It was supposed to be a "Summit Series," pitting two great international hockey programs. It was supposed to be all so grand – just like 1972. For those of you unaware, once long ago under the dark, violent suspicion of the Cold War, the United States fought to preserve freedom and democracy. Canada, for its part, fought to preserve its hockey supremacy. Hey, we dutifully partook in NORAD, so get off our backs.
Yup, it too was billed a Summit Series, and boy was it enthralling by all historical and eyewitness accounts. Winning will usually look on history positively. The usual clichés littered the hockey lexicon then: Us against them. Good versus evil. Good ole Canadian boys leaving their farms to crush the godless commies. And so on.
It was supposed to be a cakewalk back then. Instead, the world discovered that the Soviets were artistes and auteurs on the ice – only they spoke Russian, not French. They certainly freaked this country. The bastards could actually play? How dare they? It was so bad that the legendary Phil Esposito poured his broken emotions to a national audience following a game in which the Soviets spanked Team Canada.
Of course, we didn’t really have our absolute best. Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr? Who needed them? We were to send the Soviets back home in CCM hockey bags. Meh. At least Bobby Clarke delivered a proud two-handed slash that broke Valery Kharlamov’s ankle. You know, those important yet delicate and complicated bones that helped the Soviets to skate like eloquent phantoms. But hey, they were communists. Noted polluted producers of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushev, Drago, the Lada. Yeesh.
By the way, please do not be tempted into believing that this was the last summit series. There was one in 1974 and we lost that one. It was never to be spoken about again. Ever.