‘BoniBlog – Echoes of 1972 – with a twist

I was at the Montreal Forum on Saturday, September 2, 1972. I was 21 years old working for a newspaper – The Toronto Sun – which was less than a year old. There I was covering The Summit Series between Team Canada and the Soviet Union, like, pretty remarkable now that I think of it!
I’ll never forget the stunned look that night on the face of Team Canada head coach Harry Sinden, nor the shock and bewilderment of the 18,818 fans at the Forum.
It didn’t start that way. After only six minutes and 32 seconds, Canada was ahead 2-0. But the score was tied 2-2 after one; the Soviets were up 4-2 after two and even though Canada narrowed the gap to one goal in the third, the Big Red Machine exploded for three goals in the final six minutes and 28 seconds.
Final score: Soviets 7, Team Canada 3.
I deliberated and deliberated thinking of a possible lead to my story that could best summarize this sudden and emphatic blow to a nation that prided itself on being the ultimate hockey power. I finally settled on: What happened?
I was at Canada Hockey Place yesterday, too. I expected a fierce, close battle. I also believed that Russia was the best men’s hockey team at the Vancouver Olympics. I honestly thought Russia would win. I was wrong.

Scoreboard tells the 2010 story (photo by John Mone)

Final score: Team Canada 7, Russia 3. Cell phone photo of the scoreboard shot from the press seats a bit grainy and fuzzy — but we just had to have it.
How coincidental was that? In the spirit of Team Canada ’72, a squad that rallied to win the Summit Series 4-3-1 by taking the final three games (all on game winners by Paul Henderson), Team Canada 2010 is peaking when a loss is no longer an option.
They out hit, out hustled and virtually out did the Russians in all areas. They were fully deserving of not only the win, but the decided edge in goals. The fact Team Canada didn’t reach double figures based on onslaught after onslaught was a mystery.
Perhaps Steve Yzerman, the man responsible for putting this unit together, is right: Team Canada is finding its way and building momentum after three pool games and a qualifying playoff game victory (8-2) over Germany.
Watching it all unfold here was Vladislav Tretiak, the guy in the nets for the Soviets in 1972. After witnessing last night’s downfall in such convincing fashion, Tretiak and all Russians today must be wondering: What happened?

* * *

Forty-two years in this business, I’m still glad to say that what keeps me going most is the ability to still have a feel for things and to appreciate the human interest, emotional stories unfolding before us.
Being at the Pacific Coliseum on Tuesday night for the women’s short program will be something else I will always remember. On a personal note, it was the first time since the early 1980s that I was back in the place that used to be the home of the Canucks before they moved downtown. On another personal note, I was able to score a ticket for my wife, Ada, to the event, a costly ducat worth every penny because I know how she’s always dreamed of being at an Olympics figure-skating event.
But the biggest reason that night was so special was because of what took place on the ice. Joannie Rochette’s performance, after her mother died of a sudden heart attack shortly after arriving in Vancouver last Saturday, was incredible. She was spectacular throughout her routine and then broke out in tears upon its completion. What inner strength and what a tribute to her mother. Joannie stood third heading into the free program but regardless of where she places, she is a winner!
And then witnessing the routine by Korea’s Yu-Na Kim was awesome for a couple of factors. Kim’s interpretation of James Bond movie tracks was breathtaking and captivating. Throughout her routine, there was her coach Brian Orser on the sidelines, virtually swaying, moving, twisting and living Kim’s performance.
Orser in my books was a phenomenal figure skater and is an even better person. He just missed out on Olympic Gold at Calgary in 1988 but it’s now within grasp for him again on home soil, through Kim.

….. John Iaboni