The start of the eight-game 1972 Summit Series between Team Soviet Union and Team Canada quickly proved how harrowing this meeting would be for the teams and the countries and philosophies they represented.
Game Day. A sold-out Montreal Forum for the wildly anticipated first meeting ever of the best of the Canadian NHL players vs. the Soviet National Team. It’s the height of the Cold War and both sides are as full of suspicion as they are of intrigue about each other. We hear the CBC game call from the broadcast booth. Foster Hewitt, Brian Conacher and Bob Cole describe the opening ceremonies. Canadians are the heavy favourites to win, and as the game starts, the crowd goes wild. Phil Esposito scores 30 seconds in. Paul Henderson scores a few minutes later. Pandemonium. But wait: at the end of the second period, the Russians are up 4-2. They have been training all year around and are as disciplined as an army. The Canadians are out of shape and have badly underestimated their adversaries. They joked their way through training camp, and as the game slips away from them, there is shock and dismay. Hockey is supposed to be Canada’s game, but the home team has been outclassed by a team from behind the Iron Curtain. In what Canadian goaltender Ken Dryden calls the most transformative hockey series ever played, the eight game Summit is instantly transformed from a friendly exhibition contest to a proxy war for political ideology, national identity, and pride. Before a nation transfixed, everything is now on the line for Team Canada.