Welcome to Showbusiness, Comrades!
The Montreal Forum 18,818 crowd went wild when
the announcer began to introduce Team Canada players
on the Series opening night.
Saying that it was a warm roar of appreciation
is saying nothing. I was just a kid and it scared
me. First, I thought it was an earthquake in Canada
or something really terrible happened with our TV
set in the living room.
"Canadians love hockey," explained my father.
Canadians love hockey? Russians love hockey too. But
not to that extend. It was something different. It was
something I've never seen or heard before.
The Russian line-up introduction went quiet with some
polite round of applause. One needed to be deaf not to
see the difference.
Kharlalalalalamov? Who? Say it again…
Yacokoocokooshev? Who the hell is this? Damn, they
need to shorten up these long last names before they learn
the game from us.
The first visual impression was a total knock out. The
Canadian players looked big. Or should I say that they
looked rather huge. Newly designed Team Canada'72 jerseys
were simply fantastic. Compared to the NHL pros, the Soviet
champs looked like some obscure factory hockey team.
The whole Canadian line-up reminded a bunch of Hollywood
stars showing huge smiles whenever not occupied with their
chewing gums. I could have sworn that the whole roster
was chewing gums. For some reason, chewing gum was a taboo
by the Soviet standards of sports. In my opinion, hockey
players chewing gums during the game looked as strange
for Russian fans as the unsmiling faces of Soviet players
for the North American fans.
Needless to say, hockey was immensely popular in Russia.
But it was still a sport, not some TV show or motion picture
with a star cast. The game was run rather by the Olympic
ideals of sportsmanship than the commercial showbiz principles.
If there was any selling point in Russian hockey of the
1970s, it was the sports competition itself not the look
of its performers. The look-and-feel standards were rather
different compared to the ones in the NHL. The welcome-to-the-70s
long hair style of the Team Canada players went totally
against the short sports crew cut look propagated by the
Soviet sport officials of that time.
On that September Series opening night, I was for the
first time introduced to the hockey as a show business.
It happened before the first face-off of the Series, before
Phil Esposito scored the first goal with a mere 30 seconds
in the game and well before the final buzzer marked the
3-7 shocking evidence that the first impressions can be
There were many things that both teams learned from each
other during the Summit Series. The first lesson was given
during that intro of the players in front of the Forum
crowd in Montreal. "Welcome to the show business, comrades"
sign was written in the air. It was new and tempting.
Who knows - maybe it's something that attracted me in
hockey in the last 30 years.