The dark side of the series of the century

Pierre Plouffe is part of the folklore of the series of the century. However, he never put on the skates.

No need to look for Plouffe among the attackers who were the strike force of the Canadian team. Nor among the defenders or the guardians who formed the wall. He was also not on the list of substitutes.

His thing was rather water skiing, a passion that still drives him today, at 73 years old. He even reached the heights of this discipline by representing the country at the 1972 Olympic Games. A year earlier, he won the World Cup in Tahiti.

He even became a national team coach until 1989 and still runs the nautical center that bears his name at Lac Tremblant.

Despite his athletic exploits, however, nothing has ignited Pierre Plouffe as much as hockey. Inveterate maniac and friend of several players who made the Canadiens famous in the 1970s, it was unthinkable for him not to go and encourage Team Canada when it traveled to Moscow for the last four games of the series. 1972.

“I have always followed hockey assiduously. My parents were looking for tickets for this series and, since I knew several players, they asked me to get them some. I had told my parents that if I got them tickets, they were going to buy me one in return, ”says the eternal bon vivant.

Another world

This is how Plouffe, along with 3,000 other fervent Canadian supporters, found himself in Russia at the heart of the big event.

Armed with his bugle, it didn’t take him long to discover a completely different reality than at home when he proudly began to play the role of the wolf in the sheepfold.

“I saw pretty quickly that it was stirring. I had my Canadian flag tied to a hockey stick and started playing my trumpet in my hotel room. I was playing O Canada on the bugle while opening the window and the Russians didn’t like it. Let’s say I had a few cocktails in my nose. I didn’t know, but I was told afterwards that the sound of the bugle meant revolution in this country,” Plouffe explains. Joyful by nature, the latter did not intend to comply with the customs of the country.

“The people of Moscow were very taciturn. There was no good humor in their face. Someone who arrived there to celebrate, it was badly accepted. It was still the Iron Curtain. The only time a large group of people had slept there before us was Germans for an East German soccer match one night. There, 3000 Canadians landed for a while and it took them by surprise. They were on their guard,” he says.

From arena to prison

Despite the prevailing austerity, Pierre Plouffe persisted. During the games, in the bleachers, when his bugle sounded, he quickly managed to hide the instrument without too much difficulty. It was rather in the post-match festivities that events degenerated. After the Canadians’ victory in the second game in Moscow, the atmosphere quickly turned to celebration.

Plouffe, despite the strict ban on leaving his hotel, wanted to join the players, to drink in their company.

“With a few tips to the taxi drivers like gum or nylon stockings, everything worked out. You have to remember how these people were kept in total ignorance,” he recalls.

After a few drinks, the spirit of distrust manifested itself.

“Pete Mahovlich wanted me to get him a scotch and the woman at the bar told me it was closed. I got stubborn and slapped an empty champagne bottle which knocked some glasses off. A guy twice the size of me picked me up like a piece of paper. I started trying to push him and it didn’t work too well. They took me to jail. I still remember how in the interrogation room, I understood absolutely nothing! »

A good scare

If he laughs about it today, Plouffe got himself into trouble at the time. To the point where the local authorities sentenced him to five years in Siberia.

“They wanted to set an example for Canadians. They were tired of our festive mood and the noise we were making, ”says the man who ultimately spent three days behind bars, until the Canadian embassy managed to get him released. After watching the third game on Soviet soil on TV, Plouffe was able to find his place at the arena for the last match of the series… with a strict ban on demonstrations!

“Except that at the winning goal from Paul Henderson, I got up and they sat me down pretty quickly. They took me back to prison and there I found it less comic quite a bit. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t bawl. It was my mother who called the embassy. The intervention of the players then helped me get out.

“I learned afterwards that the Russians had even investigated whether it was true that I was an international athlete who had represented my country. A few hours later they came to pick me up and told me not to leave the hotel. They hadn’t left when I jumped into a taxi to go celebrate with the players,” laughs the indomitable drille.

lasting memories

Five decades later, Pierre Plouffe does not escape. He has now acquired the wisdom allowing him to recognize his faults.

“I have been lucky in life to participate in world championships and the Olympic Games. I attended several sporting events, including a few Super Bowls. There is nothing that will match what I experienced in Russia. My adventures made the trip more complex than I would have liked, but I learned. I never held it against the Russians for what happened to me. It was I who broke the rules of their country,” he concludes.

In this series of the century, Plouffe did not score any goals, but his vociferous support for the Canadian team certainly earned him an assist.

Unwavering Support from Canadian Fans

Exuberant Canadian team fans at the Moscow Sports Palace in September 1972.

Photo Getty Images

Exuberant Canadian team fans at the Moscow Sports Palace in September 1972.

After a bitter defeat in Vancouver in the fourth game of the series of the century, the players of the Canadian team feared to have lost the support of their compatriots. When 3000 supporters of the country joined them to support them in Moscow, doubts were quickly dispelled.

From the start of the first match in enemy territory, Canadian spectators proudly sang the national anthem for about fifteen minutes without dropping out.

Armed with that support, the Canadians built themselves a 3-0 and 4-1 lead before collapsing. Despite everything, the supporters repeated their support at the end of the game, shouting the O Canada when the team left the ice, trailing 3-1-1 in the series.

“The players felt supported and no one had the right to be lazy there,” exclaims Pierre Plouffe, when he looks back on the events.

Of love well felt

This mark of love, even if the hope of winning the series seemed minimal then, galvanized the players to then help them sign three consecutive triumphs.

Scene from downtown Moscow in September 1972.

Photo Getty Images

Scene from downtown Moscow in September 1972.

“It was depressing to be in Moscow in 1972,” recalls Phil Esposito.

“No one was allowed to go out anywhere, we couldn’t see anyone, or go to a restaurant. What really helped us was the amount of Canadian fans who came to support us there. The support was so noisy. We also received countless telegrams and posted them on the corridors leading to the locker room. The walls were covered. It was heartwarming,” he continues.

It was not to mention that all of Canada was at the same time riveted to the television to spy on the prowess of the team.

“In Russia, you couldn’t realize that everyone in the country was watching, that young people were missing out on school and people were stopping work. When we came back home, we understood. It’s incredible when you think about it,” smiles Yvan Cournoyer.


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