Super Series: Myth Debunked
The memorable date served as a reason for the leadership of the FHR to come up with an initiative to re-host a series of eight matches. Of course, so far only a touchstone has been thrown and it is still a long way to a positive solution of the issue, but there is no reason to once again recall “the affairs of bygone days” …
The agreement on the holding of the meetings was achieved quite easily, and in the summer the future rivals sat down to the training camp. Did you manage to collect the optimal formulations? Nearly. Anatoly Firsov was absent from the USSR national team, left overboard due to the fact that he very consistently supported the previous mentor Anatoly Tarasov. The Canadians missed Bobby Hull, who, tempted by the $ 1 million offered to him, left the NHL for a rival organization, the WHA. And defender Bobby Orr, who did not have time to recover due to injury, could not play yet.
In forecasts, the advantage, of course, was given to the pros. One Canadian journalist even promised to eat his article if the pioneers of hockey didn’t win the streak dry. To his credit, he fulfilled his promise by destroying his own creation, drinking cola.
But this only happened after the first match. The beginning of the debut meeting turned out to be worse for the representatives of the socialist camp. Only half a minute passed, when the powerful Phil Esposito pushed through the defense of the USSR national team and sent the puck into the goal of 20-year-old Vladislav Tretyak with finishing. Another six minutes – and the score was 2: 0. The audience was already smiling ironically. They didn’t know that the “Big Red Machine” was not going to surrender and was just starting to gain momentum. What happened afterwards came as a real shock to Canadians. They turned out to be completely unprepared for the pace proposed by the Soviet team, and the case ended in the defeat of the owners.
The result of the Canadian part of the series is two victories of the USSR national team, a draw and a defeat. A painful snap on the nose of professionals. The wounded leader of the Canadians, Phil Esposito, had to speak to the entire country on the radio, and in a confusing, repetitive, equally emotional speech, he promised to do everything possible to return from Moscow with honor.
Only the first meeting in the Luzhniki Palace of Sports put the hockey players of the Maple Leaf Country in the position of a cornered rat – in order to win the series, they had to win all three remaining fights.
One of the key moments was the sixth match of the series. In the second period, the assistant coach of the Canadians John Ferguson (he himself admitted this only years later) called Bobby Clark to him, pointed to Valery Kharlamov and said: “This guy should be turned off from the game.” There was no need to explain twice: in the very first shift, Bobby, taking the club with both hands, from the bottom of his heart smacked Valeria on the ankle. Kharlamov was still able to finish this meeting, but he missed the next one, and in the last one he looked like a pale shadow of himself.
The final fight is a real extravaganza. At first, the Soviet side declared that in case of a draw, it becomes the winner thanks to the best goal difference. Canadians shrug their shoulders – the latter figure is unknown to them – but they agree. Then the arguments about the judges begin – they agreed that everyone chooses one of the two.
Already during the game, the Soviet referee outside the goal does not turn on the red light when the guests throw a clean puck. The head of the Canadian delegation, Alan Eagleson, tries to break through to him, but falls into the hands of the police, and only the intervention of the Canadian players, led by Pete Mahovlich, allows him to fight off the boss.
Throughout the third period, the Canadians storm the Tretiak gates. One puck flies into the net, the other, but there is nothing left to play – a little over a minute. Here is the transfer to the “patch”, where Paul Henderson is located, but he does not reach it and, falling, slides on his back to the side. The Soviet defenders completely forget about him, and it is completely in vain – Henderson instantly jumps up, returns to his previous position, and Phil Esposito, who had the puck, instantly notices his partner …
… An instant later, Henderson was embraced by Iván Cournoyer, and Canada’s staff photographer Denis Broder (father of the famous goalkeeper) snapped the most famous photograph of his career.
The USSR national team lost (however, the Soviet sports authorities stubbornly avoided voicing the obvious fact, focusing on the best goal difference), but this is not the main thing. Say what you like, but the myth about the invincibility of Canadian professionals was really debunked, and an equal struggle in this series became a catalyst for the further development of contacts between Soviet and overseas hockey players.
Paul HENDERSON (Canada striker)
“Even after losing at home, we had no right to lose this series, because we had real Canadians behind us. Together with three thousand fans, we went through a real hell. I’m very glad that it was me who managed to score the decisive puck. I ride on it for all the following decades.”
Evgeny ZIMIN (forward of the USSR national team)
“We were received at the highest level. Each, in particular, was presented with a watch. Phil Esposito said that this is a very good watch. I asked what their advantage was. Phil replied:” Because they are free. The watch really turned out to be good. “
Phil ESPOSITO (Canada striker)
“We called one of the coaches of the USSR national team Kulagin Veselchak because he never smiled. He just shouted at the players, scolded them for their mistakes. Did he really think that after such psychological pressure they would play better? We were relaxed, that’s why we won “.