Harry Sinden selected 35 players for Team Canada 1972. Yet he knew he did not have the absolute best Canadians available to him.
As is often pointed out, Team Canada was only allowed to select National Hockey League players. Up until this time it was always argued Canada would destroy the Soviet national team if they could use their top NHL talent.
By the time the showdown finally happened however, the NHL did not necessarily possess the top Canadian players any longer. A rebel major league known as the World Hockey Association emerged and began raiding NHL rosters.
In order to secure NHL approval to use NHL talent in this exhibition series, the NHL insisted no WHA converts were to be allowed to play. This was to be a NHL-only Team Canada.
This meant such league jumpers as Gerry Cheevers, J. C. Tremblay and Derek Sanderson were ruled ineligible to play in the series. And most damning loss of all: "The Golden Jet" Bobby Hull.
Hull was undoubtedly missed by Team Canada 1972. He was just too important of a player to be able to replace with someone else. Team Canada might not have done a whole lot better with him in the lineup, but to say they didn't miss the quite possibly the best player in Canada would be insane.
But what about the other WHAers? Did Canada really miss their presence?
Undoubtedly Cheevers, Tremblay and Sanderson were very good players who in theory should have helped any team they played for. Cheevers style of goaltending might have been better suited against the Russians than Ken Dryden's. Sanderson's grit and faceoff ability would have been nice. And Tremblay's puck moving skills from the blueline certainly wouldn't have hurt.
As good these guys were, they were not irreplaceable like Hull. Cheevers likely would have been the third goalie anyways. Sanderson's grit was picked up by several players who might not have made the team if WHA players were allowed to contribute - players like J. P. Parise, Bobby Clarke and even Paul Henderson. And Tremblay's skates were filled adequately with the likes of Pat Stapleton or Bill White.
Outside of Hull, Team Canada 1972 didn't really miss the WHA players who were ruled ineligible. In fact their absence allowed several "lesser-knowns" the opportunity to thrive and contribute greatly to the team.
Tidbit - If LW Bobby Hull was allowed to play, presumably another LW would have lost his spot on the teams. That left winger easily could have been Paul Henderson. He was "on the bubble" as far as making the team at the beginning of training camp and was one of the players who worked his way into the lineup with a great camp. Likely with the training camp he had he still would have made the team. But still, can you imagine a 1972 Summit Series with Bobby Hull but without Paul Henderson?
Further Reading: The Loophole That Almost Allowed Bobby Hull To Play
Also of interest: The Money Game: Professional vs. "Amateur"
Meet The American On Team Canada '72
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