lost. It didn’t shake my identity or that of anyone I know, though. “We’re Americans. We’re supposed to lose to Canadians in hockey. It’s fine as long as we win 10 other events – nd hey, Sid scored the big goal, so that’s cool.” That was the logic around here.

I began to better understand how hockey factored into identity when I caught ESPN: 30 for 30’s “Of Miracles and Men” on television this past winter. The documentary, as most of you probably know, examines the history of the great Soviet teams, including the ones that competed in the 1972 Summit Series and the 1980 Olympics.

The Summit Series segment in particular, fascinated me because I never realized just how proudly the Canadians — even at the pro level — clung to their north-south style, and how much they were (apparently) befuddled by the Russians’ willingness to crisscross in the neutral zone and pass.

Mario Lemieux didn’t play a fierce, straight-line game, and he sure as hell passed with brilliance. Paul Coffey moved the puck like a wizard.

I realized these guys also played 20 years later, well after the Canadian style evolved. But it’s important to understand: Pittsburgh didn’t have a revered historical figure like Bobby Clarke or Phil Esposito to make young fans like me care about the pre-1980s. The Penguins struggled for most of that time. Why revisit the bad when so much of the post-1990 Penguins history included so much good stuff? I’m no longer oblivious to the 1972 Summit Series. It still fails to stir anything nostalgic or patriotic within me. But I understand why it matters to my neighbors to the north.


Mike Fail (@mikeFAIL) – Community Manager for Flames Nation

I’ve probably watched the Summit Series once – maybe twice? It was great hockey for its time, but the allure and mysticism around it seems to have taken on a bigger story with each generation and the stories passed down. My mom – who isn’t really a hockey fan – was the person who taught me about it when I was a kid. I don’t exactly remember how the topic came up, but I do remember the excitement in her voice as she regaled me about watching the game.

She passionately explained how everyone in her school gathered around a TV to watch the game, the palpable excitement in the room when it was over and done with, the roar when Henderson scored, and the general effect it had on her small town in that era. It’s one of the few sports related things that my mom and I have really connected with and it’s something that I truly appreciate her telling me about.


Adam (@ElSeldo) – Contributor at Pension Plan Puppets

Growing up I vaguely heard about the ’72 Series but didn’t pay it any attention. I wasn’t into hockey until grade eleven, and even then didn’t delve into the history of it until I was living alone in a rented bedroom in college. My reaction to it for the longest time was “okay, we beat the Russians, rah rah, great,

My reaction to it for the longest time was “okay, we beat the Russians, rah rah, great, more cold war BS.” I didn’t really get what it meant to Canadian hockey until I watched, of all shows, Corner Gas. The episode “The Good Old Table Hockey Game” recreates the summit series with rod hockey. Wanda plays the Russians and takes the series seriously, practices, prepares, while Brent plays the Canadians and slacks off and assumes he’s the best. I took away some more moments, like Canada being booed and that it was an

I took away some more moments, like Canada being booed and that it was an eight-game series, and those two things, out of everything, made me want to learn more about ’72. After reading up on it over the years, it’s become, to me, a turning point for Canadian hockey. It taught us we can’t chain smoke during intermission and fart around during the

After reading up on it over the years, it’s become, to me, a turning point for Canadian hockey. It taught us we can’t chain smoke during intermission and fart around during the off season if we want to be the best. Keeping players in peak condition year round, practicing being useful, and most importantly, it knocked the stuffing out of Canada’s arrogance about being the top hockey power in the world. Sadly that last part didn’t keep, but everything else that was learned from that series has stuck, and hockey at every level has benefited from those lessons. While I wasn’t around to watch the series, and I still haven’t watched anything aside from highlights, I can appreciate what a huge turning point it was for the mentality of Canadian hockey, and without

While I wasn’t around to watch the series, and I still haven’t watched anything aside from highlights, I can appreciate what a huge turning point it was for the mentality of Canadian hockey, and without it, we may not be enjoying as high-quality hockey as we have today.


Sarah Hall (@sarahhowling )- Den Talk Podcast & Contributor at Five for Howling

I’m an American who is new to hockey in the last few years, but the Summit Series is something I was vaguely aware of as I grew up in Topeka, Kansas.

I remember hearing about it going to a CHL Topeka ScareCrows game when I was about 11 years old. The people behind us were talking about it, how the Russians were screwed by the Canadians. At the time I didn’t know what it meant, I just knew there was a Russian player on the ice for the team I was watching.

I watched Miracle five times in theaters when it came out. I didn’t know anything about the 1980 team. My mom explained to me what it meant in that time period. How the Russian’s and the Soviet Teams were THE teams. I still didn’t grasp it at the time.

I remember the 2010 Olympics and being angry at Sidney Crosby for making the Americans cry. That’s when hockey came into my life again, that gold medal game.

Along with watching Miracle before the start of every season, I’ve also watched the ESPN 30 for 30: Of Miracles and Men. I watched Red Army. I’ve read about the era and what happened with Kharlamov the day he died. I then looked up the Summit Series.

The Soviets should have won the series, but with Bobby Clarke breaking Kharlamov’s ankle, that was it.

I’ve come to learn that Canadian’s take their hockey way more seriously than Americans. But a part of me is with Russia when they play big tournaments even now, and even when I watch Miracle, even though I know how it ends.


Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) – Writer for and Today’s Slapshot

The 1972 Summit Series happened 13 years before I was born, so my perspective is a retrospective. Still, the eight-game showdown between the Canadians and the Soviets resonates with me for a couple of reasons.

First, my father has owned a hockey card store in Cornwall for the better part of three decades. Hockey cards always have numbers on the back for collectors who want to build sets. As a kid, I spent hours sorting cards for my dad. The Summit Series set from 1972-73 still sticks out in mind because it has always been highly collected and because the cards had no numbers on the back.

Though this frustrated me as a ten-year-old unpaid intern in a card shop (“how am I supposed to organize these!?”) it strikes me now that there weren’t any numbers on purpose. No player was first or last in this series. Everyone had a role to play and that was transcendent.

Second, politics has always been my first love. It was my major in university and grad school and continues to pique my interest and attention. Questions about leadership, inspiration, and unity are central – how do great leaders lead?

In that way, Phil Esposito’s stirring address after Canada’s game four loss in Vancouver is fascinating. After winning only one game out of four on Canadian soil, Esposito executed the 1970s version of a mic drop:

Esposito called out fans in a way we’ll likely never see again. But, more importantly, Esposito voiced the concerns of his teammates and helped them to bond. Brad Park, Frank Mahovlich, and Ken Dryden reportedly echoed similar concerns to reporters post-game. We don’t have numerical measures for things like leadership or camaraderie but Esposito’s attempt at bringing his team together before storming to the series victory in the USSR has always stuck with me as inspiring.


We had contributions from 15 other great hockey people in Part 1:

Reflecting on the 1972 Summit Series




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