1972 Summit Series

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Pat Stapleton, former Blackhawks defenseman, dies at 79

TORONTO — Pat Stapleton, the former NHL defenseman who famously kept an air of mystery over whether he possessed the puck from the winning goal of the 1972 Summit Series, has died. He was 79.

The Strathroy Rockets, a Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League team with which Stapleton was involved, said on its website he died Wednesday night. No cause was given.

Stapleton was on Canada’s Summit Series team in 1972 and is alleged to have claimed the puck from Paul Henderson’s series-winning goal over the Soviet Union.

Stapleton was usually coy when asked whether he indeed had what would be one of the most famous souvenirs in hockey .

”They say I have it. We’ll keep that one going for a while,” Stapleton told the Toronto Sun in 2012.

The dependable defenseman, small for the position at 5-foot-8, represented Canada again at the 1974 Summit Series, serving as team captain of the World Hockey Association squad. The Soviet Union won that series.

”Few loved the game quite like Whitey, who was so proud to wear the Maple Leaf in the 1972 Summit Series and again in 1974 as captain,” said Tom Renney, CEO of Hockey Canada. ”His infectious personality will be missed.”

Born July 4, 1940, Stapleton began his NHL career with the Boston Bruins in 1961-62. Initially signed by Chicago, Stapleton was claimed by Boston in the 1961 intraleague draft.

After splitting time between the Bruins and minor league teams, Stapleton ended up in Chicago, where his career took off. He played eight seasons with the Blackhawks from 1965-66 to 1972-73, helping them to Stanley Cup final appearances in 1971 and 1973.

He was a second-team All-Star in 1966, 1971 and 1972, and was Chicago’s captain for the 1969-70 season.

”As a former team captain and member of the Blackhawks Alumni Association, Stapleton’s contributions to the organization will forever be remembered,” the Blackhawks said in a statement.

Stapleton signed a five-year deal to become a player/coach with the Chicago Cougars of the WHA in 1973. He was honored as the WHA’s top defenseman in 1973-74.

After the Cougars folded following the 1974-75 campaign, Stapleton was claimed by the Indianapolis Racers, where he played two seasons. He suited up for one final season with the Cincinnati Stingers before retiring in 1978.

Stapleton returned to Indianapolis the following year as coach, taking on a team that included future NHL greats Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. His time coaching the eventual Hall of Famers was shortlived — the Racers folded 25 games into the season.

Stapleton played 635 NHL games, totaling 43 goals, 294 assists and 353 penalty minutes. He had 27 goals and 212 assists in 372 WHA games with Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Stapleton was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 as a member of the 1972 Summit Series team. He was an inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

My Favorite Goal: Paul Henderson scores for Canada

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer and Editor Michael Finewax remembers Paul Henderson’s Summit Series winning goal in 1972.

Foster Hewitt: Henderson takes a wild stab at it and falls…right in front to Henderson…scores…HENDERSON HAS SCORED FOR CANADA

It was the Goal of the Century!

I still get the shivers when I hear that call and see the goal.

With all due respect to Sidney Crosby and the Golden Goal in 2010, the only goal that matters to my generation was the Henderson goal to beat the Soviet Union on September 28, 1972. The only goal that is close to that was Mike Eruzione’s goal in the 1980 Olympics to beat the Soviets.

It was a different time back then. Everyone ‘hated’ the Communist Soviet Union as it was a completely foreign way of life compared to our North American standards.

I want to set up the goal for everyone. The Soviet Union and Canada agreed to meet in an eight-game series with the first four games in Canada, a two-week break, and the final four games in Moscow. It was named the ‘Summit Series’. Everyone thought that the Canadian NHLers would easily sweep the Soviets who had only played other amateur teams at the World Championships.

The first game was in Montreal and Canada took a quick 2-0 lead, six minutes into the game. But the Soviets, who were in great shape, unlike Canada, stormed back and whipped Canada 7-3 as the hockey world quickly found out the Soviets did not play like amateurs.

Canada won Game 2 in Toronto and then the two teams tied in Winnipeg, before the Soviets beat Canada 5-3 in Vancouver, with the Vancouver fans booing the Canadians off the ice. Phil Esposito made a compassionate plea to the fans after the game that seemed to get the country behind the team.

It was off to Europe for the remainder of the games and after a couple of exhibition games against Sweden, Canada landed in Moscow for Game 5. Canada came out strong and led 4-1 with 11 minutes left in the game but the Soviets struck back with four goals to win and take a 3-1-1 lead.

Henderson’s heroics started in Game 6 when he scored the winner in a 3-2 victory for Canada and then he scored with 2:06 left in the third in Game 7 to give the Canadians a 4-3 win. He later said that it was the best goal he ever scored as he went around four players to do so.

The series changed a bit in Game 6 when Bobby Clarke, hated in the NHL for his style of play everywhere but in Philadelphia, became a hero in Canada when he slashed Valery Kharlamov, who was the Soviet’s top player, breaking his ankle.  That was just the way it was back then.

Game 8 was almost not played. Gary Bergman and Boris Mikhailov went at it late in Game 7 and Bergman stated that the Soviet center (who was the captain of the team at the 1980 Olympics) kicked him a couple of times. The Soviets agreed that the two West German referees (Germany had been split between communist East Germany and the western siding West Germany) would not referee in Game 8 but they went back on their word. Finally, an agreement was reached to have Josef Kompalla of West Germany and Rudolf Bata of Czechoslovakia would be the two referees.

The Soviets took a 1-0 lead with Canada two-men short on a couple of questionable calls and things got really heated when J.P. Parise (father of Zach Parise) was called for a penalty. He was so upset with Kompalla, that he drew his stick back in a motion to swing it at Kompalla and ended up getting a match penalty. The game was actually refereed better the rest of the way.

Canada tied it up on the power play and the teams traded goals in the first period as it ended in a 2-2 tie.

The two teams traded goals as Shadrin made it 3-2 for the Soviets but defenseman Bill White tied it up before Yakushev and Vasiliev gave the Soviets a 5-3 lead heading into the third.

I was watching the game in my basement on out 19-inch black-and-white tv. There were 20 million people living in Canada and it was said the 16 million watched the game.

Canada needed an early goal and Esposito got it 2:27 into the third. Canada tied it up at 5 when Yvan Cournoyer scored at the 12:56 mark of the third but after the goal there was a big kerfuffle across the ice.

Apparently, the goal light did not go on after the goal and NHLPA president Allan Eagleson went crazy. The Soviet soldiers did not like his attitude and were ready to arrest him when center Peter Mahovlich went over the boards to rescue Eagleson and brought him to the safety of the Canadian bench.

That was something as the whole Canadian team poured over the bench and took Eagleson away from the Soviets.

Canada kept coming but couldn’t score. With 1:44 left in the game and the faceoff in the Canadian end, Canada huddled (I have never seen anyone do that since).

The tension in Canada was unbearable.

With less than a minute left, Henderson called Cournoyer off the ice and made his mad dash to the Soviet end of the ice.

Foster Hewitt: Henderson takes a wild stab at it and falls…right in front to Henderson…scores…HENDERSON HAS SCORED FOR CANADA

There were 34 seconds left in the game and the third straight game winner for Henderson.

A nation rejoiced.

A couple of tidbits…The light did not go on after the Henderson’s goal. The goal judge at that end of the rink was Viktor Tikhonov who soon became the head coach of the Soviets and was their coach at the 1980 Olympics. When the Soviets went after the game to show the Canadian contingent that there was a malfunction with the light, somehow it worked every time.

Rotoworld’s Corey Abbott currently resides in the house that Foster Hewitt lived in for most of his adult life. Some mail once in a while still comes to the door, addressed to Foster Hewitt.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL
McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
• Malik’s stunning shootout winner vs. Capitals

Michael Finewax is entering his 14th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.