All that matters is we won
Trashy memories linger from rough war with SovietsPosted: Friday September 27, 2002 2:04 PM
By Mike Ulmer, SLAM! Sports
"Please, be positive," he said earnestly. "I don't need to get involved in the other stuff."
The other stuff won't go away. The 30th anniversary of the Summit Series has proven itself nearly as great a newsmaker as the original.
Alan Eagleson, the self-proclaimed architect of the series, is out of jail and granting interviews. He wouldn't otherwise, he has said, but the public interest in the anniversary dictates some comment. If you believe that, he probably has some disability insurance settlements he could work out for you.
Eagleson won't attend the event. He isn't welcome.
Bob Clarke's slash on Valeri Kharlamov, a dirty little secret for the first couple of decades after the event, is more topical than ever. Series hero Paul Henderson recently called it the low point of the eight games and a worthy signal of where Clarke, along with the rest of the Philadelphia Flyers, would take the game. No argument here.
Clarke, a supporter of Eagleson, has apparently decided to attend the event but he dissed Henderson as a Hollywood ego living off a good week in Russia. Boys, boys.
And then there is the question of the legitimacy of a 30th anniversary. Twenty? Yes. Twenty-five? Definitely.
But will there be a golf tournament, public appearances, fantasy camp and reunion every five years? If so, thank God we didn't send Bobby Hull.
"Please, be positive," said Tony Esposito, a forgotten hero of Game 7 and the Canadian conscience is again in play.
There were scads of misdeeds at the Summit Series. Canadian forward J.P. Parise came within a foot of clubbing referee Josef Campalla. But anyone watching could hardly blame him. The refereeing was incompetent to the point of bias.
Clarke should have been thrown out for several games because of his slash. But the Soviets were exporting kicking and holding moves every bit as debilitating to the game as the style Clarke's Flyers would brandish.
The Soviets' purported amateurism was a sham. Their treatment of players, then and now, ranks as abysmal.
"When it's all said and done," Tony Esposito was saying, "the important thing was, we won."
Yes, yes we did. But no limb is too strong for a Canadian to pick at its scabs. Our national ambivalence compels us to weigh the good of the series -- sparkling hockey, individual acts of heroism from Henderson and Phil Esposito and so many others -- against the acts of thuggery.
This is our way as it was with Dieppe and Billy Bishop and Vimy and the places that were battlefields before peace, mercifully, prompted us to shift our gaze to the make-believe skirmishes on the hockey rink.
"It was war," Tony's brother Phil has often said. Thankfully, it was as close to real war as either brother got.
Perhaps that's the enduring gift of the Summit Series. Maybe that's why it resonates, at least enough to stir the marketer's tills into symphony. It was a war in which no lives were lost and a nation's honour upheld, even redefined before the eyes of every Canadian member of the baby boom.
It's a series that is uniquely ours. No one was hurt.
As Canadians, we ask each other where we were when Henderson scored. Americans have a similar question. It revolves around John Kennedy's assassination.
Our national moment of reckoning happened with a wrist shot on a hockey rink. Theirs, a decade earlier, came with a gunshot on a Dallas street. Leave it to the lads in the shirts with the half maple leaf to remind us of our good fortune.
They gave us something that wasn't life or death ... it only felt that way. Tony Esposito is more right than wrong.
In this war, the only important thing is we won.