"Commie Reds" Puck Off

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Over the course of persons life, many historic world events can be recalled just by remembering what a person had been doing.

Do you remember where you were when man first landed then walked on the moon? Or when President Kennedy was assassinated? How about the many recollections as to what people had been busy doing that Tuesday morning on Sept. 11, 2001?

Dozens of memories frozen in the mind easily thawed in a split second, never to be forgotten.

As a 12-year old boy attending Lawrence Heights Junior High School in Toronto on what would be a historic monumental day for my country, Canada. September 28, 1972, would be a day that I know I could never forget.

Nor would I want to.

Game eight, the final game of the historic Summit Series would be played today in Russia and Canada would come to a complete stop this afternoon. People took the day off work, employers let employees leave early, and for the few who had to work, a television or radio was very close by.

All accross Canada students filled gymnasiums and auditoriums, big televisions on high stands would be wheeled in while students and staff both waited anxiously for the  game to start. It was unforgettable, the energy and excitement that was in the air that beautiful fall day.

At Lawrence Heights, most the students would assemble in our gym, sitting legs crossed on the newly waxed hardwood floor, they’re heads tilted upwards at the televisions, they’re hands clapping and they’re voices all cheering  for Team Canada.

I was lucky enough to be able to watch the game in a classroom at the other end of the school where one of my teachers had brought in a smaller portable black and white TV from home. A dozen or so students, myself included, preferring to witness history in a more confined, less hysterical atmosphere.

The Summit Series would mean more to Canada than any other sporting event prior to and since that September in 1972. With the Soviets continually dominating international hockey it was their "commie" given right to believe that they were the supreme hockey nation. 

And who would argue?

But there was a nation that did take exception to the Soviets claim. It would be the country where hockey had been born, where hockey was more than a sport, hockey was religion, Canada.

Now the world or at least the two largest countries by land mass would find out once and for all who would have bragging rights for hockey supremacy, Canada or the Soviet Union.

The series had started with much fan fare twenty seven days earlier when the Soviets faced off against the mighty overly confident Team Canada squad at the Montreal Forum. Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had dropped the puck for the ceremonial face off and within thirty seconds Canada was up 1-0.

Canada would score again quickly. It seemed laughable that these Russians would be able to compete with our professional players who had heeded their country’s call of duty to battle this unknown cold war enemy.

The Russians would come back and win the first game 7-3 and Canada was in a state of shock. The following three games would also be played on Canada ice and by the time game four had ended in Vancouver on Sept. 8, Canada was actually trailing in games 2-1 with one tie prompting the now famous post game television dialogue with Phil Esposito in front of an angry, pissed off nation.

In Russia, Team Canada was the victim of many uncontrollable circumstances. From bad food, late night crank phone calls to player’s rooms, bad refereeing and the utmost sin, stealing Team Canada’s Canadian beer. It just seemed Canada was up against insurmountable odds and heading into today’s finale Canada needed a win.

Canada must win.

A win and Canada would win the series and for at least a few years claim title to worldwide hockey supremacy. Lose and it would be an embarrassment for the players, the coaches and the Country that had expected so much more from them.

I could only imagine the pressure Team Canada felt heading into the final game.

There would be 60 minutes of hockey left to play and going into the final minute after the previous 59 minutes had been nothing but nail biting, edge of your seat excitement the score was tied 5-5. The tension, sweaty palms and stomach knots were almost too unbearable and with just thirty-four seconds left to play it happened.

Paul Henderson scored the winner on a rebound and Canada rebounded from embarrassment and disappointment to all out cross country jubilation, sending me screaming, running down my school corridor like I had just won the lottery, to my gymnasium, which mirrored the rest of the country that afternoon.

Canada was delirious, finally claiming back the title as the best hockey country on the planet.  It was like nothing this country has ever seen before and probably never will again.

Paul Henderson had scored what most hockey fans who witnessed the game to this day label as the greatest goal in Canadian hockey history. Although many great goals have been scored since and I am positive many more will follow I would have to agree.

Paul Henderson’s goal sent Canada into a coast to coast celebration on the exact same day that all of Canada had stood still. It truly was an amazing game, an amazing series and an amazing memory.

Teams from Canada would go onto win many more International events from Canada Cups, World Juniors to Olympic Gold. Canada dominates the world hockey scene in both men`s and woman`s events, from juniors to the pros Canada is always the team to beat.

Hockey Canada`s Program for Hockey Excellence will make sure the future is bright for future generations to come.

For me that future began when Paul Henderson scored with thirty-four seconds left in game eight of the greatest hockey series ever played. What a great day for hockey and for Canada.

What a great day for me.

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