It's been 50 years since the Summit Series: is Canada freer now than during the clash against the Soviets?

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GUEST HOST: David Menzies

Anyone over the age of 55 knows what I speak of… For it was on this very day 50 years ago that the most famous goal in Canadian hockey history was scored.

This is where I was on that September day a half century ago: the former Danesbury Public School, sitting on a hallway floor with all my classmates, watching the game during school hours on a 20-inch black-and-white TV set. There are some things you don’t forget in life. And the final seconds of Game 8 is one of them for me…

And yet, two things stand out about the ’72 Summit Series some 50 years later:

Why-oh-why is the hero of that series, Paul Henderson, STILL not in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

As well, the Summit Series was far more than eight exhibition hockey games. The narrative was us against them; capitalism versus communism; democracy versus tyranny. And yet, sadly, some 50 years later, under the Justin Trudeau Liberals, how democratic, how free are we in the Canada of 2022 versus 1972?

Allow me to provide some analysis…

Hard to imagine, but a half century has passed since that piece of vulcanized rubber left the stick of Paul Henderson and somehow found its way past Soviet Union goaltender Vladislav Tretiak.

Check out the video evidence, which never gets old:

It was a comeback for Canada that was so utterly improbable given how shockingly the series started on Canadian soil.

I say shockingly because this was supposed to be a cakewalk for Team Canada. By this point in time, Canada had stopped sending teams to Olympic hockey tournaments due to the inherent unfairness. Back then, professionals were ineligible to play in the Olympic Games, so amateurs had to be sent to represent Canada. This rule did not apply to the Soviets. Oh, sure, on paper the Soviets were considered to be amateurs, but in reality, they were the cream of the Russian crop.

And so it was that a wide-ranging belief kicked in: that if the very best Canadian players in the NHL took on the best that the Soviet Union had to offer, the Russians would be utterly annihilated.

Come 1972, that thesis was put to the test with the Summit Series featuring four games in various Canadian cities and four games in Moscow. Just about every sportswriter predicted that the end-result would be eight games to none for Team Canada.

It looked as though that prophecy would come true. In Game 1 at the Montreal Forum, Canada scored two quick goals in the first period and the rout was on… Um, not quite. The Soviets rebounded, and when the dust settled, they had — shockingly — won the game 7-3.

Team Canada would win at Maple Leaf Gardens; Game 3 ended in a 4-4 tie in Winnipeg; and in Vancouver, the Russians again prevailed with a victory, leading to a cascade of boos and catcalls directed at Team Canada from its home fans at the Pacific Coliseum. That led to perhaps one of the most famous interviews in Canadian hockey history:

Wow: cue the goosebumps.

Canada, of course, would go on to prevail.

And if you want to relive it, I highly recommend Ken Dryden’s new book, The Series: What I Remember, What it Felt Like, What It Feels Like Now.

By the way, folks, don’t hold it against Mr. Dryden that awhile back he was a Liberal member of Parliament. Ken Dryden strikes me as a classical Liberal as opposed to a Marxist Liberal toiling for Prime Minister Blackface McGroper.

Now, here’s the question given the Paul Henderson heroics: why is this man still inexplicably NOT in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Lest we forget, Paul Henderson wasn’t a “one-hit wonder” in that series. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward also scored the winning goals in Games 6 and 7. Talk about coming through in the clutch.

And yet, for reasons that remain murky, the powers-that-be at the Hockey Hall of Fame — the same hall that once inducted Gilbert Stein — are of the opinion that Paul Henderson isn’t worthy.

Granted, Henderson’s NHL and WHA career statistics from 1962 to 1981 are not Gretzky-like numbers. But who cares? It was Henderson’s unforgettable goal in ’72 that literally had Canadians dancing in the streets.

To add insult to injury, in recent years, the Hockey Hall of Fame has become yet another Canadian institution beholden to the tyranny of political correctness. Female players are now being inducted into the Hall. I don’t mean to slam women’s hockey, but come on: how many people on the planet have even seen the likes of Cammi Granato or Angela James play hockey? But that’s the thing with the Hall: gender equity now eclipses bona fide achievement.

As well, for reasons that remain murky, while the powers-that-be at the Hockey Hall of Fame are of the opinion that Paul Henderson isn't worthy of inclusion inside the Hall, there is a statue of Henderson scoring the winning Game 8 goal located OUTSIDE the Hall. And get this: the guy he scored the goal on, Vladislav Tretiak, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame — but not Paul.

Incidentally, I spent a week at Tretiak’s goaltending school back in 1997.

I was able to speak with the old Russian gumper and was surprised to learn that his biggest hockey regret was NOT letting in Henderson’s series winning goal in the last minute of play, but rather, he remains miffed to this day that he was pulled in an Olympic game against the Americans in Lake Placid back in 1980. Team U.S.A., comprised of a bunch of college kids, would eventually go on to win the Olympic gold medal that year.

It truly was a miracle on ice; 1980 is to Americans what 1972 is to Canadians.

In any event, I’ve asked various sportswriters why Paul is not in the Hall. And speaking on the condition of anonymity, one theory is that Henderson made enemies in the sport when he became a born-again Christian shortly after the Summit Series. Henderson’s life was never the same after scoring that goal; he would also be mobbed by idolizing fans and this apparently was a big factor in re-embracing Christianity.

If that’s the case, this is downright shameful. Most Canadians wouldn’t care if Henderson had become a born-again Scientologist. Because surely Henderson deserves to get into the Hall for his on-ice accomplishments, not because his religious beliefs have allegedly upset some Hall of Fame board members and media types. Then again, we do live in a nation in which people applaud those who incinerate Catholic churches.

But getting back to the stat argument, one source tells me there are at least two dozen other players in the Hall with inferior statistics than Henderson. And, again, nobody in the Hall ever scored a goal that had Canadians from coast to coast to coast literally dancing in the streets.

Don’t you think the 50th anniversary of this special event would be a superb time to correct such an appalling injustice?

My second point: in the half century that has passed, let me ask you, dear viewers: do you feel freer in Canada today as opposed to our Dominion of yester-decade?

After all, we now live in a Canada wherein you can have your bank account frozen for supporting a Freedom Convoy. We live in a Canada in which one can be secretly wiretapped by law enforcement for showing up at a freedom rally. We live in a Canada in which medical apartheid is embraced when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination shots. We live in a Canada in which you can be cancelled for espousing an opinion that ruffles the feathers of certain elitists.

Hey, I was only 10 years old in 1972, but looking back, Canada then sure felt freer than Canada now. Indeed, how disturbing is it that Canada today is actually embracing bits and pieces of the tyranny that defined the now-defunct USSR. Then again, we do have a PM who admires the basic dictatorship of China…

Bottom line: time to put Paul in the Hall. And let’s put the Justin Trudeau Liberals in the electoral penalty box for gross misconduct when the next federal election takes place. Maybe Justin loves communism, but I subscribe to the chant heard by the 3,000 Canadian fans who attended those final four games in Moscow. Namely, “Nyet, Nyet Soviet.”

GUEST: Andrew Lawton (@AndrewLawton on Twitter)

FINALLY: Your letters!

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