Canada Russia ’72 – Part 2

As with the actual series, Part 2 of the CBC mini-series of course finished up with the 4 games in Moscow, and the performances and mood were just as good as part 1, I thought. Katz continued to channel Eagleson in a wonderful way, and again, the background and sets and clothing all combined to immerse the viewer in 1972. The ‘history’ of the series was again portrayed quite well, and surprisingly honestly. From the ‘tantrum’ over referees, through Bobby Clarke’s intentional crippling of Kharmalov, the honesty of the documentary never seemed in question to me, and it really did feel like I was there.

But that kind of honesty is also part of the ultimate problem. They did a good job of honestly reporting the facts of the series, of accurately recreating the feel … but they didn’t answer any of the questions raised by the series. No one addresses the fact that, despite Canadian arrogance, ALL professional hockey players now play a ‘Russian’ style of skating and passing hockey. We conveniently ignore the fact that, after the ’72 series, those players came back to usher in the era of the ‘Broadstreet Bullies’ … Hardly the height of hockey’s history. And while they show Clarke’s slash in its grizzly detail, and the aftermath, they never really address the true impact of it.

In a way, they do. After that game, in the dressing room after, they show Fergie congratulating Clarke, as he surely did, and then quelling Paul Henderson’s disgust at the act by saying the truth that no one else will admit. “You know they are giving you more room out there because of him.” that’s what Canadian hockey, and this mini-series, ultimately fails to admit about the ‘7 series. Canada may have won on games and goals, but its pretty clear that Bobby Clarke breaking Kharmalov’s ankle was a turning point … and as much as we’d love to replay those beautiful Paul Henderson goals and say it was hockey skills that won us the series, at the end the day it was Bobby Clarke who really won the series for us in Game 6, by intimidating the Soviets through thuggery.

I’d love to be able to celebrate Paul Henderson and his play … his play in that series was TRULY an inspiration to the game. Ultimately though, I know that Canada didn’t win that series on hockey skill. I had hoped, going into Canada Russia ’72, they might ask a few of the questions raised by the Clarke slash, and other incidents in the series. Unfortunately, all we got was history … there wasn’t any insight to be found.


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