I’ve been up at the unplugged cottage, sanding and painting, so was not in front of my laptop Sept. 28 to do the 40th annual salute to
St. Paul. A few catch up
Just the whole exotic, behind-the-iron-curtain part of it ramped things up. Those last four games in
were seen in Canada
in the afternoon. Johnny Esaw (or Seesaw, as some called him), our Olympic guy before Brian Williams, added
an international TV edge. That last Canadian game in Vancouver,
so disappointing, found Esaw on the other end of one of the most real and riveting
Canadian TV moments up to that point, Phil Esposito’s raw rant at us sucky
fans. That was the turning point, the Rocky moment, the wake up call for
everybody to find some balls and get behind this team.
There hadn’t been many TV moments like that in
before. I remember Judy LaMarsh being caught on camera at the 1968 Liberal leadership
convention telling a gaggle of fellow candidates, “Let’s get this
bastard”—meaning Trudeau. That was a moment.
Other than that, most of those live, candid TV moments had been American. The ‘60s brought so many—Johnson’s dramatic decision not to run in ’68, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that same year, the assassination, war and race riot reports, and of course, the moon landing.
up to that point, the big TV hot button had been the flag debate. Canada
was all Hinterland Who’s Who. Gordon Sinclair asking Elaine Tanner on Front Page Challenge if her
period got in the way of her Olympic swims was the biggest WTF moment.
The ’72 series gripped the nation because it was hockey, because it was our best vs. their best, because it was a Cold War sub story, East vs. West, their training and system vs. our drinking and taking the summer off system.
The shock to
pride after that first game was withering. I’d never seen my dad look so ill.
Here was our chance to show those upstart Ruskie’s who the hockey boss is and
we got our jock straps handed to us.
For many Canadians, colour TV was still fairly new. To see live broadcasts from the
Soviet Union added to the
And then there was
The straight arrow Toronto Maple Leaf. The helmet wearer. The unlikeliest of
His three straight game winning goals in
is all he needs to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Wake up, HofF dummies.
If you were a high school student, the
games shoved everything else aside. Kids hid tiny transistor radios up their
arms with headphones in their ears and passed along scores and penalties row by
row. Teachers who caught them would demand they turn their damn
By the eighth and final game, my high school was one of many which basically gave up. They did the unprecedented--gave us a day off to watch a hockey game. And who could blame them? All of
came to a dead stop (even if no one in most of the rest of the world gave a crap.)
There were six or seven of us at my parent’s house on
Street. The Clairtone was new and we were all
glued to the game. When Canada
was behind 5-3 heading into the third and final period (there would be no
overtime), we all felt sick.
It was like being in a tiny life boat in the middle of the churning ocean. The grand old man of hockey, Foster Hewitt, had come back to make this last call and he stretched those Russian names the same way he re-invented Corn-why-eh, but that didn’t matter. Him calling the games also made it epic.
With those seconds ticking down, we were all standing, leading, praying. “
a wild stab for it and fell.” You could see those guys were on the ropes with Canada
storming back to tie the score. When Hewitt said, “ Henderson
scores for Canada!”
that house on Dundas shook. We all
leapt for the ceiling. We ran outside and screamed. It didn’t seem real.
|A blurry slide from Sept. 28, 1972 shows there were six of us celebrating in |
the backyard of my parent's home the day Paul Henderson saved Canada.
L-r: Brian Scofield, me, Dan Currie, Pat Bullock, Mike Forcier, Glen Rippon
The reality is there was no way to estimate how many Canadians tuned in in ’72. There were no overnights as ratings results came in weeks later. Up until the ‘90s, Global was still taking their
estimate and doubling it to get the national score.
The number, basically, was everybody. You weren’t going to miss this, and you would never forget it. Paul Henderson was our Neil Armstrong, and we were all over the moon.