It was 44 years ago this month that Canadian hockey fans got the shock of our lives when the best NHL-ers from this country squared off in an eight game series against the dreaded Soviets with names like Yakuchev, Kharlamov and Tretiak.
Even though it took place at a time of year when our players weren’t in peak condition, hardly anyone expected that it would be a contest. The 1972 Summit Series proved to be a defining moment for the entire Boomer generation.
Gary Bettman was obviously trying to recapture some of that magic with his World Cup of Hockey. Is it just me, or has it been just plain ‘boring’?
The format doesn’t particularly lend itself to the drama we saw in 72. Why is there a Team Canada and a Team North America, and why the ‘under 23’ segment? Were they trying to mimic the World Juniors? Perhaps, but whatever it was, the ‘urgency’ to watch has just not been there for a lot of hockey fans.
So much has changed. In 1972 you pretty much had to play hooky from school or work when the last four games were played in Moscow because we didn’t have the Betamax, let alone the PVR. And watching a hockey game on your smart phone? Right.
Also, 1972 was the height of the Cold War, and watching hockey players who came from the other side of the ‘Iron Curtain’ was sort of exotic. Were they really Russian soldiers, possibly spies, or was that just propaganda.
Gary Bettman obviously hopes that his ‘World Cup’ will nicely replace the need to send NHL players to the Olympics in Korea two years from now. His American owners especially are not keen to shut down the league schedule in February. Insurance and travel are hugely expensive, and the billionaires who own those teams won’t get a ‘return on investment’.
It was a lot easier in 1972. Nobody even minded when Bobby Clarke deliberately took out Kharlamov with a swing of his stick that broke his ankle. And we didn’t even know that Alan Eagleson was nothing but a thief in a fancy suit.
I’m Roger Currie