A Brief Overview of the 1972 Summit Series and Why It Matters Today
The 1972 Summit Series was a series of eight ice hockey games played between the Soviet Union and Canada. Canada had won every world championship and Olympic tournament since 1950, while the Soviet Union had been steadily improving and was seen as a rising power in the sport. The series was incredibly close: the Canadians won the final three games in Moscow to win the series four games to three, with one tie.
The series was highly controversial, as there were several incidents of on-ice violence, and it resulted in a major change in how international hockey tournaments were played. It also had a significant impact on how Canadians viewed themselves and their place in the world.
Moreover this eight-game series between some of the best hockey players from each nation was more than just a battle for hockey supremacy. It was a Cold War showdown with immense political implications. Here's a look at why the 1972 Summit Series still matters today.
The Soviet Union had been steadily improving in the sport of hockey since their first world championship appearance in 1954, when they finished in last place. By the early 1970s, they were seen as a major power in the sport and were eager to prove themselves against the best team in the world, Canada.
In contrast, Canada had won every world championship and Olympic tournament since 1950. They were confident that they would easily defeat the Soviets, and many Canadian fans saw the series as a mere formality.
A Nation on Edge
The series took place against the backdrop of rising tensions between the Soviet Union and the West. Just a few months before the first game, Soviet tanks had rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush a pro-democracy movement known as the Prague Spring. This act of aggression only heightened Cold War fears in the West. So when the two superpowers met on the ice, it wasn't just a hockey game—it was a battle for ideological supremacy.
The “Dream Team”
The original "Dream Team" wasn't the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball squad; it was the Canadian hockey team that took on the Soviet Union in 1972.
That team featured some of the greatest players in hockey history, including Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito, Ken Dryden, and Bobby Orr. The Soviet team was no slouch either, boasting future Hockey Hall of Famers such as Vladislav Tretiak, Alexander Yakushev, and Valeri Kharlamov.
The series was played over the course of three weeks in September 1972. It consisted of eight games, four played in Canada and four played in the Soviet Union.
The series did not start well for Canada; they lost the first game 7-3. Then Canada won the next game 4–1 while the third game was a tie. Canada lost the fourth game in Vancouver and fifth game in Moscow. But the Canadians bounced back and won the last 3 games.
Impact and legacy
The 1972 Summit Series was more than just a hockey tournament; it was a symbolic victory for democracy over communism during a time when tensions between East and West were running high.
The series had a significant impact on both countries. In Canada, it resulted in a major change in how Canadians viewed themselves and their place in the world. It also led to changes in how international hockey tournaments were played. The series showcased just how talented Canadian hockey players were—a talent that would be on full display again four years later when Team Canada won gold at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
In the Soviet Union, the series solidified hockey's status as one of the country's most popular sports. It also increased interest in the sport among younger generations.
The 1972 Summit Series was an important event not just for hockey fans but for everyone living in Canada and the Soviet Union at the time. It changed how people viewed their respective Countries.