We've tried this before. Okay, we try it every year. But all efforts to duplicate the passion,
excitement and overall atmosphere of the '72 Summit Series have been in vain. But maybe,
just maybe, the powers that be will get it right with the Canada/Russia Super Series,
August 27th to September 9th. Here's who to watch on Team Canada- as well as some
little-known trivia- as we at DobberHockey gear up for the (only) hockey event of the
In case you missed the last 35 years, there was a big 'ole hockey tournament played between the hockey powers of Canada and Russia in 1972. An eight-game affair, the so-called 'Summit Series' came at the pinnacle of the Cold War, a real-life altercation building between the nuclear powers of North America and the Motherland. However, no one could have predicted that the Summit Series would become the most visual combat in a conflict fought mostly through spycraft. Legs were literally broken- Valery Kharlamov's, to be exact, the 'Russian Wayne Gretzky'- and blood and sweat and tears poured out in one of the most captivating sports matches of all-time. Initially overpowered by a little-known and vastly underrated opponent, Team Canada dropped to a seemingly unthinkable 1-2-1 record at home. Heading behind the Iron Curtain, and with the eyes of the free and wanting-to-be-free world on their backs, Bobby Clarke and Co. set out to fight 'the good fight'. And while they would drop a third game to the Russians, the Canucks would claw back, winning 3-2 and 4-3 games before Paul Henderson scored the 'Goal Heard Around the World' to take the eight-game series.
So that you know- or are reacquainted with- the events of Summit Series '72, one can easily see how impossible it would be to recreate such an event. But the two countries have tried, and both have failed. Professional players simply could not muster the same intensity, and efforts turned to the only ones left with something to play for- junior-age players. In addition to several unplanned meetings in the Finals of the World Junior Championships, the Canada/Russia Challenge Series has seen a touring squad of Russians play sets against veritable All-Star teams from each branch of the Canadian Hockey League. However, this series has been mocked for its poor play; while Russia claims to put forth a good effort, their side has historically been a hodgepodge of players only entering the draft for the first time, in comparison to the best 16, 17, 18 and 19 year-olds from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL.
The obvious solution is to 'force' the Russians to actually send a good team. With Russian legend Vladislav Tretiak newly installed at the helm of his country's hockey body, this dream has finally come to fruition. Tretiak, out of anyone, respects the integrity of such a series. He was, after all, Russia's goalie in '72.
However, Canada's contribution has never been lacking in quality. And this time is no exception. Here, then, are the forwards that will represent the maple leaf:
Name: Angelo Esposito (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL)
Height/Weight: 6'1, 180 lbs
Drafted: '07, 20th Overall (Pittsburgh)
What He Brings: The flash to match the higher-end Russian forwards. When he has the right supporting cast and the right mindset, 'Espo' is an unstoppable offensive dynamo. His long, powerful stride and world-class creativity bring fans out of their seats and defensemen onto their rears.
He's also a respected leader, having captained two previous Team Canada entries.
NHL Potential: Star complimentary player, 35-55-90
Name: Sam Gagner (London Knights, OHL)
Height/Weight: 5'11, 190 lbs
Drafted: '07, 6th Overall (Edmonton)
What He Brings: Ditto for Gagner. The son of former NHLer Dave Gagner is an elusive, explosive playmaker. His role on Team Canada will be to find the open man, but he has the puck skills to finish when he can't. There are still questions about his defensive awareness and ability to cope with physical play, but the Super Series isn't the place to address those issues- he'll be with a scorer or not dressed at all.
NHL Potential: #1 centre ala Jason Spezza, 25-65-90
Name: Zach Hamill (Everett Silvertips, WHL)
Height/Weight: 5'11, 180 lbs
Drafted: '07, 8th Overall (Boston)
What He Brings: Even more jaw-dropping talent. Thanks to his never-stop motor and passion for the game, the pint-sized centre is the perfect energy forward. Think Nigel Dawes, but with better hands and vision. It will be Hamill's job to lift the spirits of the team when fatigue sets in and to drive the opposition towards further fatigue with his speed.
NHL Potential: #1 centre, 30-60-90
Name: Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL)
Height/Weight: 5'9, 176 lbs
Drafted: 2008 Eligible
What He Brings: A clone of Hamill. You see where this is going? Team Canada brass are aiming for balance throughout the lineup; ideally, they want one pure scorer, one setup man, and one disturber/pest per line. Boychuk will compliment the first two with his high intensity and tremendous puck protection skills. One of four undrafted players on the roster, Boychuk was nevertheless tied for second in WHL scoring in 2006-07.
NHL Potential: #1 centre, 30-55-85
Name: Brandon Sutter (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
Height/Weight: 6'3, 170 lbs
Drafted: '07, 11th Overall (Carolina)
What He Brings: A true power centre. While the latest Sutterspawn has yet to fill out his formidable frame, he still possesses the raw strength and long reach of his brother... and father... and uncles. However, Brandon's career has been plagued by inconsistency in the very department he is expected to excel in: physicality. If Sutter cannot bring his A-game, it could spell trouble for a Canadian roster surprisingly lacking in muscle.
NHL Potential: Top-six, likely second-line, power centre ala Brind'Amour.
Name: Dana Tyrell (Prince George Cougars, WHL)
Height/Weight: 5'10, 185 lbs
Drafted: '07, 47th Overall (Tampa Bay)
What He Brings: Leadership, muscle, and defensive prowess in a compact package. The 2007 second rounder is one of the most important cogs on the squad with his mastery at doing all the little things required to win. Tyrell will be relied upon for not only consistent two-way play, but any clutch passes, hits, kills and goals required. But no pressure, right?
Name: David Perron (Lewiston Maineiacs, QMJHL)
Height/Weight: 6'0, 180 lbs
Drafted: '07, 26th Overall (St. Louis)
What He Brings: An unknown element. There was no more interesting a player in the '07 Draft than David Perron. Since playing Midget C two years ago, the skilled forward has just jumped to the QMJHL and become a first-round pick. Best compared to a poor man's Sidney Crosby, Perron dazzles with his wide, powerful base and terrific intelligence. He will play the role of puck cycler/forechecker in the top six when not scratched.
NHL Potential: Top-six offensive dynamo, 25-55-80 points.
Name: Brad Marchand (Foreurs de Val d'Or, QMJHL)
Height/Weight: 5'9, 183 lbs
Drafted: '06, 71st Overall (Boston)
What He Brings: Penalty killing expertise. The crafty forward can play with the best of them offensively, but the 2006 3rd rounder truly shines when the game is on the line. Marchand could even wear a letter during the series thanks to his experience at this past World Juniors. In six games, the centerman notched only two goals, but was a +2 and key PKer for the Gold Medalists.
NHL Potential: Playmaking pivot and penalty killer who can play on any line (20-45-65).