September 28, 2009

Septembers To Remember

Back on August 31st, 2004, I made my debut in The Hockey News. I wrote a piece called "Septembers to Remember" for their 2004 World Cup of Hockey preview special. In the article I looked back at some of the greatest hockey moments to occur in the unusual hockey month of September. It turns out some of the greatest moments in hockey history happened in September.

In honour of the anniversary of the conclusion of the 1972 Summit Series, here's the article:

Septembers to Remember
By Joe Pelletier

Hockey in September? How can a world-class tournament be held at such an unusual time of the year. The Canada Cup and World Cup have given us some Septembers to remember.

Here’s a look at the ten greatest games in Canada Cup/World Cup history:

Sept 9, 1976 - Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0 – This hockey classic is considered to be one of the greatest games ever played in the Montreal Forum and in Canada Cup history. It was a nearly technically perfect game featuring brilliant goaltending by Rogie Vachon and Vladimir Dzurilla. The atmosphere was simply electric until Milan Novy quieted the crowd by scoring the round robin game’s only goal late in the third period.

Sept 15, 1976 – Canada 5 Czechoslovakia 4 (OT) – After the classic round robin match, Canada blew out Czechoslovakia 6-0 in game one of the 1976 finals. Game 2 returned to classic status with a dramatic end of the third period and exciting overtime. Czechoslovakia came form a 2-1 deficit to take a stunning 4-3 lead late in the third period. Bill Barber was able to pounce on a misplayed puck to force the extra frame. In overtime Darryl Sittler scored one of the most famous goals in Canadian hockey history to capture the inaugural Canada Cup.

Sept 11, 1981 – USSR 4 – Czechoslovakia 1 – Everyone talks about the Cold War between Canada and the Soviets, but the rivalry between the Soviets and Czechoslovakians was always intense as well. The Czechoslovaks started the game with a blistering pace, and were cheered on by the Ottawa crowd. However Vladislav Tretiak turned in one of his greatest performances, stopping 26 of 27 high quality shots in an exciting game that saw the winner advance to the finals.

Sept 13, 1981 – USSR 8 – Canada 1 – The Soviets greatest victory over Canada ranks as Canada’s most humiliating defeat. To make matters worse, it came in Canada’s Cathedral of Hockey – the Montreal Forum. Sergei Shepelev scored three times and Vladimir Krutov made Guy Lafleur look foolish on another en route to the Canada Cup championship. The Soviets celebrated and were truly the most dominant force in hockey.

Sept 13, 1984 – Canada 3 – USSR 2 (OT) – Heralded as the greatest game ever played at the time, Canada dug down deep to upset the Soviets in the qualifying game for the finals. Outside of the 1980 Olympics, the Soviets had dominated the international scene since 1979, and included a convincing 6-3 round robin victory over Canada. But a gutsy effort saw Canada come from behind to force overtime. In overtime, Paul Coffey, of all players, came up with one of the biggest defensive plays in tournament history when he broke up a Mikhail Varnakov – Vladimir Kovin two–on–one and, with the relentless help of tournament MVP John Tonelli, turned the play into a Mike Bossy winning goal. Canada would go on to defeat Sweden in the anti-climatic Canada Cup finals.

Sept 13, 1987 – Canada 6 – USSR 5 (Double OT) – With Russia capturing game one of the best of three series, Canada needed a victory to force game 3. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were teamed together full time for the first time in the tournament, and the result was pure magic. This game was so entertaining even the 17,000 plus fans in Hamilton left the game exhausted. Regulation time saw end-to-end rushes and dramatic action. Canada was clinging to 5-4 lead when Valeri Kamensky scored one of the most famous goals in tournament history to force overtime. The pace in overtime never slowed. Halfway through the second overtime Gretzky sets up Lemieux for the winner. It was Lemieux’s third goal of the night, and Gretzky’s fifth assist. Gretzky would call this game the greatest game he ever played.

Sept 15, 1987 – Canada 6 – USSR 5 – Game 3 of the 1987 Canada Cup will always be remembered for Wayne Gretzky’s and Mario Lemieux’s last minute heroics. The game itself was a notch below the entertainment standards of the game two days earlier, but the drama experienced by Hamilton fans was just as intense. The Soviets stunned Team Canada with a 3-0 lead by the eight-minute mark. But Canada, led by grinders like Brent Sutter, Rick Tocchet and Doug Gilmour clawed away at the Soviets’ lead with one of the gutsiest efforts in hockey history, and to set up the Gretzky-Lemieux dramatics.

Sept 7, 1991 – Canada 6 – Czechoslovakia 2 – The 1991 Canada Cup saw the emergence of the Finns and Americans, and downfall of Russians, and was anti-climatic if only because Canada was never really challenged. This game was one of the most interesting as Eric Lindros played in his first game in the province he refused to live in. Montreal fans booed the Team Canada teenager loudly, but Wayne Gretzky put on a show to put the political sideshow aside and help unite Team Canada. Gretzky scored 2 goals and 1 assist. Lindros left the crowd in silent amazement with a thunderous body check that put Martin Rucinsky out for the series.

Sept 7, 1996 – Canada 3 – Sweden 2 (Double OT) – The Canada – USA showdown in 1996 almost never happened, as Sweden put in an incredible effort against Canada in the qualifying game. Philadelphia fans witnessed Curtis Joseph and Tommy Salo engage in a class goaltending duel, which lasted 13 seconds shy of a full two overtime periods. Paul Coffey set up Theo Fleury to snap home the winning goal just seconds after Sweden had 4 tremendous opportunities to capture victory.

Sept 14, 1996 – USA 5 – Canada 2 – In the new political world Team USA emerged as the new hockey power and managed to dethrone Canada in game 3 of the thrilling finals of the first World Cup of Hockey. Montreal fans were disappointed to see a solid Canadian effort fall short against the Americans. MVP Mike Richter put in one of the greatest performances in tournament history, repeatedly stoning a barrage of Canadian scoring opportunities. Brett Hull, Derian Hatcher and Tony Amonte finished strong tournaments with strong performances to give USA hockey supremacy for the first time.

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