Norm MacDonald on The Summit Series
The 40th anniversary of "The Goal" is mere days away, and Norm MacDonald has tweeted his memories of the 1972 Summit Series. It's an amazing read.
Speaking of, it was said in 1972 that Canada was the best in two things: Hockey and Wheat.
The Soviets always won The Gold Medal, though, and Canada never did. You see, the Soviet Amatuers, all servicemen, were very good.
The Captains and Majors and Colonels found time in their busy schedule to practice their forechecking.
In 1972, they decided it was time to play the real Boys of Winter, and The Summit Series started.
Game one would be played in the House Richard built, The Montreal Forum. The Canadians were confident? No, they were cocky.
No less a broadcaster than the mighty Foster Hewitt, the man who first said "He shoots. He scores", is lured out of retirement to voice it.
Hewitt has as much trouble with the French-Canadian names as he does the Russians.His mangling of Cornouyer's name especially vexing to me.
I'd never seen a game from the Forum not called by Danny Galivan and Dick Irvine, but this was history and so was Foster Hewitt.
It is constructed as an 8 game series, with no overtime, and my friends and I are outraged. What if it's tied. That's not hockey!
The men on the ice in pregame looked odd, buzzcuts, workmanlike, without style, odd. I was only 8.I didn't know what CCCP meant.Still don't.
The puck is dropped and the real Cold War begins. NOW!!!!
3 hours later, eyes stinging, cheeks wet, nose running. Inconsolable. 7-3? Impossible. As stunned as Dryden must be, I thought.
In Toronto, things go well, the universe unfolding as it should as our Prime Minister was fond of saying. Canada wins 4-1. Series is even.
And after Maple Leaf Gardens, it is on to Winnipeg and my worst fear comes true. Hockey Anathema: A Tie. Series remains even.
We are all very disappointed. I read my hockey cards constantly and tell my friends not to worry. But I am worried. Very worried.
In Vancouver now, for the final game before we go to Russia. The crowd is booing my heroes. I can't believe it. Some are cheering the enemy.
Team Canada, now stripped of home-ice advantage by its very fans, loses another. Phil Esposito, the Boston Scoring Machine, lashes out.
And now my heroes land in Russia. None have ever been there.
They are put up in a decidedly shabby hotel and are surrounded at all times by an intimidating KGB presence. It shows the next day. We lose.
The old folks start saying The Russians are a better team, play a better style of hockey, old time, never unmoving. The kids disagree.
But scores don't lie. The Red Army leads 3 games to 1, with a loathed tie, and there are 3 to play on Commie Ice with Commie Refs.
Their names are household now in Canada. Kharlamov, Yakushev, Tretiak. Game 6 and we are very scared.
And then, in game 6, the old time hockey faces the new style when assistant coach John Ferguson, the first goon ever has a word with Bobby.
Bobby Clark, the toughest great player of all time, is told by Ferguson that Kharlamov's ankle looks sore and might need some attention.
Clarke, like a surgeon, slices both tendons and sends Kharlamov hobbling out of the game and back to military service.Who's intimidated now?
Canada prevails in a low-scoring game by this Series' standards with a 3-2 victory. The winning goal is scored by Paul Henderson.
The Red Army would play The Flyers years later, and they would remember Bobby Clarke. Bobby would remember Moscow, and Flin Flon, too.
We go to Game 7, and hopes of winning the series, are pretty much gone now. But we need this win or we have to start a Game 8 as losers. My friends and I agree. If we lose tonight, then Game 8 will see the ice of Moscow stained red with Russian blood.
We win 4-3. The winning score belongs to Paul Henderson. And now there is hope. The biggest fear for me is the fear that I had had since the start. A tie.
And now worse news comes. The Soviets, who had gone to great pains to make this thing an 8-game series with no overtimes, make a statement. The Soviets say there will be no tie after all. If this game ends in a tie they will claim victory, as they have scored more series' goals.
Oh, well, I'm sure it won't come to that.
Game 8. There will be no school in Canada today. A history class? Ridiculous. History instead. But there is school, I'm told in the morning. You can watch at home or at school. School with the older kids from grades 5, 6, and 7.
The gymnasium is packed. Blue mats are everywhere. The teachers are like children today. "We're gonna win", I say to anyone, "You'll see. Cournoyer will score the winner."
"Helluva time for Bobby Orr to be hurt", the Latin teacher says. "Goddamned Commies", says Mr. Rose.
The puck is dropped and all is silent. The entire first period is very tough to watch. But we get through it. Together. In the first intermission the gymnasium is alive with raw nerve. The young all say we will win for sure. The old men don't.
Mr. McCarthy has a new explanation for our upcoming national loss. It's the WHA's the real culprit. Team Canada with no Bobby Hull. Harrumph. The second period is like taking a punch in the gut from the school bully.
I go outside so the big kids won't see my tears. Mr. McCarthy, smoking a cigarette. "Don't worry kid, things don't work out a lot in life."
The unimaginable is 20 minutes away now, the gym is grim. But Esposito scores and we all go nuts and we're running in the gym now. Sitting cannot contain this.
And then the greatest moment in my life.
Yvan Cournoyer, my hero, scores and ties the game. Or does he. My elation pushes me into the arms of an old lady that taught me geography. Everyone is everywhere, cheering. And I replay the goal in my mind. And I see that something is missing. The red light.
And I see the little M climbing over the boards and into the crowd, we are all surrounding the TV on wheels now, Eagleson is there. The score counts. The game is tied.
THE SERIES IS TIED!!!!!!!! And still a half a frame to play. But no extra time.
That was the deal.
And now talk turns to the tie scenario. "A tie's a tie" says Jimmy, "and it don't matter what the Russians say." Maybe, they'll play overtime because nobody expected this, I say. I had expected it in the way of dread.
I'd rather The Russians score than it end up a tie, I said very quietly and to myself, and then felt very bad about having said it.
Two minutes left. The old man I don't know says we'll win the rematch and this time we'll have Hull, and Sanderson too. Trudeau will see to it. There's only a minute or so left now, but Cournoyer was on the ice and an small boy's hope has no bounds.
We're all on our feet now and Team Canada has it in enemy territory. Cournoyer has it. "Cournoyer is my guy" I yell. Everyone knows this.
Cold wars don't end in ties.
Cournoyer blasts a shot. Henderson has a chance to redirect it but falls and crashes into the boards behind the net. The puck gets past 2 Russian defensemen and finds the stick of Espo, who swats it toward the net. And now from nowhere is Henderson.
It's just Henderson and Tretiak now. Everyone else alive watches. I feel like I'm choking. Henderson, so close to the Russian netminder, shoots and is denied, but then the second. Henderson scores with 38 seconds left. The nation is in unbelief.
The old come to their feet. I go to the air. I'm still there.
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