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My 1972 Summit Series Confession

I owe a lot of my hockey reputation to the 1972 Summit Series.

In early 2002 I realized that later in September Canadians from coast to coast would be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the famous summit showdown between Canada‘s best NHLers and the Soviet national team, amateurs in name only.

Even I did not realize how big the 30th anniversary would become. It made me all the more excited that I had registered the domain name and put a lot of free work into making it a rich - and, more importantly, the first - online resource for old and new fans alike.

Website traffic astounded me, as thousands of people visited. The success of the site established my name as a credible hockey writer and researcher in both the international and history related hockey fields. So many doors have opened - 2 books on international hockey, opportunities to work with Hockey Canada, The Hockey News, and the Henderson Jersey Tour. and followed, as did many magazine article opportunities and publishing contributions.

Yes, I owe a lot to and to all the people who visited and interacted to make that site such a success.

At the great risk of ruining my reputation as some sort of 1972 Summit Series expert, I have a confession to make: I have never watched any of the eight Summit Series games in their entirety.

First off, I was not even born until 1974. I have always been fully open about that fact and how that fact has fuelled my desire to understand the true significance of Summit Series to Canada. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to truly understand the importance to the nation if you were not there, or not alive. It was a very different time, a very different context.

Of course there is no excuse for not watching the games nowadays. I do own two box sets of DVDs featuring all the games and then some. I even owned the VHS tapes years before that. But I have never actually sat down and watched any of the games - not even game eight - in their entirety.


I actually tried to a couple of times. The first time I was going to sit down and watch the entire series, right from game one. But I realized I could not do it. So I thought I would try watching just the final game. It only took a few minutes into the game before I turned it off. I could not watch it. Even with my innate understanding of the 1972 Summit Series, watching the games would ruin it all for me.

For those who lived through it, the 1972 Summit Series was an important piece of the Canadian fabric. But for those of who were born later - who grew up knowing the narrative but never truly understanding why these 28 days in September 1972 came to occupy such a privileged place in Canadian history - we experience the Summit Series somewhat differently.

As I tried to watch the DVDs, I quickly realized there was no way watching the games, even with all my studies, could come close to matching my expectation. I grew up with the Summit Series’ legacy - the unmatchable drama, the overwhelming nostalgia, the cultural importance, the national pride. But if you were not actually there to experience it in the first place, so much of the experience is mythical. To go back and watch it for the first time you quickly realize there is no way the grainy video could possibly live up to the legend this series has become. The heroes would deteriorate to just ordinary. The storylines would become anti-climatic, the emotion all but removed. Thanks to all the children - including myself - that have recreated Henderson’s goal a million times, there’s just no way the real thing could live up to the hype and euphoria that the legend has become after all these years.

The overblown legend of the 1972 Summit Series is my experience. And I like it that way. I want to forever keep it that way. To watch the games now would tarnish my image of one of the most important events in Canadian history. Watching the games now would only disappoint me.

I know my 1972 Summit Series reality is the overblown myth that it has become. I never want to lose that.


Stefano said…
Hey Joe. How are you? I have just finished reading your post and I understand you completely because I know what you are talking about.

We are somehow similar: we love history, we love reading and doing research about events which occured before we were born (pre 1974-75).

When I read about a great event of the past, I am totally engaged by that. I can see those athletes / players in my mind. You're right: you can call it myth, legend, whatever! They are almost gods!

The moment I have the chance to watch those past events (DVDs, VHS, youtube...), this magic disappears. The players / athletes are not gods anymore, but humans.

And the more important the event, the greater disappointment.

I have tried to find a reason for this, but I don't think there is one.


PS: Actually I watched the entire series from Game 1 to Game 8!

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