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The 1972 super series between Canada an the Soviet Union was the first step in re-establishing a warmer relationship between the two countries. Some argue that the public cold war really started in Canada with the uncovering of a Soviet spy ring which had transferred stolen atomic information to the USSR. This series started off as a show down between east and west, between capitalism and communism. Which country or system actually produced the best results? This was also an event which put both countries pride and nationalist ardour on the betting table. Who was the best hockey country in the world?

The series was to be an 8 game contest with the first 4 games in Canada and the last 4 in the Soviet Union. The NHL put together a team composed of the best Canadian hockey players to play against the Soviet Red Army team which had won the gold medal in the Winter Olympics in which only armature status athletes were allowed to play and hence the exclusion of the NHL players.

Canada had stopped competing in the Olympics due to the restrictive nature of profession vs. amateur and it was widely felt in North America that the Soviet hockey players were of a much lower calibre then the Canadian players. The Soviets had trained hard all summer and the Canadians and been vacationing, during the off season and were relatively out f shape. Many of the players and people in Canada felt that it would still be a uneven contest and that Canada would win the series 8 - 0.

The games in Canada were to be played in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver while all four games in the Soviet Union were to be played in Moscow. The feelings of nationalism ran high in both Canada and the USSR.

Game 1 on September 2, in Montreal saw the Canadians jump out to a quick 2 - 0 lead. This led many to assume that pre-series predictions of an easy Canadian win were underway. The Soviets however, began to wear down the out of shape Canadians and came back with 4 goals. The final score was 7-3 and many Canadians felt that their pride in Canada's game was threatened. Many of the NHL players realized that they were out of shape compared to the Soviets and that opposition players such as Valeri Kharlamov, Alexander Yakushev and the outstanding goalie Vladislav Tretiak could easily play in the NHL and were great hockey players.



Game 2 in in Toronto brought out the best in the Canadians as they fought hard and came up with a 4 - 1 win. This however was not a sign of shifting momentum but just the result of hard work and opportunity. Many believed that team Canada was on it's way back.

Game 3 in Winnipeg saw the Canadians jump out to a couple of leads but slowly give up the play to the Soviets and the match ended in a 2 - 2 tie.

Game 4 was a pivotal game in that it brought to front a frustration over the widely expected superiority of the Canada's and the reality of close great hockey between these two nations best players.  Team Canada turned in a weak performance in Vancouver and after losing 5 -3 the Canadian fans booed the NHL players. Phil Esposito who was the leader of the team exploded and talked to the Canadian fans in a CBC interview at the end of the game in which he said

To the people across Canada, we tried, we gave it our best, and to the people that boo us, geez, I'm really, all of us guys are really disheartened and we're disillusioned, and we're disappointed at some of the people. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've gotten in our own buildings. If the Russians boo their players, the fans... Russians boo their players... Some of the Canadian fans—I'm not saying all of them, some of them booed us, then I'll come back and I'll apologize to each one of the Canadians, but I don't think they will. I'm really, really... I'm really disappointed. I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps, we know, we're trying like hell. I mean, we're doing the best we can, and they got a good team, and let's face facts. But it doesn't mean that we're not giving it our 150%, because we certainly are.

I mean, the more - everyone of us guys, 35 guys that came out and played for Team Canada. We did it because we love our country, and not for any other reason, no other reason. They can throw the money, uh, for the pension fund out the window. They can throw anything they want out the window. We came because we love Canada. And even though we play in the United States, and we earn money in the United States, Canada is still our home, and that's the only reason we come. And I don't think it's fair that we should be booed."

The Canadian team went on to Sweden to play two exhibition games over a two week period before reconvening in Moscow. Those two games were tough fought affairs and helped get the NHLers into much better shape.

Game 5 saw the departure of 3 players for various reasons and on September 22nd Team Canada once again led the game, this time by a 4 - 1 score but failed to hold the Soviets ff and lost the game 5 - 4. This brought about the departure of another important Canadian player, Gilbert Perreault. Team Canada was now down 3 - 1 in the 8 games series with only 3 games remaining. The Soviets had a death grip on hockey supremacy and were eager to finish off the faltering Canadian squad.

Game 6 brought out a much more aggressive team Canada and the German referee handed out 31 penalty minutes to Canada and only 4 to the Soviets. Bobby Clarke slashed Valeri Kharlomov's ankle which was meant as an intimidation tactic and it worked. The Canadians squeezed out a 3 -2 victory which just barely kept them in the series.

Games 7 was another hard fought affair with the USSR's Boris Mikhailov become entangled with Gary Bergman in which the Soviet kicked Bergman repeatedly which was outside even the rough and tumble Canadian game. Paul Henderson scored the winning goal late in the third period to give Canada a 4-3 win. The Canadians had come back but now all fell to game eight to see who would emerge as the champion of the hockey world.

Game 8 shut Canada down as a country that was doing anything besides watching the game. The team had come back form a 3 - 1 game deficit and disappointment in pre-series expectations aside, this was the game for the series. Canada could still come out on top. Schools had TV's brought into the classroom or kids into the auditorium where the game was broadcast. Businesses shut down as people searched for a TV or radio to follow the game on. Government, transportation, daily commerce and social activities all ground to a halt while Canada's pride and dignity was played out in front of he world.

Canada took several penalties from a German referee once again and the emotions began to boil over. The first period ended in a 2 - 2 tie but the Soviets outscored team Canada in the second period 3 - 1 and the score stood at 5 -3. The Canadian players thought long and team during the second intermission, as did the entire country and when the third period began they came out flying. Phil Esposito scored a goal and then the roadrunner Yvon Cournoyer scored to tie the game up. With the clock ticking down the Soviets informed the Canadian officials that f the series ended in a tie then goal differential would decide the series which meant that the Soviets would win.  

With only a minute remaining in the third period and the series, Paul Henderson called Pete Mahovlich off the ice and charged up ice with Cournoyer and Esposito to score a spectacular goal and give the team the game and the series. The team celebrated in joy and relief, the 3,000 Canadian fans at the game erupted and the entire country of Canada  exploded. Canada had one and Henderson's game became known in hockey and Canadian lore as simple the goal.