Where were you in ’72?
Most Canadians old enough to remember the 1972 Summit Series can recall exactly where they were when Paul Henderson scored The Goal for Team Canada.
Millions of Canadians were glued to television sets in their schools, offices, bars and homes to watch pivotal Game 8 in Moscow on Sept. 28, 1972.
I was a Grade 6 student at Greendale Elementary School in Pierrefonds and I can remember every game of that series, the players, the coaches, even that lousy pro-Soviet ref Josef Kampala.
Nothing before or since has rivaled that sports event for sheer emotion or excitement.
When Phil Esposito scored in the opening minute of Game 1, my father turned to me and said, “See, we’re going to kill them. We’re pros and they’re amateurs.”
Canada made it 2-0 before the amazingly-fit Soviets began to come on in waves.
The stone-faced visitors with the shabby-looking equipment went on to humiliate Team Canada 7-3 in the opener at the old Forum.
I also remember Bobby Clarke’s vicious slash that broke Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle in Game 6.
My pugilistic views on hockey violence have evolved considerably over the past 40 years, but at that time I was ready to excuse Clarke, even pat him on the back.
That’s how badly I wanted our guys to win that series. As Phil Esposito later said, it was war and we would’ve killed to win.
I disliked the Big, Bad Bruins back then – the great Bobby Orr an exception – but I loved Esposito after that series because of how he took the Canadian team by the throat.
Who can forget Espo’s post-game rant following a dispiriting Game 4 loss in Vancouver after Team Canada was booed off the ice by the home crowd?
Espo didn’t just rally his teammates with that heartfelt speech; he rallied a country behind him.
My teachers at Greendale were nice enough to allow the students to watch Game 7 on TV monitors – if…um…we behaved ourselves.
However, pandemonium erupted when Henderson scored the winner late in the third period to tie the series. Whole classes of Grade 5 and 6 students went berserk and ran down the hallways screaming. Teachers tried to restore calm and order, but they were clearly overmatched by euphoric kids jacked up on patriotism.
The next day we got the bad news from the principal, ‘Because of the uncontrollable behavior of the students at the conclusion of Game 7, Game 8 will not be shown at the school.’
I was madder than hell.
How could they deny us a chance to witness a great moment in Canadian history?
You mean the teachers drag us up to Upper Canada Village on annual class field trips to see how the pioneers used to make, sorry, mill flour, but they won’t let us see the final game of this epic series?
As class president I demanded a vote and waved the red Maple Leaf, but the teachers wouldn’t budge.
So I took my peewee protest home to my parents and pleaded for divine intervention.
And as it just so happened, for the only time in my life my mother penned a note to my teacher saying. ‘John was absent from school as he stayed home to watch the hockey game.”
Talk about a classic Molson Canadian moment.
Now understand, it wasn’t hooky, it was hockey. It was our Iwo Jima on ice.
So I cheered Paul Henderson’s winner from the comfort of our home at 4327 Juneau St., along with my mother, my older brother Jim and his friend Tom O’Shaughnessy.
I nearly cried when Henderson scored and I remember thinking, I’m so glad I’m not at school right now.
I later found out that the teachers caved and showed Game 8 after all.
Guess they finally came to their senses, or maybe half the teachers threatened to call in sick?
Do you remember where you watched Game 8?