“Hockey Headquarters, this is Pat!” his friendly warm voice blasts through the phone. Him, being Pat Stapleton, one of Canada’s great hockey legends of the 1972 Summit Series among other achievements. Undoubtedly, calling to interview this rock solid defenseman about an event that happened, as I openly admit to him, “before my time,” was intimidating to say the least. But Pat’s sweet and charismatic demeanor was evident right from the jump, as he walked me through those key moments of hockey history from so many years ago with such candor and detail it was as though they happened just last week.
The ’72 Summit Series has become a bit of folklore to hockey fans; a moment in time that’s relived and passed down through generations old to young and is still as wildly entertaining and gripping even 40 plus years later. Which is why, Pat, along with a crew of fellow teammates including the likes of Phil Esposito, Serge Savard, Ken Dryden, Bob Clarke, Brad Park, Pete Mahovlich, Rod Gilbert, Yvan Cournoyer, Dennis Hull to name a few, have come together to tour the country in a multimedia show to share their first hand experiences. And one thing is for sure, if the rest of the team is firing on all cylinders as Pat is, this is going to be one hell of a show!
The 1972 Summit Series between Team Canada and the Soviet National Team is one of the most well-known sporting moments in Canada’s history. Foster Hewitt’s iconic line “Henderson has scored for Canada” is fondly remembered by many Canadians. It is estimated that in the Soviet Union 110 Million people, along with 18 of the 21 million people living in Canada at the time, tuned in for the eighth game virtually shutting down both countries on September 28, 1972. As Ron Ellis, right winger for Team Canada put it “Even non hockey fans got involved because it was Canada, it was our pride, it was our way of life, everything was on the line.” The eight-game series lasted 28,800 seconds, but will be celebrated for generations.
“My mother told me never to tell a lie,” Pat’s opening claim as we get started and you just know this is going to be a captivating discussion. In fact, I threw all my questions to the wayside and let Pat speak. So he tells me a little about the show, “it’s truly rewarding that 40 years later people are still interested in the story. The show is reliving some of the events that took place in each person’s mind; it’s never been done before on stage. Plus the interaction with the audience. Part of it is people thinking that they know the story, but they really haven’t heard it. When we all got together back in September 2011 we looked at building a sustainable business model to maintain the legacy. We wanted to go from legends to a legacy sustainable beyond our lives. Keep in mind for a lot of people this was the 3rd most important event in Canadian history. Players were legends in their field. It was to be a shut-out, we were going to kill them [the Soviet Team] no question, so what went on to happen came as a surprise to everyone.”
And as for the team? “This was the first time an NHL group came together, comprised of 10 different teams. Before that the only other time we got together was at the All-Star Games. At those games we were not overly-friendly, we were rivals.” As Pat explains, Team Canada had 35 guys all fighting to get on the lineup, “As the series progressed, the ones that weren’t playing raised their level of intensity in practice because everyone wanted to be picked, so practice became very competitive, is raised our battle level. It was also interesting that as time went on we became closer, you would hang out after practice, or at the bar and realize ‘hey this guy’s not so bad after all,’ so that’s why we say 28,800 seconds, the amount of time in the 8 games, it shows the power of teamwork.”
Pat’s overview of the series, “First four games were in held in Canada. The first game in Montreal we started off thinking it would be a sweep. We were in for a rude awakening when they skated us away, 7-3. There was a lot of hoopla that came out of that game, everyone was shocked, so the next game in Montreal was incredibly tension-filled. People were sitting there not knowing what to do. Ended up 4-1 for the good guys. In Winnipeg we tied. Vancouver they annihilated us 5-3. Now we head into their country and went behind the iron curtain, everyone is thinking doom and gloom. Going behind the iron curtain was an experience we didn’t expect. Russia was very regimented, military everywhere. As the series went on there was more and more military, security, not sure if this was life as it was there or an intimidation factor. So Game 5 they win. And I’m telling you for those 27 days fans stopped, our supremacy in hockey stopped, it was questioned. But we went to Sweden, trained for 2 weeks, hanging out on the bus, at the hotel, in the bar, traveling together, we really came together and found a way to win. And the rest as they say is history.” (Canada went on to win the next 3 games)
Join Canada’s “Team of the Century” and be part of the greatest come-from-behind story never told, until now. Hear their memories from the dressing room and away from the rink – their hilarious tales about each other and the fun they had. Ask your questions.
The ’72 Summit Series Tour is playing at the Sony Centre on September 10th. Cambridge Group of Clubs Members are eligible for the 'buddy pack' where you can get 4 tickets for the price of 2. (Offer applies to a limited number of price ticket categories)
Buy your tickets online at www.72summitseriestour.ca or www.ticketmaster.ca or charge by phone 1-855-985-5000