Where were you in ’72?

Susan Flanagan
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Remember when Zellers was the anchor tenant in Torbay Road mall?

All seven of my siblings and I went to Mary Queen of Peace (MQP) School which sat on the hill behind the mall, so Zellers played a fairly large role in our upbringing.

Zellers taught me pop culture with posters of Bo Derek and Farrah Fawcett in their bathing suits.

Zellers was where I learned politics. It was hard to understand why fellow MQPer Paula Kelly couldn’t go to Moscow to swim for Canada in the 1980 summer Olympics, but a poster for sale at Zellers complete with a forbidden middle finger aloft explained the Cold War to me. Let the Russians go Play with Themselves, read the poster.

So last week when I asked my brother John where he was Sept. 28, 1972 when Canada won the Summit Series, I wasn’t surprised to hear his answer: “Zellers.”

Game 8 was on in the afternoon, Newfoundland time, and my brother John Marshall says that school was let out and a bunch of students ran home. But the closest TV to Mary Queen of Peace was along the back wall of Zellers furniture department. “So that’s where I was with Laurie Stamp, Bob Shano, Ricky Norman and half the staff of Zellers. The whole country was in shut down mode.”

It’s safe to say that if you are a hockey fan over the age of 50, you know where you were when Canada beat Russia in the 1972 Canada Russia Series. You know who you were with and what you were eating when Paul Henderson thwocked in a rebound against Vladislav Tretiak to win with 34 seconds remaining in Game 8 at Moscow’s Luhniki Ice Palace.

Yes, it is safe to say. Details, however, can be sketchy. My brother Brian Marshall, who went to the very same, very un-shut down, Mary Queen of Peace, remembers watching the game on a black and white TV in the lunch room or gym with teacher John Dawson.

My husband, who was in Grade 4, vividly remembers sitting crossed legged on the carpeted floor of the library at Bay Shore Catholic School in Ontario. A teacher wheeled out the huge metal cart. On it sat the tiny black and white TV with rabbit ears. “Or that may have been the moon landing.” he said.

Ted Warren was a high school student at Prince of Wales Collegiate in the fall of ’72, and was 15, so his memory is much more reliable.

“A crowd of students watched the game on a black and white TV in the Birch Room Lounge at the Kenmount Hotel (now the Guv’nor Inn). Warren remembers eating Warren’s pickled wieners and I won’t tell you what he may have been drinking because he was underage and this is a family column, after all.

“It was pandemonium when Henderson scored the goal,” says Warren. “We won — the free world won. We beat the Russians — we beat the commies.”

Indeed the series wasn’t just a sports competition. It was us against them. It was the Cold War on a hockey rink. If you look at the pictures of the two teams lined up on the ice, you’ll see the Canadians helmetless … You’ll also see the Russians looking like they’re about to play a beer league pick-up game, red helmets askew on their communist heads. They went through the motions emotionless. They’d score a goal and then immediately skate to centre ice for the puck drop without as much as a high five. They were robots. They had no hearts. Or souls.

Or so we thought. Back in the Cold War era, the Russians didn’t stress individuality. They worked for the greater good of the team and the country.

Is it possible to imagine a sporting event today that would cause teachers across the country to stop classes and call up the game on their smart boards?

I know in B.C. many teachers allowed students to watch Sidney Crosby score the Olympic gold medal winner in the final match against the U.S.

But that was only one province. I’m talking a whole country shut down to watch a sporting event in unison.

Tom Clift who was a first year student at Memorial University in Del Texmo’s English class during the final game says of the moment Henderson scored the goal: “It’s a microcosm in time.”

“We were in the Science Building at MUN in one of those generic classrooms, most likely on the third floor. Someone brought a TV, I don’t know who — it was in the room when I got there. I don’t think it belonged to MUN. Back then almost nothing got shown in the classroom except on a movie projector. You can imagine the demand on TVs that day.”

Mike Handrigan graduated from MUN in 1971 and was affiliated with the DBS (Delta Beta Signal) frat house on Torbay Road. Normally Handrigan and pals would head to DBS to watch a sporting event. But the DBS frat house had burned down in June of ’72, so they were scouting for somewhere to go. Remember, this is before the era of sports bars with flat-screened TVs.

“There weren’t too many bars around with TVs,” says Handrigan. “We looked at the Strand, but we settled on the Holiday Inn.”

As for me, I was in kindergarten and was definitely not scouting for a Don Cherry’s-type venue. Sadly, I cannot recall this defining moment in Canadian history.

For years I have been trying to make up for missing the most famous moment in sports.

First failed attempt: long before Surprise Baby came along and we lived in B.C., I dragged our first four hockey-playing children to a born-again Christian church barbecue for a chance to see Paul Henderson in the flesh. Henderson didn’t show. Unfortunately, he was ill.

Second failed attempt: for some important birthday I gave No. 1 a full set of original 1972 Summit Series Hockey cards. I bought them in Langley, B.C., at a rare-junk shop. The cards feature bizarre cut-out heads of the players, eerily detached from any torso, crudely scissored in the pre-Photoshop era. Apparently the full set is worth $300 in mint condition. Alas, Wayne Cashman is MIA from No. 1’s set. And Ken Dryden — the most valuable card — has black ink smudged over his left eye. Paul Henderson looks like one of the Monkees, but that’s not a flaw. Of course, it was me, and not my son, who wanted the cards. I just couldn’t justify being a mature mother and spending a hundred bucks on playing cards.

Third failed attempt: I tried to sit down with the two oldest ones to watch the whole series on VHS a half-dozen years ago. It was an exercise in patience. They tried their best to maintain interest but without multiple camera angles and fancy-schmancy editing, it was a lost cause. On tape the whole series now seems as slow-moving as a slug race. And without the backdrop of the Cold War, or capitalism vs. communism, without knowing that untrusting Team Canada shipped its own meat and beer to Moscow, or that said meat and beer disappeared shortly after arrival, or that Phil Esposito’s hotel phone mysteriously rang all night long before a big game in Russia, it’s just slow hockey, one team with helmets, one team without.

But the magic, the history, the way most fans remember it — that is gold.

Susan Flanagan is a writer who would like to see

Paul Henderson inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.

Organizations: Zellers, Canada Russia Series, DBS Bay Shore Catholic School Prince of Wales Collegiate Kenmount Hotel Guv’nor Inn Memorial University in Del Texmo Holiday Inn Christian church Summit Series Hockey Team Canada Hockey Hall of Fame

Geographic location: Moscow, Canada, Torbay Road Russia Newfoundland Ontario B.C. Langley

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Recent comments

  • Bieber's Bookbag
    October 02, 2012 - 09:07

    What a great piece of writing, brought back many memories. Well done, and thanks for the flashback of zellers.

  • notalivebackthen
    September 25, 2012 - 12:42

    "I know in B.C. many teachers allowed students to watch Sidney Crosby score the Olympic gold medal winner in the final match against the U.S." That was generous of them considering that game was on a Sunday.

  • Anon
    September 25, 2012 - 11:08

    If there was a goal that everyone remembers, it was the one in '72. We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger.

  • Chris
    September 25, 2012 - 07:53

    I think i was the only person in the Tick Tock Deli at the time!!