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Nov 16, 2012 9:00pm
Medium lingzi 1454 posts

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part of the rotation for most of his first six seasons with Detroit, as all but
six of his 168 games with the Tigers before this year were starts.Forty years
ago on Sept. 28, one of Canadas greatest sports accomplishments took place – as
Paul Henderson scored the goal in Moscow to make hockey history. I was there and
it was quite a moment. But lets backtrack. I took in the Russian half of the
series and for me, the experience was not what many people think. Wine, great
Russian vodka and Russian women were not in the cards.  Some 3,000 Canadian fans
made the trip and many had a good time – day and night!  Some had too much of a
good time and were sent home, namely the dummies who got bombed (the one who
made a relief appearance at Red Square and around Lenins tomb). As mentioned
previously, I was sent to do radio reports for the stations I worked for in
Halifax and as the radio arm of Canadian Press/Broadcast News – feeding voice
clips which were sent to the whole country. Player interviews, features,
interviews with Canadian and Russian fans (I had an interpreter), profiles, you
name it, I probably tried to do it. Some of my favourite interviews include one
with Foster Hewitt (who explained to me why he had such a hard time with the
name Cournoyer while rattling of the Russian names with ease) and the many
Russians in the arena, asking them who impressed them for Canada (The answer,
overwhelmingly, was Phil Esposito). I went to practices in the mornings and the
games at night. And the bulk of my time in the Soviet Union was spent waiting
and waiting for a telephone line to the Western world. No vodka for this kid. I
would arrive in my hotel room armed with my trusty tape recorder and a pair of
alligator clips. I had the interviews lined up and before I put the clips on I
would identify what was on tape – “Clip 1 – Esposito, Clip 2 – Dryden, Clip 3 –
a Soviet executive.” And so on. The trouble was getting an outside line from the
hotel. Remember, there were some 3,000 Canadians trying to phone home – along
with 40 media who were probably on the lines for a long time. So I waited and
waited for two or three hours at a time, each day.  That was my No. 1 activity
in the 10 days in Moscow – wait after practice or wait after game. Aand on game
days, wait after the skate and the game. Id get in my room as soon as the
practice was over and wait all over again.   And I couldnt go anywhere. I
couldnt go to a bar or restaurant because I had to stay in the room. Nice time
in Russia, eh? Seeing some of those 3,000 Canadians on the streets of Moscow was
a treat. They were so identifiable – jeans and colour in their complexion. I
swear, 95 percent of the people in Moscow dressed in grey, black some other dull
colour. And the great Jean Beliveau was followed everywhere – by Canadians and
Russians alike. He wore a great red blazer representing the Canadiens, but the
most garishly garbed person I ever saw was the late Toronto columnist Dick
Beddoes. Would you believe he wore a light brown, polka dot suit and an ascot
topped off by a derby hat?  Ive never seen anything like it since. As for Game
8, the intrigue started when I came for practice. I met a young Brian Williams,
who probably doesnt remember this. But he and I were going to the dressing room
when we were stopped by a Russian guy dressed in military garb. The guard
stopped us and looked at the credentials. Williams had one pass that I didnt
have. I dont know what it was – perhaps it was a special pass to those who
actually covered NHL teams. The guard motions Williams to pass, but blocked me
out. Williams then said, “Brian Williams, CHUM Sports and hes (looking at me)
coming with me.” The guard who I am sure doesnt know a word of English, gives a
deadpanned look. He guard doesnt budge. Williams tried again, but this time
louder and more forceful. “BRIAN WILLIAMS, CHUM SPORTS AND HE COMES WITH ME,” he
said. It must have been charm of the intonation, but the guard stepped aside and
I got through. Now the dressing room interview I remembered the most from Game 8
was Tony Esposito, as I asked him how felt winning Game 7 and not starting the
final game. His answwer was pretty honest as he said, “We won Game 7, but I did
give up five goals. Von Miller Jersey. ” The game took place and
everyone knows about the goal.  What they may not know is that I believe very
few of the Canadian media present ever saw it as it happened. The Canadian fans
did, but the media couldnt. You see, there was no press box so we didnt have an
elevated view of the ice. The media were given great seats at ice level against
the glass or in the second row and we had Ken Dryden in our sights for the first
and third period. We saw the great plays by the Soviets, but not the ones 200
feet away from the Canadian zone. Now Henderson didnt do a solo rush for the
winner, as he was behind the Soviet net moments before he scored his historic
goal. So we had 11 bodies, (five players from each team and the Soviet goalie
plus the officials in the way) in front and we couldnt see through them. And
when Henderson scored, the red light didnt go on! It was a point of contention
as voiced by Alan Eagleson in his beef with the Soviets. In fact, the light did
not go on at all in the third period. So with bodies all over, an ice-level view
from 200 feet away and no light going on, there was not much of cheer from
Canadians down our end. Ive seen the goal over a thousand times Im sure, but
didnt see it the first time until I saw the plays of the year in 1972. As soon
as Henderson scored I made one of the best sport decisions of my life.  I looked
around and saw a packed arena and thought to myself that I wanted to get behind
the Canada net – right next to the Zamboni. Thirty-four seconds left.  If I
leave my seat, I could miss the tying goal should the Russians score. I gambled,
took my tape recorder and headed downstairs.  It took just a minute as there
were no people around – they were watching the end of the game. There was around
five seconds left when I made it. There was only one other reporter there, a
young Brian Williams. The game was over, CTV got a hold of Henderson, the
players were celebrating and the TV guys kept the man of the hour for only 45
seconds or so. Maybe microwave or satellite time was expensive, or maybe the
video link from Moscow to Helsinki to London to Canada was causing problems
(because there were glitches in that final game). Whatever the reason,
Hendersons TV interview was short. What happened next is indelibly inscribed in
my mind. Henderson finished his brief interview with the TV guys and headed
towards the only two reporters there – Williams and me. There were around 40
media people at the arena covering radio and newspapers, so where were they?
Well, with the huge crowd, the Canadian media were caught in the 17,000 leaving
and  they couldnt go anywhere. Some jumped the ice and walked across, but were
late to the party. Williamss memories are more about the people of Russia. “They
were great, they were polite, they put up with the boorish behavior from Alan
Eagleson and I even found the guards great,” he said. “It was an incredible
series. “It was the first and its hard to beat the first when it ends like it
did. As far as Im concerned, it spurred international hockey. This was before
many things, before a Canadian won Indy, won The Masters or became an MVP in big
time sports – this was a moment that has grown.” Williams added that it was one
of the top moments of the last half century. “We think of Vimy Ridge when we
think of the first 50 years of the 1900s,” he said. “But the last 50 – youd be
hard pressed to beat this series.” After that game, I tried to get comments from
fans – especially the Soviets. But I couldnt find an interpreter and the guard
wouldnt let me in the Russian dressing room. So I went back to the hotel, waited
for a land line to open and filed my final report. I didnt wait long, as most of
the Canadians were partying and not using the lines anyway. Forty years – I
still remember it so well. For TSN.ca, Im Alex J. Walling. Alex J. can be
reached via email at:  ajw@eastlink.ca ’ ’ ’ 

Dec 26, 2012 6:12am
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