It was supposed to be a cake walk for Canada. The Soviet amateurs would
be crushed by Canada's top professionals. Oh, we'll show them just how
good Canadian hockey really is. Sure, they could beat our amateur teams
that were made up of mill workers and car salesmen, but this was going to
was going according to the script when Canada scored on the first scoring
chance of the game just 30 seconds into the action. Phil Esposito, who
seconds earlier enthusiastically won the ceremonial faceoff, potted a
Frank Mahovlich rebound past a flopping Russian goalie named Vladislav
By the 6:32 mark Canada upped the score to 2-0 when Paul Henderson
wired a hard, but seemingly harmless shot to Tretiak's far side. Tretiak
looked awkward as he feebly attempted to knock down the puck.
The predicted rout was on. The party was on.
"When I got on the ice," remembered Rod Gilbert in Scott Morrison's
excellent book The Days Canada Stood Still, "it was already 2-0.
Before I played my first shift it was 2-0, so I'm sitting on the bench
saying, 'Let me on. Let me score my goals.' I figured it was going to be
15, 17-0, and I wanted to score a few goals."
Gilbert's thoughts at that point were the common thoughts of almost
every Canadian watching the game, and certainly of all the players playing
in it. It was a feeling that Canadians not only shared during those
opening minutes, but during the entire training camp and since the day the
tournament was announced. For that matter, Canadians felt that confident
about their hockey dominance ever since the Soviets arrived on the
international hockey scene in the 1950s.
Those thoughts were abolished forever before the night was over.
The Soviets settled their nerves after falling behind early. They began
to play their game of wonderful passing and skating. The overconfident
Canadians eased up, and, as the initial awestruck feeling eased away, the
Soviet players took full advantage.
Evgeny Zimin, a miniature speed demon, took a pass from gigantic
Alexander Yakushev and bulged the twine behind Ken Dryden at 11:40. Before
the period was over the Soviets scored a back-breaking goal while killing
a Canadian power play. The great Vladimir Petrov scored as he easily
tapped a Boris Mikhailov rebound past a hapless Dryden.
The score was tied at 2. The Soviets went on to simply dominate the
second half of the period. They mesmerized the unsuspecting Canucks with
their precision playmaking, effortless skating, and intricate and
"I remember walking into the dressing room after the first period and
talking to Yvon Cournoyer," Marcel Dionne said in The Days Canada Stood
Still. "He just looked at me and said, 'You can't believe their
strength and conditioning.'"
Summit Series.com: Game One Box Score
1972 - USSR 7 - Canada 3
P. Esposito (F. Mahovlich, Bergman) :30 2-Canada Henderson (Clarke) 6:32
3-USSR Zimin (Yakushev, Shadrin) 11:40 4-USSR Petrov (Mikhailov) 17.28(SH)
The Soviets continued to impress their
opponents and the increasingly quiet Montreal Forum faithful in the second period. Specifically the
electrifying Valeri Kharlamov impressed the most. Considered by many to be
the greatest Soviet player of all time, Kharlamov scored twice in the
middle frame. His explosive speed and scoring ability made him a household
name in Canada after that fine period of play.
The rout was still on, but definitely not as predicted.
The Canadians had a brief moment of hope in the third period when Bobby
Clarke, who was named Canada's best player in this historic game, scored
to make it 4-3. The Canadians came out and played their best hockey in the
opening 10 minutes of that third period, creating several scoring chances
only to be foiled by the amazing Tretiak. The scouting reports were wrong
about Tretiak -- not only could he stop the puck, but time would prove he
was one of the all-time greats.
The Soviets were able to withstand the Canadian onslaught by playing a
patient defensive game. They waited for good opportunities to counter
attack against the tiring Canadians, and when they did arrive, they
capitalized. Mikhailov and Zimin scored 57 seconds apart to put the game
out of reach by the 14:29 mark. Yakushev added one final blow late in the
Everyone was surprised by how good the Soviets were -- including the
Soviets themselves. They came to Canada largely believing all the hype
about how Canada's professionals would easily defeat the "amateurs" from
The Russians used their advantages to their fullest extent. They were a
team in the truest sense of the word. They had been playing and practicing
together for months, not weeks like the Canadian players, and it showed.
They were also incredibly better conditioned -- they trained year round,
while the Canadians enjoyed their summers of beer and golf and relied on
training camp to get back into playing shape.