Russians are beloved on ice, 48 years later

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Precisely 48 years to the day — Sept. 28 — that Paul Henderson demoralized the world of Russian hockey fans with his Summit Series-winning goal that gave Canada its greatest sporting victory ever, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed the outstanding play of two sensational Russian players to win the 2020 Stanley Cup.

Yes, times have changed.

Forty-eight years ago, in 1972, it’s not an overstatement to say the Russians were hated by Canadians. 

The Russians claimed to be ‘amateurs’, we lamented, but spent 48 weeks of the year pretending to be members of the Red Army but did nothing militarily — simply perfecting their hockey skills. 

Our hockey guys, meanwhile, went boating, drank a lot of beer, played some golf … and then did two weeks of training in preparation for the hockey season.

Thankfully for Canada, Henderson rescued our country from what could have been a sporting humiliation. The best professionals in ‘our game’ losing to a bunch of Russian amateurs? Say it ain’t so.

Thanks to Henderson, it wasn’t so. But hockey relations between the two superpowers has softened in the 48 years since that famous hockey Summit Series, and now Russians, Swedes, Slovaks, Germans, Americans and Finns are an integral part of the best hockey league in the world.

We now applaud Russians and their skills on ice. 

Nikita Kucherov is the Lightning’s offensive leader and was last year’s NHL scoring champ. Andrei Vasilevskiy is regarded as the one of the NHL’s best goaltenders. 

Tampa Bay’s final opponents, Dallas Stars, were led by their Kazakstanian goaltender, Anton Khudobin, and two Russian offensive stars up front, Alexander Radulov and Denis Gurianov.

How dull would the NHL be without the flashy exploits of Alex Ovechkin? 

Artemi Panarin, who finished third behind German-born Leon Draisaitl and Nova Scotia’s Nathan MacKinnon, calls Korkino, Russia, home. 

Evgeni Malkin is a longtime superstar with the Penguins.

Yes, someone going to sleep in Saskatoon or Trois Rivieres in 1972 and waking up in 2020 wouldn’t believe how beloved the Russians have become to Canadian hockey fans. W

e marvelled at the skill of Pavel Datsyuk. Philly Flyer fans cheer mightily for the team’s No. 1 defenceman, the sturdy Russian Ivan Provorov. 

Quite a transition from the story about Flyers’ centre Bobby Clarke infamously slashing Russian star Valeri Kharlamov so hard on the ankle that he broke the Russian’s bone, forcing him to miss Game 7 and badly reducing his effectiveness in the decisive Game 8.

It was a true cold war, fought on ice. Now the only thing ‘cold’ about the Russian-Canadian hockey world is the ice itself.

Slap Shots

• From the “AC Milan confirms Zlatan Ibrahimovic has tested positive for COVID, lack of vowels.”

• At “The PAC-12 de¢ide$ to re$ume football for $ome rea$on.”

• Steve Sabol of NFL Films, on the late Gale Sayers, as quoted by Peter King of, the NBC football website: “Trying to tackle Gale Sayers was like trying to catch a candy wrapper in a wind storm.”

• Boxer Gerald Meerschaert, who lost his last fight in 17 seconds, on Twitter while watching the Trump-Biden debate:  “I wish this debate lasted as long as my last fight.”

• Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, after Cincinnati Reds were shut out twice by the Braves in the best-of-three wildcard series: “Admittedly, this wasn’t the Big Red Machine of yore they faced – more the Little Red Wagon of a lineup.”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald on trying to pick a winner of the NFL game between 0-3 Jets and 0-3 Denver on a recent Thursday night:” Deciding who (will win) is a bit like choosing between canned Spam and tofu as your entree.”

• Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “Something is wrong when there are more brawls in the first presidential debate than in the entire Stanley Cup Finals.”

• Headline at “Patrick Mahomes and Brittany Matthews are expecting their first child. Alabama has already offered a full-ride scholarship.”

• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on twitter:  “I apologize to Ryan Fitzpatrick for disrespecting him last week and propose we double-date at the next AARP singles dance.”

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Yankees — for the first time in their 120-year history — hit into five double plays and committed four errors in the same game in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Marlins. Or as the 1962 Mets used to call such an occurrence, Friday.”

• Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach, to CBS, on why his team had to open the season at No. 6 LSU: “Because New England, Green Bay and the Chiefs already had somebody scheduled.”

• Retired baseball writer Jim Street, via Facebook, on the only thing more shocking than the Marlins making the NL playoffs: “They also tied for the MLB lead in home attendance.”

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by Bruce Penton

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