Series of the century | Precious memories of Pete Mahovlich


The series of the century has not finished moving Pete Mahovlich.

Posted at 6:00

Jean-Francois Teotonio

Jean-Francois Teotonio
The print

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

However, we didn’t think we’d get him excited just by asking him, last June, what he’d like people to remember about the event, at a sports celebrity lunch at Mount Royal.

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

His eyes redden and cloud over. Her voice cracks.


Pete Mahovlich, along with his brother Frank

“We have lost this match. But we were so proud. [L’entraîneur et directeur général] Harry Sinden told us: “Man, that was our best game! We will never lose. “They could have faced us ten more times and they would never have beaten us again.”

History proves him right.

Much of the emotion – and pride – that Pete Mahovlich feels as he recalls the European leg of the eight-game series stems from what happened just before.

The Canadiens were upset at the opening, losing 7-3 at the Montreal Forum. Then he won 4-1 in Toronto. The third game was in Winnipeg: 4-4.

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

“We are really saddened, disillusioned and disappointed to see the reaction of some people, especially the legendary midfielder had launched. We cannot believe how badly we are treated by the media. We are booed in our own arenas. ”

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

“I didn’t play in Vancouver,” he said The print. I was in the stands. And I was so embarrassed. ”


John Ferguson, Pete Mahovlich and Yvan Cournoyer in training

The 6’5 “boy, imposing even sitting next to his brother Frank, is not doing well.

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

I was angry. They were whistling 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”

It was perhaps this resentment that later helped propel the formation.

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

The Canadian team played two friendlies against Sweden before resuming play against the Soviet Union.

“The Canadian nation really began to understand what this series meant” at that moment, recalls the one who won four Stanley Cups with the Habs.

After the 5-4 defeat in Moscow, the Canadians were 3-1-1 behind 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 went to the other. Here’s how they prepared for their tournaments: making sure to give their best from the start. ”

Canada won 3-2 in Game 6. Then they won 4-3 in Game 7 to draw the series 3-3-1.

The final match arrives. In Canada, some schools, particularly in Toronto and Montreal, may close their doors for half a day so you can see it.

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

Canada won 6-5, coming back with three goals in the third period. Paul Henderson scored the winning goal, about 30 seconds left in the game.

After the boos in Vancouver, Canadians are greeted with joy by 10,000 fans at Dorval Airport on 1uh October. Then from 80,000 people to an outdoor ceremony in Toronto.

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


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

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


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


All these years later, Pete Mahovlich is convinced that “very few people expected” that the Soviets would give so much trouble to the representatives of the maple leaf.

“One of the only ones who saw him coming is sitting here on my left,” Pete said, pointing to his brother Frank, discreet during the interview. He said, “They come here because they know they can beat us. Not because they think so. Because they know ”. It shows how unprepared we were for what would happen. ”


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