40 years later, hockey legends celebrate Summit Series
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2012 10:43PM EDT
Former hockey foes from Russia and Canada celebrated the historic eight-game Summit Series that forged lasting friendships 40 years ago.
Hockey greats from Canadian and Russian teams that played in the classic 1972 Summit Series gathered in St. Petersburg, Russia on Wednesday to reminisce over the match-up that pitted the best of both nations against each other.
Among those in attendance were Canadian hockey legends Mark Messier, Phil Esposito and Wayne Gretzky.
While Summit Series players were honoured at the event, some of those who played in the 1987 Canada Cup series faced-off in a friendly exhibition game.
The Summit Series were the first competition between the Soviet national team and the Canadian team. The first four games were held in different Canadian cities and the final four were held in Moscow.
The series, which many predicted Canada would easily win, went all the way to a nail-biting eighth game that Canada won with a goal scored by Paul Henderson with just 34 seconds remaining.
Henderson, who marked the anniversary at home, recalled the immense pressure the entire team felt heading into those final games.
"If we don't win the last three games, we're going to be known as losers for the rest of our lives. I mean people will remember this forever. We have got to win those last three games,” Henderson remembered thinking.
Luckily, Canada took the series and cemented its place as a hockey powerhouse.
Four decades later, Team Canada players say while the tensions between the two teams have certainly cooled, their admiration for the Russian players has not.
"I've always had a lot of respect for the Russians and the way they played the game. I’ve learned a lot from them as a child growing up and as a professional," said former Team Canada player Mark Messier.
Phil Esposito said he now finally understands what gave the Russian team its edge during the series.
“Those guys were young, young guys,” he said. “I was 30 years old.”
The two countries have played each other many times since 1972. The Canadian and Russian style of play remains remarkably similar, Wayne Gretzky said.
“We’ve learned from each other and the games are probably more similar today then they’ve ever been,” he said.
In Wednesday’s exhibition game, the Russians prevailed, winning the game seven to five -- though no one was really counting.
With a report by CTV’s Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis