We are a vast country, challenged by geographic, cultural and political differences.
But on Sept. 28, 1972, Team Canada and Paul Henderson pulled those together, a skate lace weaving eyelets from sea to sea, tightening the nation and turning disparity into a giant party.
In the last of Postmedia features on the Summit Series, here are 50 moments and memories from Game 8 in Moscow and its impact at home approaching Wednesday’s anniversary:
1. Game 8 had a bit of everything, including series’ organizer Alan Eagleson getting marched out of Luzhniki arena by soldiers and security when the Russians were slow to verify Phil Esposito’s 5-5 tying goal.
Peter Mahovlich and Canadian players hopped the boards to his rescue. The cop who’d grabbed Eagleson later became Chief of Police in Moscow and the two met on better terms many years later at a Moscow reunion.
2. Also in the crowd that night, 19-year-old future Russian president Vladimir Putin, who attended with his father.
3. Tom Wells, Ontario Education Minister of the day, ordered every available TV set in provincial schools to tune in Game 8.
“We’d thought about closing schools completely that day, but it would’ve been too hard,” the late Wells had told the Toronto Sun. “TVs were just being installed in every classroom as a learning aid and we thought this showed the kids the meaning of being patriotic.”
4. Eleven-year-old Wayne Gretzky was allowed to watch at home in Brantford, Ont., but many older students had already cut classes.
John Shannon, future Hockey Night In Canada exec, lobbied the principal of South Okanagan Secondary in Oliver, B.C., to let students follow the game. He happened to be Shannon’s Dad.
“I negotiated that at dinner the night before,” laughed Shannon. “For phys-ed class, we listened to Bob Cole on the radio someone brought to the window. And we were able to watch the third period in chemistry class.”
Future Leaf GM Gord Stellick skipped football practice at North York’s Georges Vanier – and was cut from his team.
5. Not only did Henderson score three game-winning goals, he was also poised to have five had Canada not blown leads in Games 3 and 5.
6. Henderson considered his Game 7 effort to be his greatest GWG, using the big ice to beat four foes and Vladislav Tretiak.
“I told my wife I’ll probably never score a bigger goal in my life,” he said, a prediction that lasted just 48 hours.
7. Henderson saved the country’s hockey pride – and at least one marriage.
He received a letter at Christmas of ’72, from a couple who were finalizing divorce during the last days of the series. The husband had dropped by the afternoon of Game 8 to formalize the annulment documents. Both became riveted by the game, and when they embraced after Henderson’s winner, love rekindled.
“I know if you’d not scored, my husband and I would have signed the papers,” the wife wrote Henderson. “He would’ve walked out and it would have been all over.”
8. Fears about Game 8 officiating, with the Russians insisting that referee Josef Kompalla be retained over Canada’s objection, were realized when the West German ref quickly put the visitors short on a 5-on-3. J.P. Parise threatened to club Kompalla during his noisy game misconduct exit, holding off at the last second as the zebra cowered.
But Team Canada believed Parise’s rant paid off, as did all the chairs and water bottles thrown his way from their bench. Kompalla and partner Franz Baader were too intimidated to call more than five minors after the first period against either side.
9. Amid pre-game tension of the officiating debate and everything else coming to a head in the series, the Canadian delegation was determined to gift a bulky Indigenous totem pole to the Russians they’d been carting around for days.
The uncooperative hosts were adamant no such ceremony would happen, but Eagleson decreed “they’ll have to take it or skate around it the whole game”. When no one was looking during a TV break, the Canadians took the pole to centre ice.
10. The Russian players were disappointed to have not received Stetson cowboy hats as pre-game gifts as promised at earlier stops in Western Canada. But in Game 8, the iconic white hats were exchanged, the Canadians playfully adjusting them on Russian heads.
11. Journalist Trent Frayne, who’d abstained from drinking after many years, succumbed to temptation as the wild Game 8 unfolded, leaving the press box as the third period began for a stand-up bar. But he didn’t get more than a sip before colleague Jim Coleman ran to tell him he was missing the fight between Rod Gilbert and Evgeny Mishakov.
12. Slovakian-born Stan Mikita didn’t get in a game, but coach Harry Sinden made him captain for ‘Game 9’, the exhibition Canada played in Prague on the way home, a 3-3 tie.
13. Labatts Brewery ran a ‘Best On Ice’ contest during the series, for write-in votes on Canada’s MVP. The winner was to get a 1973 Ford Mustang. Esposito held an early lead, until Henderson’s heroics in Games 7 and 8.
The final tally saw less than 1% difference between the two, so the sponsors gave each a car, awarded the first night Boston played in Toronto after the series. Henderson gave his to wife Eleanor, who drove it for years and passed it to daughter Heather, who soon after was rear-ended, making the Mustang a write off.
14. Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur’s father Denis was a photographer working the series in Moscow and shot Henderson’s Game 8 goal. Henderson later autographed one for Martin, signing it “Glad I didn’t have to score against you.”
15. Shakespeare never wrote a part for Henderson in King Lear.
But during a matinee of the Stratford Festival, lead actor William Hutt, put an anxious audience at ease when he announced; “Ladies and gentlemen, Canada has just beaten the Russians, 6-5.”
16. Canadian fans in Moscow, unable to get some familiar daily necessities, worked together through the trip, creating a shared headache, cold and flu pill supply for anyone ailing. And in the pre-Internet era, with no English-language papers, one of the Canadian media would read aloud daily newspaper and radio copy to keep up with team news and events back home.
17. In his meticulously researched 2012 opus on the series, ‘Stats, Lies and Videotape’, Richard J. Bendell pointed out 27 scoring revisions that should have been made for the 32 goals in Moscow. Yvan Cournoyer and Guy Lapointe stood to gain two points each, six Canadians a single, while four lost one.
18. During an off night in Moscow, Team Canada was invited to Moscow’s famous Bolshoi Ballet. At that time, it was hardly the macho event for a tough Canadian hockey player to be seen attending.
“Do we have to go?” Tony Esposito asked his brother.
“It’s okay, we can leave at halftime,” Phil assured.
19. Young Vancouver Canucks star Dale Tallon, yet to play in the series, took the Game 8 warmup in case the injured Bill White or Pat Stapleton couldn’t play. Tallon could’ve stayed on the bench as cheerleader, but thought he’d get too emotional and watched in the room. He followed the game monitoring crowd noise, sitting in Bobby Clarke’s stall with its lucky rabbit’s foot.
20. Valeri Kharlamov, who missed Game 7 after the deliberate Clarke slash of his ankle, was not expecting to play Game 8, but assistant coach Boris Kulagin urged him to dress because the Canadians were clearly afraid of him. He was held to a secondary assist without a shot on goal.
21. Spurred in part by Phil’s rant against fans in Vancouver after Game 4, telegrams and cards of support began arriving in Moscow along with Team Canada. Far from home, trailing the series and dealing with a lot of Soviet skullduggery, the messages became a source of inspiration, plastered on the walls around the dressing room at Luzhniki.
“The words were terrific,” goalie Ken Dryden said. “But what really got me was where they were from; Arnprior, Ont., Red Deer, Alta., Amherst, N.S. It was like ‘Holy man, this is from everywhere.’”
Stapleton kept one card from famed Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo.
22. In 1980 Park was sorting his home mail in Boston and found one of those postcards meant for Moscow, dated September ‘72, mailed from a residence in Ottawa.
“It was covered in stamps from all the places it had been in between,” laughed Park. “I don’t know if it was the Russian postal system at fault, or Canada’s or what. But on the back, it said: ‘We love you, we support you, now go kick their ass’.”
23. Henderson is still unable to explain his rogue move in the last minute of play, calling Peter Mahovlich off the ice well before Sinden’s planned line change.
“Frank Mahovlich was beside me and said ‘what are you doing?’,” Henderson recalled. “Can you imagine if the Russians had scored? I’d be in Siberia. It was definite risk-reward.”
24. Peter insisted he never heard Henderson.
“I was tired, we had a minute to go and knew if I went into the offensive zone, I wasn’t coming out. So, I went to the bench.”
Henderson flew into the play too fast, missing his first attempt on a Cournoyer pass. He fell in the boards and came out for a fat rebound of a Yuri Liapkin giveaway to Esposito. There were 34 seconds to play when he made it 6-5.
25. As Henderson ascended to legend at that moment, Lyapkin’s name went down among those charged with the costliest gaffes in sports history.
“My worst nightmare,” he said. “(From then on) everyone knew Henderson scored when Lyapkin gave up the puck.”
“I think God gave them that last goal,” Tretiak later declared. “I thought ‘it doesn’t happen like this’.”
26. Staff in the electronics departments of major Canadian department stores gave up trying to sell the TVs that people have clustered around and just watched Game 8 with them. Crime rates dropped across the country that afternoon. In Toronto, some bars dispensed free drinks, cabbies refused fares until the game ended then jammed the air with excitement. Some judges adjourned court.
27. Barb Lane and staff at a Barrie, Ont., hospital’s cardiac care unit worried what effect watching Game 8 would have, especially on postoperative patients. The supervising doctor eventually decided the stress of not knowing the result would be much worse and let them tune in.
“In those days, anything unusual with a person’s heart rhythm, beepers went off,” Lane said to author Sean Mitton. “So, every beeper in the unit went off after Henderson scored because heart rates went up so fast. But I don’t recall anyone having bad results from it.”
28. Truro, N.S., phone lineman Richard Galpin took girlfriend Leslie’s new transistor radio to work for Game 8, perching it precariously about 30 metres up so he could shout updates to his workmate at street level. When Henderson scored, an excited Galpin knocked the radio to the ground.
It died in a good cause,” said Leslie, who forgave Richard and became his bride.
29. On both coasts, small fishing boats moored alongside larger vessels with stronger radios that could pick up the broadcast. Stapleton recalled meeting an elderly Maritime fisherman who told him when Henderson scored, he fist-pumped so hard, his hand went right up through the top of the wheelhouse.
30. There were other collateral injuries, such as the Gander, Nfld., man who accidentally bit his tongue while jumping up and had the scar 40 years later. An overexcited auto mechanic knocked himself out walking into a steel beam and was unable to remember the goal.
31. Driving around suburban Detroit doing errands, Gordie Howe stopped off twice and somehow saw all 11 goals.
“Americans in the bar screamed right along with me when Henderson scored.”
32. In Georgetown, Ont., housewife Marilyn Mitton was listening to the game on the radio. She burned off nervous energy wandering her home, cleaning everything in sight. When Henderson scored, she sobbed, then ran out to talk to neighbours.
“She wasn’t even a hockey fan,” son Sean recalled. “The lady next door probably thought she was crazy.”
Mitton, Paul Patskou and Alexander Braverman have just written a new book on the series, ‘When Canada Shut Down’.
33. At the Balmy Beach Canoe Club in Toronto, members celebrated the win, then got to work on a giant ‘Welcome Home’ banner for White that would stretch all the way across his front lawn on Balsam Ave.
34. Don Cherry, coaching the AHL Rochester Americans, was running practice and getting Game 8 updates from a trainer who had a radio in the dressing room. His team then crowded the room for the third period and went wild when Henderson scored.
Cherry delighted at the sight of players with red, white and blue ‘Americans’ on their sweaters, jumping around to cheer for Canada.
35. After their father scored, Henderson’s two eldest daughters were besieged by well-wishing parents and kids who pursued them home from their Mississauga school. All three of his girls were being looked after at their house by Leaf teammate Darryl Sittler’s wife Wendy, who’d moved in while the Hendersons were away. The youngsters were overwhelmed as strangers came by and horns were honking.
“I was in Vancouver with the Leafs for an exhibition game and when I got back, people had put these great signs all over their lawn,” Darryl said.
36. Leaf owner Harold Ballard – never one to miss free publicity – ordered the Gardens’ switchboard to answer incoming calls with the greeting ‘Home of Paul Henderson’.
37. In 2010, Canadian businessman Mitchell Goldhar bought Henderson’s Game 8 sweater for about $1.2 million Cdn.
38. Alexander Yakushev’s take on the series was succinct.
“Everyone wanted to win. But the game of hockey was the winner in the end.”
39. At the post-series reception in Moscow, which most bitter Russians avoided, Tretiak irked Henderson by saying how lucky he had been to score that night. Yet the two eventually became great friends and today, their grandsons are in regular communication.
40. The crackle of Foster Hewitt’s ‘Henderson has scored for Canada!’ will always resonate.
“That goal is still the measuring stick for a hockey broadcast,” Shannon said in 2012. “You can compare Lemieux’s (Canada Cup) goal in 1987 to Crosby in the Vancouver Olympics, but everything comes back to Henderson.
“Our business hasn’t really changed, but the ability to tell a story through pictures, words and emotions was conveyed better in that game than anything today. Foster probably couldn’t get a job if he were around now, but the simplicity of that call will always be remembered.”
41. The scene in the Team Canada dressing room after the game differed greatly from what was going on in the stands at Luzhniki and at home.
“Everybody was just done, exhausted,” Henderson said. “We had some beers. We just looked across the room at each other. It was sort of bizarre. I didn’t take my skates off for 25 minutes.”
42. Henderson and linemate Ron Ellis reminded each other of Paul’s comment after his dramatic Game 7 goal.
“I’d told Ronnie ‘you’re gonna score the next one (Game 8). I’ve had enough.”
Henderson wound up leaving Ellis on the bench to win the series.
“I told Ron I was sorry, but I couldn’t wait for him any longer.”
43. Coca-Cola, which was impossible to get for fans and players in Moscow, suddenly appeared at a post-Game 8 hotel party, courtesy of New Brunswick fan Dave Cadogan. He’d secured the drinks from a U.S. Marine at the American Embassy he’d befriended.
44. Stapleton retrieved the game-winning puck and being the mischievous sort, teased players and fans alike of its whereabouts until his death in 2020. As a plain black disc with no series logo, it would be difficult to verify authenticity, but his surviving teammates hope it’s located and goes into the Hall.
45. Not widely recognized outside of Toronto before ’72, Henderson found himself uncomfortable with the adulation in the years immediately following the series.
“I didn’t handle the attention of the goal very well at the time,” he told the Sun, noting that playing for the Leafs at the time increased the pressure.
He developed an ulcer and crossed over to the World Hockey Association Toronto Toros, but eventually found peace as a born-again Christian, a minister and a motivational speaker.
“I use the fame in the most positive way possible. The goal gave me a chance to be a half-decent role model. I’ve had kids who weren’t even born when I scored ask me for autographs for their dads. It’s just amazing after all this time. It has been a nice ride.”
46. Those in the VIP receiving line when Team Canada flew back to Montreal can still recall the shocked look of assistant coach John Ferguson when Serge Savard pranked him.
Ferguson came off the plane holding a stick signed by all players and staff that he’d carefully shepherded through aggressive Russian customs and the long trip home, a souvenir for his son, John Jr. But Savard, with whom Ferguson had an enduring practical joke war, was just ahead of him as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau greeted each man.
“Oh here Mr. Trudeau, Fergy has a special stick for you,” volunteered Savard. Trudeau gratefully took it and moved on, leaving Fergie flummoxed.
“Serge and my Dad had some great back-and-forth in their day, but Dad never topped that one,” Ferguson Jr. said.
Trudeau later read of Savard’s joke and quickly returned the stick to Ferguson.
47. In 2008, Henderson was once in the surreal position of watching himself win Game 8 in an out-of-body big screen experience.
At the Hockey Hall of Fame theatre for the premier of a CBC drama about the series, he saw David Miller, a former junior player from Miramichi, N.B., portray him 36 years earlier. Henderson tensed up near the end, as if not knowing Canada would pull out the win.
“I found myself getting emotional a few times. In the scene in Vancouver (after Canada fell behind in the series), I could feel myself sliding down in my seat, then saying ‘it’s a movie Paul, relax’.”
48. Henderson still feels compelled to correct perceived slights against the former Soviets for the way they were dismissed by Canadian players and media before the series.
“We totally underestimated you,” he told Yakushev in a 50th-anniversary Zoom call. “Every one of you guys were so talented. What drove us crazy, you never seemed to be out of place and you never seemed to be tired.
“We hated you, but we shouldn’t have. We should have hated your system.”
49. To this day Henderson insists he’s not angry with being excluded from the Hall of Fame, despite legions of fans urging he be enshrined. He can see the Hall’s case of comparing his hot streak in an eight-game series to the star-studded careers of its residents, such as Yakushev and Tretiak.
“If they ever put me in, that’s when people will forget about me,” he joked.
50. Singer Jerry Dallas penned The Ballad Of Team Canada after Game 8, which began “We’ll just shoot the puck/We won’t even need luck.”
It then saluted the Soviets – “They came likes the waves of an ocean/Like a storm on Siberia’s plain/We’re caught by surprise, can’t believe our own eyes/The Russians are stealing our game” and ended with “By God we’ve got Paul/And we won it all/And we gave those Ruskies hell.”