The Summit in 1974


PRESS ROOM 1974: Game 8


October 6, 1974

"They just played too damn good."

That's Gordie Howe's feelings about the Soviet Union's national hockey team, which with five of it's super stars resting, closed off the series against Team Canada 74 with a 3-2 victory here last night and probably justified the headlines in the Moscow newspapers: "Russia world hockey champions".

The Russians won four of the eight games played, with three ties, and last night they looked as good as ever, even with goalie Vladislav Tretiak, defenceman Valery Vasilyev - the best in the series - and Gennady Tsygankov, and forwards Boris Mikhailov, and Vladimir Petrov sitting it out.

Mikhailov's replacement at left wing, Victor Shalimov - who had played in only three of the previous seven games - scored two goals and assisted on the other by Aleksandr Yakushev.

Second-string goalie Aleksandr Sidelnikov was as good as he had to be in a game that wasn't as close as the score, and young defencemen Yuri Shatalov, and Yuri Tuirin were outstanding as they had been in all four games here - three wins and a tie - after not playing at all in Canada.

Bobby Hull with his seventh of the series, and Ralph Backstrom with his fourth scored for Canada.

That the game would be played was never in doubt, although Team Canada manager Bill Hunter went through the formality of asking a players meeting to vote on it after Saturday nights' wild finish when Hull's apparent winning goal was disallowed on the grounds that time had run out, despite the fact the red light went on before the game ending green light.

Hunter said the vote to play was unanimous based on the millions of Canadians at home interested in the series the obligation to the World Hockey Association, which provided the players, the obligation to 15,000 Soviet fans who had bought tickets and the obligation "to ourselves as professional athletes."

However Hunter added. "Team Canada will record this officially as a 5-4 victory." He means presumably that he figures the series ended 3-2-3.

There was another crisis a building as the teams took their warm-ups before last nights game. Andrei Staravoitov the chairman of the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation had a statement read over the public address system twice, which declared that the Canadians had broken the agreement signed on adhering to international rules with their "dirty play" and that Game Eight would be stopped "at the first infringement of the above-mentioned agreement."

Hunter promptly said that if the Soviets proved over-rough Team Canada would leave the ice, but coach Billy Harris denied that was ever considered.

"I found it quite humorous", he said at a post-game press conference. I never thought of taking the team off the ice. These decisions are made above my head."

Whatever, the Canadian team did not play its' usual robust brand of hockey in the first period as the Russians forced the play most of the way. But Team Canada scored the only goal, although out-shot 9-7, on a power play with Yakushev off for hauling down Hull at the Canadian blue line.

J.C. Tremblay started the play by holding the puck in the Soviet end at the blue line and sent a low soft shot toward the net . Backstrom got his stick on it during a scramble in front but couldn't get it past Sidelnikov. Hull poke it in for a 1-0 lead.

The Soviets came out flying in the second period and were unlucky to do no better than tie the score. Yakushev getting the goal in easy fashion after Vladimir Shadrin fed him a pass through the goalmouth. It came with Jim Harrison off on one of his three penalties of the night - two minors and a major.

Gerry Cheevers in goal for Canada, was sharp throughout but the Russians could also blame their poor shooting for failing to run up the score as at least half-a -dozen dangerous shots missed the net.

Harrison got his major for drawing blood on Vladimir Lutchenko with a slash at 18:11 and Mark Howe helping kill the penalty, was called for cross-checking at 19:02. Father Gordie, Tremblay, and Whitey Stapleton did a magnificent job of killing off the last 58 seconds of the second period two men short - so good in fact, that the Soviet fans were whistling in derision at their players.

But the pressure told, finally, and Shalimov scored his first goal at the 53 second mark of the third period, with Team Canada still playing two-men short. Cheevers made a spectacular stop on defenceman Victor Kuznetsov's shot from the blueline, but couldn't hold the puck in his glove. It popped loose and Shalimov shot it high over the goalie by not stretched out on the ice for a 2-1 lead.

Minutes later Shadrin cut Stapleton with a high stick cutting him above the eye. It didn't look like West German referee Josef Kompalla was going to call it until Whitey skated over, yelled "What the hell's this?" and rubbed his hand into the blood on his own face and then smeared it across Kompalla's cheek.

For that Stapleton got a 10-minute misconduct, Canada's fourth of the series - the Soviets had none - and Shadrin went off for 5 minutes.

Canada had the man advantage at 4:06 after Harrison returned but it proved to be no help. The Russians had the best scoring chance and only great stops by Cheevers thwarted Alexandr Malstev and Valery Kharlamov.

But the Soviets finally broke through to score their first short handed goal of the series, matching Canada's total when Shalimov and Yakushev broke way on a two-on-one and passed the puck back and forth as if it were on a string. Shalimov finally scoring into an open net on a perfect pass across the goalmouth.

That came at 6:59and Canada got back into the game six minutes later, Backstrom scoring a nifty goal to cap a nifty play. Rick Ley started it deep in his own end with a long outlet pass to Gordie Howe at center ice. Howe broke in, pulled the lone defenceman over and got the puck to Backstrom who went right in, faked Sidelnikov to the left then moved right and tucked it behind him.

That made it 3-2 but the Canadians had nothing left, two games within 27 hours taking their toll. The death knell sounded at 17:50 when Gordie Howe was caught hooking.

He sat in the penalty box, his gray hair wet with perspiration after doing everything in this series that a 46 year old man - or one 20 years younger for that matter - could do, and he banged the end of his stick on the top of the sideboards in a terrible rhythm of anger and sorrow.

Harris pulled Gerry Cheevers with a minute to go, looking for the tie but the Russians held them off easily. Gordie came out of the penalty box with 10 seconds left and someone jumped out of the Canadian bench in confusion and Team Canada was penalized for having two many men on the ice.

With one second left in the game it was the final frustration.

"I'm glad it's over", Gordie said later in the dressing room. " They just played too damn good. Control of the puck is the name of the game and they're great at it."

Hull too seemed happy it was finished. " There was a lot of pressure right from the beginning," he said, unwrapping the elasticized bandage he's been using on his left knee since he damaged a ligament in a training game a month ago. "But our guys had something to prove and I thought they played superbly all the way."

"With the acquisitions we've made this year - from the NHL and junior ranks - we've made great steps toward equalization with the NHL and the Soviet Union."

Hull also explaining the seeming letdown in Moscow where Team Canada couldn't win a game as it got just one tie after winning one and tying two of four in Canada.

"I felt we had proven ourselves in Canada", he said. "I sense we showed those people who said we couldn't play with the Russians that we could. We outplayed them in three of the four games in Canada, but we were not all together here, for sure. Maybe we coasted a little, I don't know, maybe they got better. Over here we had to make a helluva play to get a scoring chance."

Other players spoke of the problems here with room accommodations, tickets, refereeing. "Next time," said Andre Lacroix "play the first four here and if they treat us the way they did this time, treat them the same way in Canada."

Said manager Hunter: "The Russians lack dignity, and any sense of fair play." Staravoiov's warning he added "was shocking and disappointing".

Backstrom, a great player in this series said: "I don't want to come back. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but once is enough".

"The Russians? I respect the players, but I don't respect the management that much."

Soviet coach Boris Kulagin had high praise for the WHA stars and picked three of them - Stapleton, Gordie Howe, and Hull on the wings - to his all-star team for the series. From his own club he chose goalie Tretiak, defenceman Vasilyev, and winger Kharlamov.

Harris picked only stars of the series: goalies Tretiak and Cheevers, Malstev from the Soviets "because he hurt us" and Backstrom from Team Canada "because he was so consistent."




The Summit in 1974