Series of the Century |  The precious memories of Pete Mahovlich

Series of the Century | The precious memories of Pete Mahovlich

The Series of the Century isn’t done moving Pete Mahovlich.

Posted at 6:00 am

Jean-Francois Teotonio

Jean-Francois Teotonio
Press

Even 50 years later, memories of the legendary showdown between the Canadians and the Soviets still bring tears to the eyes of the lovable colossus.

However, we didn’t think to thrill him by simply asking him, last June, what he would like people to remember from the event, during a sports celebrity luncheon in Mount Royal.

“When we lost the first game in Moscow, there were 3,000 Canadians in the stands,” he recalls. They were standing and singing the Oh Canada. »

His eyes redden and mist over. Her voice breaks.


PHOTO PHILIPPE BOIVIN, THE PRESS

Pete Mahovlich, along with his brother Frank

“We lost this game. But we were very proud. [L’entraîneur et directeur général] Harry Sinden told us: “Guys, that was our best game! We won’t lose any more.” They could have faced us ten more times and never beat us again.”

History proves him right.

Much of the emotion – and pride – Pete Mahovlich feels in looking back on the European leg of the eight-game series comes from what happened just before.

The Canadiens were upset in the first game, losing 7-3 at the Forum in Montreal. He then won 4-1 in Toronto. The third game was in Winnipeg: a 4-4 draw.

The last Canadian stop before the trip to the Soviet Union was at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. An infamous 4-2 loss. The locals were booed. What Phil Esposito lamented in front of a national television microphone on the ice after the game.





“We are really sad, disappointed and disappointed to see the reaction of certain people,” the legendary central player had notably released. We can’t believe how badly the media treats us. We are booed in our own arenas. »

Pete Mahovlich, at 75, still has it in his heart.

“I didn’t play the game in Vancouver,” he said. Press. I was in the stands. And I was so embarrassed. »


PHOTO PIERRE MCCANN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

John Ferguson, Pete Mahovlich and Yvan Cournoyer in training

The 6’5″ guy, imposing even sitting next to his brother Frank, doesn’t have it easy.

“I told everyone, even them: Vancouver didn’t deserve a hockey club. His followers were ignorant. »

I was angry. They were booing Frank Mahovlich because he was playing for Montreal. They were booing Esposito for playing for Boston. They were booing Bobby Clark for playing for Philadelphia. The fans forgot that the players represented Canada, not our respective teams.

Pete Mahovlich

“We have become a team”

Perhaps it was this resentment that later helped drive the formation.

“We became a team when we flew to Europe,” said Mahovlich.

Team Canada played two friendlies against Sweden before taking over against the Soviet Union.

“The Canadian nation really started to understand what this series meant” at that point, recalls the four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Habs.

After the 5-4 loss in Moscow, the Canadians trailed 3-1-1 in the series. They had to win the last three games.

“We were going in this direction, explains Mahovlich, mimicking an upward trajectory. And they entered the other. This is how they prepared for their tournaments: making sure to give their best from the start. »

Canada wins 3-2 in Game 6. They then won 4-3 in Game 7 to tie the series 3-3-1.

The final match arrives. In Canada, some schools, especially in Toronto and Montreal, may close their doors for half a day in order to view it.

The next day, September 29, 1972, The Gazette reported that 10 television sets had been installed at Montreal Central Station. No fewer than 5,000 people gathered there to witness what would become one of the greatest moments in Canadian sports history. It was also, until Sidney Crosby’s golden goal at the 2010 Olympics, the most watched sporting event in Canadian small-screen history.





Canada won 6-5, pulling off a three-goal comeback in the third period. Paul Henderson scored the winning goal with about 30 seconds left in the game.

After booing in Vancouver, Canadians are greeted with jubilation by 10,000 fans at Dorval Airport on 1Ahem october. Then by 80,000 people at an outdoor ceremony in Toronto.

  • Arrival of the Canadian players at Dorval airport after the Series of the Century, October 1, 1972. Below, Serge Savard interviewed on the track with Jean-Maurice Bailly and Lionel Duval.

    PHOTO JEAN-YVES LÉTOURNEAU, PRESS ARCHIVE

    Arrival of the Canadian players at the Dorval airport after the Series of the Century, on the 1Ahem October 1972. Below, Serge Savard being interviewed on the track with Jean-Maurice Bailly and Lionel Duval.

  • Arrival of Canadian players at Dorval airport after the Century Series, October 1, 1972. We can see in particular Ron Ellis, Marcel Dionne and Rod Seiling.

    PHOTO JEAN-YVES LÉTOURNEAU, PRESS ARCHIVE

    Arrival of the Canadian players at the Dorval airport after the Series of the Century, on the 1Ahem October 1972. We can see in particular Ron Ellis, Marcel Dionne and Rod Seiling.

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All these years later, Pete Mahovlich is convinced that “very few people expected” the Soviets to cause so much trouble for the Maple Leaf representatives.

“One of the only ones who saw it coming is sitting here to my left,” Pete said, gesturing to his brother Frank, discreet during the interview. He said: “They come here because they know they can beat us. Not because they think that. Because they know it. It shows how unprepared we were for what was to come. »


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