Venue: Luzhniki Ice Palace, Moscow, USSR
It all comes down to one game. And while theoretically the series could end up tied, the Soviets were already announcing they would declare themselves the winners in the event of a tie, thanks the goal differential. So to help their chances, they went to work behind the scenes, and it almost ended the series before the puck was dropped for Game 8. The two countries had agreed that the officiating pair that worked Game 7, Owe Dahlberg of Sweden and Rudolf Bata of Czechoslovakia would also work Game 8. But when it was announced that Dahlberg had suddenly come down with a bad case of food poisoning, the Canadian contingent weren't buying it. The Soviets announced that because of Dahlberg's sudden illness, they had no choice but to bring back the officials from Game 6: Josef Kompalla and Franz Baeder. The Canadians balked at the idea, and Alan Eagleson even threatened to pack the boys up and go home the night before the game, something which the players supported. The Soviets probably hadn't counted on this reaction, and when considering the sizable television revenues they'd lose if the game were cancelled, reached a late night compromise: each team would choose one official. The Canadians chose Bata. The Soviets, to no one's surprise, chose Kompalla. In hindsight, this was a poor strategic move by the Soviets, as an already fired up Canadian team had even more fuel heading into this final game of the series.
Two changes for Team Canada, Frank Mahovolich returns to the lineup in place of Bill Goldsworthy, and Tony Esposito is out, replaced by Ken Dryden in goal. The Soviets made one change, Valeri Kharlamov returned after missing Game 7, and he took the place of Alexander Ragulin. "Tonight we are making hockey history" states Foster Hewitt in the pregame, and truer words were never spoken. The teams come out for the pregame presentations, the Canadians carrying white Stetsons for the gift exchange. Bergman gets a huge whistle from the Soviet crowd, and flashes them the 'V for victory' sign. Boris Mikhailov gets a hearty boo from the Canadian fans in the stands, and with the introductions made, we're ready to drop the puck. An entire nation is at a standstill, people crowded around any tv they can find, ready to cheer on Team Canada.
The Soviets get an early chance on Dryden, Anisin testing him, but Dryden's ready for it and steers it aside. The Soviets are dominating the play early, no really dangerous chances, but it's decidedly one-sided. It doesn't take long for Kompalla to get into the act, calling a tripping penalty on Bill White after a brutal dive by Maltsev, who drops to his belly as soon as he feels contact from White. The Soviets scored two big power play goals in the last game, and Canada's worst fears about the inclusion of Kompalla are being realized, as another Soviet dives, this time it's Peter Mahovolich gets called for holding, giving the Soviets a 5 on 3. Little M slams the penalty door in disgust, and it's now pretty clear why the Soviets wanted Kompalla.
The Soviets work the puck around masterfully, and Yakushev bangs home a rebound past Dryden, and his 6th goal of the series makes it 1-0 USSR. Vladimir Petrov gets called for hooking, and even he's confused by the call, shrugging his shoulders as he heads to the box. 4 on 4 hockey, but shortly after the penalty, Parise is called for elbowing on another embarrassingly brutal dive, and he is, to quote the kids "losing his shit". He slams his stick on the ice and skates to the box, stepping in, then back out again, and spins back towards Kompalla. He is pushed away by teammates and skates over to the Canadian bench, then moves back over, while Esposito argues with the officials, when Parise charges at Kompalla, threatening to swing his stick. What caused the furor was Petrov lobbying Kompalla for a call, which came very late. There are those of you who would say that Team Canada is exhibiting poor sportsmanship here, but put yourself in their shoes. You're playing the biggest game of your life, and it is blatantly being stolen from you, right before your eyes. The officials give Parise a 10 minute misconduct and eject him from the game, and coach Harry Sinden throws a bench and a chair onto the ice in disgust. The Canadian fans in the crowd have had enough, and are now chanting "LET'S GO HOME!! LET'S GO HOME!!" The fix, is very obviously in, friends.
Frank Mahovolich is still berating the officials, along with a number of the Canadian players. Remember, we're not even 5 minutes into the game. There seems to be something happening with fans over by the Canadian bench, but they're separated by a fairly large contingent of Soviet soldiers and police officers. Parise leaves the ice finally and we're back to hockey. The Soviets set up again, looking for another power play marker 4 on 3, but they go offside.
Mahovolich returns to the ice and tries to set up his brother Frank, but he's unable to get a shot away, as he's taken out of the play by the Soviet defender. The Soviet player returns to the ice and not long after Hull (who was serving Parise's original penalty) is out of the box, a major bullet dodged there. 13:44 left in the first.
Tsygankov ties up Henderson as he tries to break free, a pretty blatant interference call, and Canada gets a power play, and Phil Esposito is Johnny on the spot once again, as Brad Park shoots one from the point, Esposito bangs home the rebound and the Canadians answer back, showing that they're not gonna be intimidated by the Soviet attempts to cheat their way to victory.
Canada nearly takes the lead when Tretiak bobbles an Esposito shot, and Yvon Cournoyer knocks it out of the air, nearly putting it past Tretiak. After the faceoff Tretiak makes another big save, this time on a snap shot from Rod Gilbert in the slot. Petrov is left all alone at the side of the net, but he hammers the puck wide, then after losing his stick, takes an interference penalty when he grabs Phil Esposito.
Yakushev dives, but White drops his stick, and the officials don't buy it. A lot of back and forth chances now, and after a period of relative calm, when Cournoyer takes an interference penalty, the Russian player falling like he was shot, and once again the Soviets set up, getting a screen in front of Dryden, and Vladimir Lutchenko blasts one from the point, beating Dryden to take the lead.
Savard does another spin-o-rama at the point, but this time shoots, and it just misses the net. Park moves in, and works a beautiful give and go with Jean Ratelle on the 2 on 1, and Park puts the shot past Tretiak stickside to tie the game at 2 late in the first period. Conacher and Hewitt remark that Ratelle and Park being Rangers teammates likely contributed to that play, each knowing what the other would do as they moved in.
Chances at both ends as the game opens up once again. Conacher states that at full strength, the Canadians are carrying the play while the Soviets are much better with the man advantage. In hindsight, this certainly lends credence to those who felt that the Soviets tried to use Kompalla to steal the final game. 1 period is in the books, and it was far more dramatic than anyone had anticipated.
The netting at the back end of the ice gives the Soviets a lucky break as the second period starts, a shot caroms out to Shadrin, and he hammers it past Dryden, who was unable to follow the bounce, and Canada once again finds themselves trailing just 21 seconds into the 2nd period. Canada doesn't back down, and Bobby Clarke rips a one timer off a drop pass, and Tretiak has a little trouble with it, but manages to hang on.
The checking is tight, and though the game continues it's breakneck pace, chances by both teams are being broken up. Blinov has an opportunity, but a sprawling Stapleton blocks his pass and breaks it up. Esposito gets a chance at the other end, which is quickly followed by a 2 on 1 for the Soviets, but nothing comes of it. The picture drops out as Henderson gets another chance, fighting off 2 checkers to get a shot on Tretiak.
Scrambly play now, but Canada is pressing, just not able to get shots at the Soviet goal. Gusev tries to break in, but can't fight off 3 Canadian defenders. Gilbert and Ratelle both have chances, and as the puck heads up the ice, Kharlamov tests Dryden, who bobbles it but makes the save. The Soviets once again seem to be making one pass too many. Esposito is taken down with no call, but it is refreshing to not see the parade to the penalty box we saw in the first. Peter Mahovolich dishes to Cournoyer, and Tretiak makes his best save of the game on a hard shot from the speedy Montreal Canadien forward.
Yakushev continues to be the one Soviet player that the Canadians can't seem to contain, and he feathers a drop pass for Anisin, who fires a high shot that Dryden handles. A face off in the Soviet zone, and Bill White taps in a Sedin-style slap-pass from Rod Gilbert, Tretiak way out of position on the play, and they've tied it once again. Shortly after that Gilbert gets Tretiak down, but can't get the puck to sit enough to get it over top of the sprawled Soviet keeper. Furious Canadian pressure, but it leads to a 2 on 1 break for the Soviets, Vikulov feeds Mikhailov, but both Stapleton and Dryden play it perfectly. There's a face off, and Yakushev gets the puck in the slot and throws a little fake on Dryden, putting the puck behind him, the goal definitely coming against the run of play over the last few minutes. The Canadians have to be frustrated at this point. They've outplayed the Soviets for most of the game so far, but have nothing to show for it.
The play is still down in the Soviet end more than Canada's, but they're not getting enough shots on Tretiak, full credit to the tenacious checking of the Soviets. Petrov passes to Blinov and he sets up a streaking Soviet winger with a spin-o-rama pass, but Dryden is there, and Blinov gets the puck back, has Dryden down and out, but Phil Esposito is there to stop the puck on the goal line. This is massive. Blinov tosses his hands up and looks skyward, incredulous that he didn't score.
Stapleton goes to the box for crosschecking, and the Soviets go for the jugular with their power play once again. They're having trouble making passes connect early on though, and the Canadian defenders are repeatedly clearing the zone. Foster Hewitt remarks that the line changes are getting close to being illegal, and on a delayed Canadian penalty Shadrin sneaks in behind the Canadian defence and taps home a Vasiliev pass for a 5-3 lead. There's some confusion on the ice as the officials try to put a Canadian player in the box, but they relent, and rightfully so since the Soviets scored on the delayed call. Mikhailov and Petrov break in 2 on 1, but Dryden comes across to stop Petrov and keep the Soviets from potentially putting this game out of reach. Scrambly play around the Soviet net, and it leads to Kuzkin getting an elbowing call at 18:06. The Canadians try to get set up on the power play, but they're having trouble controlling the puck. Henderson gets drilled on the side boards, but as we've seen, it will take more than a hard hit to stop him. The Second period comes to an end, and things are not looking good for Team Canada. They're down two goals behind enemy lines, with hostile officials hindering them at every step. What they need right now are two things: a hero, and a lucky break.
Yakushev uses his speed to create a chance, and Anisin gets a hard shot away, but it's played well by Dryden. Shortly after, Vasiliev has a nice chance from the slot, but his shot goes a little wide. The Soviets are swarming now, and Canada looks gassed, not a good sign for the start of the decisive third period. Mahovolich gets the puck in the corner and laying on the ice feeds Phil Esposito in the slot. His first shot is blocked, but the second attempt beats Tretiak, and it's another huge goal for the best player for the Canadians in this series, his 7th, to move Canada within one of the Soviets.
After Dryden covers up a fight breaks out between Gilbert and Myshikov, and they get up off the ice, a bloodied Myshakov is ready to go with Gilbert, albeit behind the safety of the officials. There's a bit of a surprise as neither player is ejected for fighting, which is standard in European hockey at the time. They're back to the action, both teams a man short. Clarke intercepts a pass and has a chance to break in home free, but Vasiliev gets called for tripping as he nails Clarke with a beautiful hip check. I could understand interference, but in all likelihood, this shouldn't have been a penalty call. 4 on 3 for Canada now, but they're struggling to set up in the Soviet zone, and Petrov chips the puck past Park for a bit of a break, but he's angled to the boards and his shot sails wide.
Ratelle has a chance to tie it on a backhander just before the penalty ends, but Tretiak stands his ground and Ratelle watches his shot trickle wide. Canada starting to turn up the heat, looking for the equalizer, and it's now the Soviets who can't seem to get anything going, getting stood up everytime they try to cross into the Canadian zone with the puck.
Gilbert and Myshikov return to the ice, and the Soviets are working hard to not give the Canadians any room to move. There's a mad scramble off a faceoff and both Esposito and Cournoyer have chances, but can't get the puck past Tretiak. Maltsev and Myshikov break up the ice 2 on 1, but Dryden shuts the door once again. The 10 minute buzzer goes, and they change sides for the final 10 minutes of Game 8.
Dennis Hull nails Blinov trying to leave the Soviet zone and creates an opportunity, but it's blown down on the offside. The vocal Canadian fans are desperately cheering the boys on now, trying to will a tying goal as the time becomes an issue. Both sides showing signs of fatigue as they head into the home stretch. Esposito comes in and gets a shot on Tretiak, a great individual effort, and he gets his own rebound behind the net, feeding Cournoyer in the slot. Tretiak stops the first one, but Cournoyer hammers home the rebound and the game is tied. Shortly after the goal a confrontation breaks out along side the boards in the crowd. Soviet soldiers are trying to drag Alan Eagleson from the rink. We would find out later it was because Eagleson began screaming at the fact that the goal judge did not turn the light on. Unable to count on the on ice officials, they were now going to flat out cheat their way to victory it seems. The Canadian team swarms off the bench, and a couple players, including Peter Mahovolich brandish their sticks at the soldiers, forcibly taking Eagleson back and bringing him onto the ice with them. It still seems so surreal, no matter how many times you watch this. They escort Eagleson to the Canadian bench, and he shakes his fist at the goal judge as the whistles, and boos from the Canadian fans rain down onto the ice. Such high drama, setting the stage for an amazing finish.
About 7 minutes left now, and you can see the Canadian energy is back. Ellis has a chance in front, but the puck rolls off his stick. Yakushev is out for the Soviets, prowling the Canadian zone, and if there's one player on the ice who could break the tie, it's Alexander Yakushev. Hull and Petrov are going off, Hull for high sticking, and Petrov for elbowing at 15:24.
The Canadians know a tie is not good enough, and with no overtime, this game has to be settled. Both sides are trying everything they can, but they're not giving an inch of room out there at either end. Yakushev tries to break in but Mahovolich goes low on him, sending the dangerous Soviet forward tumbling away. Not sure I agree with Brian Conacher that it was clean, Brad Marchand loved it, I hear.
The teams are back at full strength, 2:26 remaining. The line changes seem to take forever, but the officials aren't enforcing it, recognizing both teams are exhausted. Faceoff in the Canadian zone. Mahovolich tries to feed a streaking Cournoyer, but it's whistled down offside. Last minute now. The Soviets try to clear the zone but it's held in, and Cournoyer hits a streaking Henderson, but he falls as he tries to connect. Esposito gets a shot from the faceoff circle, and no one takes Henderson, who goes to the net, taking the rebound and putting it past a falling Tretiak. 34 seconds. That close to being an event we'd rather forget. They kill off the remaining seconds, and the Canadian fans count down the remaining seconds. From stumbling through the first 4 games at home, so many fans and definitely the media calling them out for their lack of success, to regrouping and winning 3 of 4 on Moscow ice to win the series.
Aftermath (Sean Z.)
>> First of all, a huge thank you to Joe Pelletier for putting together the website called 1972 Summit Series:A September To Remember. That site was referenced repeatedly. Nice work, Joe!
>>Canada was almost disqualified from the series in Game 8. (Globe and Mail)
>>The passion of John Ferguson Drove Canada in the Summit Series (CBC). Passion, like "HEY BOBBY! TAKEOUT KHARLAMOV'S ANKLE!"
>> If you watched the highlights video at the top of the article Henderson tells the story of how he called Mahovlich off the ice because he had a feeling he was going to score the winner. It's a story Henderson has told for 40 years.
"I felt I had to get on the ice," Henderson recalled recently. "A tie was no good, they were going to claim victory because they had scored more goals than we did. I really wish I had an answer, but I don't. I just felt I had to get out there, I felt I could score a goal."
Another story from Henderson (via Canucks.com):
When Henderson scored the winner, there were still 34 seconds left, as Kent mentioned above. All of the players flocked onto the ice to mug Paul in celebration. Even goalie Ken Dryden skated all the way across the ice to join the fray. But reality set in quickly for the Canadiens' legendary goaltender:
"I have no recollection except I do remember the celebration of it," Dryden said. "I remember clunking down the ice and being in that pile of celebration and then thinking, 'I've got to get hold of myself, there's still 34 seconds to go, get a grip."'
The final 34 seconds passed with no attack from the Soviets. I think they were stunned.
>> I have talked to several people who were old enough to watch this final game. Most of them were in school and as was the case across the country, most teachers brought radios or tv's into classrooms or gymnasiums so everybody could watch. It was a huge event that brought a country together. I wish I was alive at the time, but I still watch this series over and over again and I get that same patriotic feeling and chills every time I watch it. This is Canada. Henderson's goal is one of the biggest moments in our history, and we should forever be proud of it. More from Henderson:
"I think one of the things we don't do well as Canadians is celebrate a lot of times, but especially with hockey," Henderson said. "When Crosby scored, man, I was jumping up and down and so I understand what Canadians were doing when I scored."
>> Of course, much of the younger generation will say Sidney Crosby's golden goal was bigger. It wasn't. But, when I watch the golden goal and remember the jubilation I felt afterwards, I can now say I felt some of the same joy and ecstacy that Canadians felt on September 28, 1972.
>>The Canadian players did not understand the magnitude of the situation until their plane landed on Canadian soil. They were heroes. Henderson was a god. Not only did he score the Game 8 winning goal, he had scored the winning goal in the two previous games as well. Games that Canada HAD to win. He had his ups and downs with his new found popularity, which he describes in his book, Shooting For Glory.
For all of Henderson's heroics, the one player that stood out in every game of the Series for the Canadians was Phil Esposito. He led the tournament in scoring with 7 goals and 6 assists, followed by Alexander Yakushev who scored 7 goals and 4 assists. Henderson finished 3rd with 7 goals and 3 assists. I just thought Esposito and Yakushev were the most dominant throughout the series.
Today, Paul Henderson is 69 years old, battling cancer, and still has not been inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Sure, he wasn't a star at the NHL level, but he wasn't terrible either. And kicking ass in the Summit Series does count for something. Speaking publicly to kids and at other events for all these years accounts for something. What's it going to take, his passing to get him in there? What do you think?