1972 Summit Series Game 8: Paul Henderson wins for Canada

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Star on September 29, 1972, following Canada’s 6-5 win in Moscow, and is part of Summit Series At 50 – celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic eight-game hockey series between the Soviet Union and Canada.

MOSCOW — « When I think about it, I’d say the fans made the difference, » Paul Henderson said last night as he sprawled in the Team Canada locker room and rested after the last and the greatest of his three nights of incredible heroism. at the Palace of Sports in Moscow.

The Canucks had won three successive games here and Henderson had provided the game-clinching goal on each occasion. Last night’s crucial shot gave Team Canada a 6-5 advantage in the final minute and an advantage over the Soviet Union in the premier hockey World Series.

« The way people back home supported us, well, we really couldn’t let them down, » he said, pointing to a hallway lined with telegrams and letters containing around 40,000 signatures sent here from Canada.

« And the people who came here for the games, they’ll never really know how much they’ve done for us. Every time we stopped on the ice or made a move, 3,000 of them shouted louder than 14,000 Russians. I am convinced that it was this kind of support that kept us going and finally got us through this. We felt compelled.

He had played so brilliantly throughout the first part of this competition that his lawyer, Al Eagleson, had the audacity to suggest a raise to Harold Ballard, who is president of the Toronto Maple Leafs and therefore, the Henderson’s employer.

Eagleson, as head of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, was more or less in charge of Team Canada, and Ballard was in Moscow as a spectator. Naturally, their paths crossed from time to time and one day in the lobby of the Intourist Hotel, Eagleson said he thought it would be a magnificent gesture from Ballard to renegotiate the Henderson contract they concluded in July.

« I wouldn’t even think about it, » Ballard said. « A deal is a deal. »

But that was before last night’s triumph, which came thanks to the deft touch that earned Henderson his seventh goal against the comrades. The victory, quite unexpected after the Sovietskies took a two-goal margin in the third period, sparked a wave of Canadian enthusiasm that was sure to infect Ballard.

Now Henderson is likely to get his raise, even if King Harold has to start selling Vic Hadfield dartboards to raise whatever money that might take.

Ron Ellis, Norm Ullman’s other winger with the Leafs, was almost as much of a revelation in this matchup with the Soviets. But his main purpose in being here ceased to exist after Valery Kharlamov was injured in Game 6 last Sunday night. He is the Soviets’ most dangerous attacker and Ellis was recruited specifically to hunt him down and reduce his effectiveness. Which he did with notable success, although Kharlamov picked up six points in the six matches he played – seven in fact, if you count last night’s brief appearances. But, by Kharlamov’s standards, a point per game is below-average production.

The enduring image of the historic Canada-USSR hockey series will be that of Al Eagleson in action. And let’s be clear on one thing: the Eagle has been running this thing since April, when the principle was agreed to by both nations and he pushed hard to see it through until everything is over at 10:30 a.m. night. Then, his face pale and thin with fatigue and tension, he allowed himself a huge sigh of satisfaction.

« There were criticisms and this win will be called into question I’m sure, but we finished first and the result is what matters, nothing else, » Eagleson said.

Just consider what Eagleson went through yesterday.

In the morning, he engaged in tough negotiations with shinny Soviet officials who were trying to inflict two terrible referees on Team Canada for last night’s final and deciding game. Eagleson knew that refereeing would be a hurdle players would have to overcome regardless of referees, but he also knew that his men had an extremely negative attitude towards Franz Baader, one of the men the Soviets insisted they wanted.

Baader’s presence, he feared, might have a conclusive psychological effect. He also thought it important to establish that the Canadians would not be pushed around. So he fought, threatened, reasoned and pleaded and finally emerged with an acceptable compromise – Josef Kompalla, the less obnoxious of the two West German referees, and the very capable Rudy Batja from Czechoslovakia.

At the rink, Eagleson was seated in the front row of the boxes, directly across from the Canadian bench. When Jean Paul Parise was disqualified in the first half, it was easy to see just about everyone there had lost control. A bench and chair flew across the ice, followed by floating towels. Eagleson sprinted around the rink and quickly restored order. Just over three minutes later, Phil Esposito scored the tying goal and the Canucks regained their focus.

Then, in the third period, the red light didn’t come on when Yvan Cournoyer scored Canada’s fifth goal. Batja and Kompalla signaled a score, but Eagleson didn’t notice and he jumped out of his seat, ready to charge to right that injustice. As he jumped, he knocked down two Moscow gendarmes who grabbed him.

Team Canada players came charging from all directions, grabbed Eagleson from the grip of the law and physically carried him across the ice to the team bench where he remained until that Henderson’s storybook goal entered, after which he joined the scene of the cheery crowd inside the Soviet Blue Line. .

The whole scene indicated how much teamwork Coach Harry Sinden had developed with this organization and also how much it had been Eagleson’s personal project.

He solved the first major dilemma that could have killed everything. It was in the spring when many National Hockey League owners said they would refuse to let their employees participate. Eagleson hatched a plan that prompted them to quickly grant their approval and even cooperation.

The players’ association, he said, would agree to give up a boost it was looking for in pension payments – around $80,000 per club. Instead, they would play against the Soviets, Swedes and Czechs for the pension fund. It was the language the NHL understood and the series was on.

There hasn’t been a day that Eagleson hasn’t been deeply involved in the work of Team Canada. He pushed himself to the point of exhaustion and the brink of a nervous breakdown, especially here in Moscow where he felt the brunt of the psychological obstruction of the Sovietskies.

« Even when we were losing, I felt it was worth seeing it happen, » Eagleson said. « Just think how much more strongly I feel that since it was over and we won. »

“If we started the series now, said Serge Savard, we would win all eight games.

He could be right too. The likes of Sinden and his assistant, John Ferguson, and Eagleson didn’t like to dwell on the matter when they lost two games and tied one of the games played in the first week of September. But privately, they got to see what they hadn’t realized before, that three weeks of preparation wasn’t enough to get even the NHL’s best players into proper condition for any competition with the tireless Ruskies.

The fact that Team Canada managed to sweep the last three games and especially to dominate the comrades in the third period last night would seem to certify this analysis.

Last week’s rigors in Moscow likely brought the members of Team Canada halfway through the season. Savard was probably exaggerating the case. The comrades still beat Team Canada from time to time, but not regularly.

However, they are awfully close to that level and it is abundantly clear: the Soviet national championships are as strong as the top clubs in the NHL and this exposure to professional opposition will show them the way to progress even better.

In other words, it can become extremely difficult to repeat the success of this month in the years to come.

Ironically, the Soviets are adopting professional habits that could eventually be their downfall. Their practices are softer now, apparently because the athletes refused to continue accepting coach Anatoly Tarasov’s iron-fisted methods, even though he was the individual who started the Soviet hockey school. and raised it to current heights. They also become more stylized and individualistic, things that Tarasov despised and eliminated. At the same time, the pros also think they have seen the light.

“We can never go back to our old ways,” says Gardens boss Harold Ballard, “not after what the Russians showed us.

“We beat them, but they had maneuvers and ideas that will be wonderful in our game. They are perfect for the fans. And any team can improve by adopting them and some of the training techniques used by the Russians.

Last spring, after the Soviets made Vsevolod Bobrov their national coach, Ballard tried to reunite with the fired Tarasov and bring him to Toronto as a guest coach.

He didn’t give up on such a plan, although Tarasov might not be the man. But he is absolutely convinced that the Soviets have something to show the big leaguers.

This is how the two great powers of hockey intersect, one learning from the other in a quest to surpass oneself.

That’s what it was all about, really. Although, as Harry Sinden said, « It’s a sweeter victory than any Stanley Cup victory could be. »

More Summit Series at 50:

Summit Series Game 7: Henderson strikes again, but a storm is brewing

Summit Series Game 6: Ken Dryden changes style, Canada finds new life in Moscow

Summit Series Game 5: Canada’s collapse in Moscow makes it clear that the Soviets are ‘the best team’

Summit Series Game 4: Canadians hit rock bottom against Soviets as boos rain down in Vancouver

Summit Series Game 3: The Canadians tie the Soviets, but there’s no doubt they’ve lost something too

Summit Series Game 2: Canada shows why it’s the star of the NHL Tonight Series vs. Soviets

Summit Series Game 1: Soviets embarrass Canadians at home — and show how the game should be played


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