Modern hockey owes a lot to that series in 1972.

Series of the Century

Ken Dryden on eight games that changed hockey

By Jason Santerre

If you’re Canadian and over the age of 50, chances are you remember where you were and whom you were with on September 2, 1972. That’s the day the puck dropped on the Summit Series pitting Canada versus Russia. Finally, the undisputed super power of hockey would be crowned.

Canada invented the game, giving the world ice-carving artists like Beliveau, Orr, Richard, and Howe. But as far as international competitions went, Soviet skaters had dominated the gold medal count from the start of the Cold War. Training camps were more like boot camps. Players were handpicked at the age of six. Coaches worked them day and night. The trick? Five skaters working as one unit.

In 1972, the stage was set. At first, it was a showcase for the Canadian way — the best way to win hockey games. But as the eight-game series wore on, it became about much more than hockey: Capitalism versus Communism; Freedom versus Dictatorship; Us against Them.

Who better to talk about hockey, the series, and what the atmosphere was like 44 years ago than Ken Dryden? The Hall of Famer, Stanley Cup winner, and Game 1 starter said overconfidence almost led to Canada’s downfall. “We thought we just had to show up, be ourselves, and we’d win.”

And then, the unthinkable. “We scored right away and then scored again so it was 2-0 in the first five minutes,” says Dryden. The Russians countered with two quick goals. The momentum had swung to the other end of the ice. “Going into the dressing room (head coach) Harry Sinden said, ‘Well, you didn’t think it was going to be easy did you?’ There was a moment of clarity. We knew we were in for a long month of hockey.”

Canada won the next game 4 to 1 in Toronto but tied in Winnipeg and lost 5-3 in Vancouver. With boos and four-letter slurs raining down on the players as they skated off the ice, the team was eager to fly to Russia and leave the distractions and derision behind. But in order to win the series, Canada would have to win three of four games behind the Iron Curtain. “It got grim and desperate,” says Dryden now. “Larger overtones took over when we landed in Moscow.”

“I’ll always remember those 3,000 Canadian fans who made the trek to Moscow, chanting Da, Da Canada! Nyet, nyet Soviet! Personally, I never found a moment to enjoy (the experience). It took such focus. And I had to find my game, I had to find a way of getting better, and there was no certainty that tomorrow was going to be better. I don’t recall a moment when I had a chance to take a deep breath and say, ‘Isn’t this great?’”

Losing that first game in Moscow by a score of 5 to 4 set the stage for some of the most dramatic if not important hockey ever played. We all know how it ended. With time running out in Game 8 and the score even at 5 to 5, a tie would have given the Russians the series. But with just 34 seconds left in the third period, Paul Henderson scored the goal heard from St. John’s to Victoria, Windsor to Yellowknife. “We won the series, but Russia also won, in a way,” says Dryden. “Their system of hockey helped transform the game forever. Modern hockey owes a lot to that series in 1972 and to the way the Russians played the game.”

72 Summit Series Tour
This September 2, why not relive those memories with eight members of Canada’s fabled hockey team? The players return to Montreal to begin their ’72 Summit Series Tour and share the stories yet to be revealed — until now. For more details and ticket info, visit


Summer 2016, Vol 8 N°3

Current Issue

Family Issue

Fall 2020
Vol 12 N°4

Click here to view full issue with Issuu

Sabrina Jonas Letter from the Associate Editor

Sabrina Jonas

Sabrina Jonas' signature


The Science of Prevention