Parking Lot Memories

I distinctly recall listening to Game 8 on my car radio, while parked for a couple of hours in a shopping mall in Everett, Wash., where I was attending school at the time. The game was unavailable on local TV, and I remember being the only person around me in the parking lot who exalted in Canada’s historic and stunning triumph—
perhaps because most shoppers were oblivious that a hockey game of major international significance was going on at the time.

At any rate, I equate the NHL’s improbable 6-5, come-from-behind win over the Russians that day as the pinnacle moment in Canadian hockey history—much like most Americans point to their country’s signature hockey moment as the historic U.S. win over the same Soviet team in the 1980 Olympics, which ultimately led to a gold medal. I listened to that game, too, on radio, while living at the time, oddly enough, in Vernon, B.C.

There are plenty of other ironies involved in the two historic North American hockey wins. Both events began with low expectations—in Canada, because of the country’s feeling of invincibility when it came to international hockey, particularly with a team stacked with NHL all-stars; in the U.S., because its team of amateurs was a decided underdog against Russia’s hockey machine. Just as Canada believed it would steamroll the Russians in 1972, Americans believed its team would be steamrolled
eight years later.

While Canada didn’t dominate in its eight-game Summit Series, as most Canadians expected it would, it did manage to finally subdue the Russians four games to three, thanks to game-winning goals by Paul Henderson in the final three games of the competition on Russian soil. It was a real eye-opener for most who followed hockey, particularly Canadians, when Russia routed Canada in the first game of the series, played in Montreal, and went on to take what appeared to be an insurmountable 3-1-1 series lead, and it was equally unexpected at that juncture when Canada managed to turn potential embarrassment into the country’s ultimate sporting triumph by pulling out both the series and the final game in dramatic fashion—even for a lonely soul sitting in a parking lot.

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