After all the opening spectacle died down, all the commemorative pennants were handed out, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dropped the puck and the national anthems were sung, hockey fans throughout Canada (and the Western world) were expecting Team Canada, a collective NHL all-star team boasting the likes of Phil Esposito, Frank Mahovlich and Ken Dryden, to put a drubbing on the Soviet team, made up of unheard “amateur” players who played hockey only as part of their army or police service. This was to be an easy sweep for Team Canada, to show the world once and for all who truly owns the game.
Oh, how wrong Canada was. The Soviets were for real, and they proved it with a drubbing of their own, to take Game 1 of the Summit Series, along with the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
Game 1 started out swimmingly for Team Canada, as was expected – Phil Esposito batted a flying puck out of the air past Vladislav Tretyak only 30 seconds in to the first period, and by the ten minute mark Canada had pulled ahead 2-0 on a Paul Henderson goal. But even with the score as it was, it was obvious that the Soviets were having no problem outskating, outchecking and outright outplaying Team Canada, and on two quick goals from Yevgeni Zemin, and a shorthanded 2-on-1 breakaway goal from Vladimir Petrov, the Red Army pulled even at 2-2 after twenty minutes. The second period only made things worse for Team Canada, as Tretyak shook off the two early goals to play sharp, and Canada’s physical style was proving fruitless against the smooth, speedy Soviets. and two second period goals from Valeri Kharlamov had the Soviets up 4-2 after forty minutes.
Canadian coach Harry Sinden changed his lines and strategy for the third period, which initially seemed to pay dividends when Bobby Clarke netted a goal midway through the third to make the score 4-3. And while it seemed Canada would equalize on an Yvan Cournoyer tally, the shot hit the post, and the ensuing rush from the Soviets resulted in a Boris Mikhailov to put the USSR back on top 5-3. As Canadian goalie Ken Dryden would later explain it, Canada went into “panic mode” from there, scrambling at chances that weren’t there, and leaving the Soviets wide open to pounce. Zimin netted his second of the game with just over five minutes remaining, and Alexander Yakushev put the final nail in the coffin with 90 seconds to go.
The hockey world was nothing short of stunned – viewers in North America watched in horror as the NHL’s elite were shredded to bits by so-called “amateurs,” with Canadian players, coaches and experts unable to explain what had just happened. with the Montréal Sunday Express’ front page the next day simply proclaiming “WE LOST.” Meanwhile, viewers in the USSR celebrated through the night over the victory, as while they may not have been surprised that their national heroes could dispatch of Team Canada, they perhaps did not expect such an easy victory.
Due to Canada’s refusal to play in any international games over disagreements with the IIHF over the use of professional players, Canada entered the Summit Series as IHLC champions, a title they won in January 1970, but did not end up defending for two and a half years. The Soviet victory in Game 1 won the IHLC for the USSR for the 12th time, their first reign since the 1969 World Championships in Stockholm. The USSR would go on to lose the IHLC back to Canada in Game 2, and the IHLC would change hands a total of four times throughout the series.
00:30 – GOAL – P. Esposito (F. Mahovlich, Bergman)
01:03 – PEN – Henderson, tripping
06:32 – GOAL – Henderson (Clarke)
07:04 – PEN – Yakushev, tripping
11:40 – GOAL – Zimin (Yakushev, Shadrin)
15:11 – PEN – Mikhailov, tripping
17:19 – PEN – Ragulin, tripping
17:28 – SH GOAL – Petrov (Mikhailov)
22:40 – GOAL – Kharlamov (Maltsev)
25:16 – PEN – Clarke, slashing
30:38 – GOAL – Kharlamov (Maltsev)
32:53 – PEN – Lapointe, slashing
48:22 – GOAL – Clarke (Ellis, Henderson)
53:32 – GOAL – Mikhailov (Blinov)
54:29 – GOAL – Zimin
54:45 – PEN – Kharlamov, high sticking
58:37 – GOAL – Yakushev (Shadrin)
59:41 – PEN – Lapointe, cross checking
W: Tretyak (29-32)
L: Dryden (23-30)
SHOTS ON GOAL
10+10+10 = 30
10+10+12 = 32
Goaltenders: Vladislav Tretyak, Viktor Zinger. Defence: Alexander Gusev, Viktor Kuzkin, Vladimir Lutchenko, Yuri Lyapkin, Yevgeni Paladiev, Alexander Ragulin, Gennadi Tsygankov. Forwards: Yuri Blinov, Valeri Kharlamov, Alexander Maltsev, Boris Mikhailov (C), Yevgeni Mishakov, Vladimir Petrov, Vladimir Shadrin, Vladimir Vikulov, Alexander Yakushev, Yevgeni Zimin.
Goaltenders: Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito. Defence: Don Awrey, Gary Bergman, Guy Lapointe, Brad Park, Rod Seiling. Forwards: Red Berenson, Bobby Clarke, Yvan Cournoyer, Ron Ellis, Phil Esposito (A), Rod Gilbert, Vic Hadfield, Paul Henderson, Frank Mahovlich (A), Peter Mahovlich, Jean Ratelle (A), Mickey Redmond.
Photo Credit: Team Canada 1972: The Official 40th Anniversary Celebration – IIHF – HHOF – IOC