To set the mood for the 1972 Summit Series, I will take you back to the Canadian prairies where I grew up. I had gotten married the year before and was in a small town, Eastend SK for a cousin’s wedding, on the night of the first game of the series. The discussion had been raging, but the consensus was that the NHL would make the Soviets look like the amateurs they claimed to be for Olympic purposes. The game started just before we went into the church and early on, my Dad, who had a transistor radio plugged into his ear, informed us that the Canadians had scored a couple of goals and we all nodded smugly that the Canadians, true to earlier predictions, were going win this easily. As you now know, by the time we came out of the church, the Soviets had turned things around and we were all puzzled as to what could have turned this upside down so quickly.
As the series progressed through Canada things didn’t get much better for the Canadians and we were all a little less confident of the eventual outcome. We were beginning to question Al Eagleson’s insistence that the newly formed WHA league defectees would not be allowed to play in this series. Canadian fans by now were sure that the NHL would have fared better with the help of the most famous WHA signing, Bobby Hull, who was not allowed to play for Canada.
As the series moved to the USSR, we were still feeling pretty shaky about the prospects despite Phil Esposito’s passionate comments in Vancouver.
By September 28th, I was back at my welding inspection job on a pipeline just east of Red Deer, AB. My new wife, who was about eight months pregnant had accompanied me and was in the motel in Red Deer. I had to get out to the job early each day, so my only opportunity to get the action live was to listen on my truck radio. On that day, I was waiting for a weld to be completed so I had time to just sit in the truck and listen. I remember it was shortly before lunch, Alberta time, when Henderson scored. I announced it to all of my co-workers who were out in the ditch working and there was much joy in Mudville at that moment. I got to watch the TV version of the Henderson goal that evening as all of the games were rebroadcast during prime time. My wife had our son a month and a half later and another son a year after the ’76 series and they both enjoyed their youth in the best minor hockey system in the world – didn’t we prove that in ’72?