Forty years ago I was a hockey-crazed nine year old boy with a worry. My heroes were playing this Russian team and things weren’t going so well. The Russians could play hockey almost as well as the Canadians and this had myself and the rest of the country up in arms. The last game of the historic series was crunch time, a real defining moment in Canadian sports. I remember being so relieved when Paul Henderson scored and Canada went on to win. It validated everything it meant to be a nine year old growing up in hockey-obsessed Canada in 1972.
Born and raised in Toronto, of course I worshiped the Toronto Maple Leafs, my favourite player being Dave Keon-the captain. Not only did I play hockey, but I watched it on TV, read about it in the newspaper and magazines of the day, collected trading cards with my buddies and encouraged my dad to drive the car more often. “Don’t you need gas yet, dad?” I would ask. This would mean a trip to the local Esso gas station and a chance to collect more of the prized Esso Power Players. This was a special set of smaller than usual cards issued by Esso that would fit into their special albums. My friends and I collected them with a passion, oohing and aahing when one of us would be lucky enough to get a hard to find player to complete the set. Today you would call us hockey geeks but back then it was just normal. We didn’t have as many options for fun then, in that pre-computer game era.
I recall my teacher at St. George’s Junior School in Etobicoke, Mrs. Comrie, letting us watch the last period of the game on that emotionally-charged day. She wheeled this huge TV into the classroom. It sat on a tall stand with wheels, always looking like it would fall over if you even just brushed up against it. The picture wasn’t great and of course it was black and white, regardless, we were thrilled just to be watching. Phil Esposito was a great star of the day, always finding a way to get the puck in the net. I was sad that his teammate Bobby orr wasn’t playing and I remember being awed by the Russian goaltender-Tretiak. When Paul Henderson scored it was pandemonium among the kids in my class, and the staff were smiling too. It was a great day to be a Canadian and a hockey fan.