The 1972 Summit Series (in French, La Série du siècle, as it eventually came to be known) was the first competition between Soviet and Canadian professional ice hockey players (amateurs banned from the Olympics, although professional Soviet hockey players were amateurs by strict definition only). The eight-game series consisted of four games in Canada, held in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, and four games in the Soviet Union, all of them held in Moscow. The Cold War background of this series was not insignificant, and added to the intense feelings aroused by it.
Canada's Bobby Orr, the most dominant player of the day, was made part of the team but did not play because of a knee injury that eventually ended his career.
In the first game, held in Montreal on September 2, Phil Esposito scored for Canada after just 30 seconds of play. Canada took a two-goal lead six minutes in, and victory seemed assured. But the Soviets came back, tying the score before the end of the first period. In the second period, Valery Kharlamov scored twice, giving the Soviets a two-goal lead. Bobby Clarke scored to bring Canada within one, but the Soviets pulled away with three more goals in the third and won 7-3.
Canada came back strong in the second game, winning 4-1, and then let the lead slip away in game 3, for a 4-4 tie. But Canada played poorly in game 4 in Vancouver, losing 5-3, and the crowd of 15,570 fans echoed the rest of Canada's sentiments as they routinely booed Team Canada. At the end of the game, Team Canada was booed off the ice, which led to Phil Esposito's famous emotional outburst on national television:
- "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've 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."
This lit a fire under Team Canada and the whole country. After a two-week hiatus, Team Canada went to the Soviet Union for games 5-8 as a team, accompanied by 3,000 proud Canadian fans. On September 22, Canada lost game 5 in Moscow, 5-4 and faced desperation in that they were down by two games with only three games to go in the series.
Game 6 saw Canada win 3-2, and also saw the most controversial play of the entire series. In the second period, Bobby Clarke deliberately slashed Valery Kharlamov's ankle in an attempt to injure him. Although he played the rest of the game, he missed game 7 and was ineffectual in game 8. Canada won game 7 by the score of 4-3, and forced a deciding game 8.
Entering game 8, each team had three wins, three losses and one tie, but the Soviets were ahead on goal differential, so Canada had to win in order to win the series. The country just about shut down for the game on September 28, with many watching it at work or school. The score was 2-2 after the first period, but the Soviets pulled ahead 5-3 after two. Phil Esposito and Yvan Cournoyer scored to even it up in the third.
Then with 34 seconds remaining in the game, Paul Henderson, in perhaps the most famous moment in modern Canadian history, scored for Canada, jamming in a rebound behind Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. Canada held on for the win in the game and the series, and the entire country erupted in celebration. The Soviets had given Canada a scare and a run for its money, but Canada had prevailed in the end. This score has been described as "the goal that everyone remembers" by the Canadian rockers The Tragically Hip in their song "Fireworks" from their album Phantom Power. The song describes the national eruption of celebration over the goal, contrasted to the reserved indifferent reaction of his lover.
In addition to the eight games against the Soviets, the Canadians also played exhibition games against Sweden and Czechoslovakia. The games against Sweden took place on September 16 and September 17 at the Hovet. Canada won the first game and tied the second.The game against Czechoslovakia took place on September 29 at the T-Mobile Arena. The only game ended in a tie.
The success of the 1972 Summit Series would lead to the development of the Canada Cup hockey championships.
As time passed, the significance of the series grew in the public consciousness, and the term "Summit Series" became its unofficial accepted name. In Canada today, the Summit Series remains a source of much national pride, and is seen by many as a landmark event in Canadian cultural history.
Phil Esposito, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Bobby Clarke, Gilbert Perreault, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Yvan Cournoyer, Paul Henderson, Ron Ellis, Bill Goldsworthy, Gary Bergman, Bill White, Stan Mikita, Wayne Cashman, Rod Seiling, Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle, Dale Tallon, Jocelyn Guevremont, Marcel Dionne, Brian Glennie, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden, Richard Martin, Jean Paul Parise, Pat Stapleton, Don Awrey, Red Berenson, Rod Gilbert, Dennis Hull, Ed Johnston, Mickey Redmond.
Valery Vasiliev, Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Yuri Blinov, Valery Kharlamov, Alexander Yakushev, Viktor Zinger, Alexander Ragulin, Viktor Kuzkin, Evgeny Zimin, Vyacheslav Starshinov, Vladimir Vikulov, Yevgeny Mishakov, Vladimir Lutchenko, Gennadiy Tsygankov, Yuri Liapkin, Alexander Maltsev, Vladimir Shadrin, Alexander Sidelnikov, Vladislav Tretiak, Yuri Shatalov, Yuri Lebedev, Alexander Gusev, Alexander Volchkov, Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Bodunov, Vitaly Davydov, Alexander Martyniuk, Evgeny Paladiev, Alexander Pashkov, Viacheslav Solodukhin.
- 1974 Summit Series
- Canadian national men's hockey team
- Soviet national ice hockey team
- International Ice Hockey Federation
- National Hockey League
- World Cup of Hockey
- World Professional Hockey Championships
- Ice Hockey World Championships