Tuesday, September 8, 2009

1972 Team Canada Phil Esposito Jersey

Prior to the 1972 Summit Series, the best players that Canada had to offer were not able to face their Soviet counterparts due to the amateur rules of the Olympic Games, which disqualified the Canadian professionals from taking part.

Unhappy with the amateur status of the Soviet players, despite the Soviets competing full time as hockey players, while technically being considered army soldiers to maintain their amateur status, and thus their Olympic eligibility, Canada refused to compete in the World Championships and Winter Olympics after 1969.

The Summit Series would be the first time that Canada would be able to field a team of it's best professional NHL talent to face the Soviets on equal terms, and the hockey experts and public in Canada expected that the Canadians would easily win the eight game series, with many believing it would be eight games to none.

1972 Summit Series

The series started just as expected too, with Phil Esposito scoring just 30 seconds into Game 1. By six minutes, Canada was ahead by two and the expected rout was on.

Or so they thought...

By the end of the first period, the Soviet Union had tied the game and Valeri Kharlamov scored twice in the second before Bobby Clarke cut the lead to one by the end of the period. The third period proved decisive, as the Soviets pulled away with three more goals to win 7-3, shocking all of Canada.

1972 Summit Series

Game 2 had Canada back on track with a 4-1 win and Game 3 ended in a 4-4 tie. With the knowledge that Games 5 through 8 would be in the Soviet Union, it was imperative that the Canadians win Game 4 on home soil.

The Canadians fell behind 2-0 after one period and trailed 4-1 after two. They traded goals with the Soviets in the third, making the score 5-2 before scoring a late goal with just 22 seconds left in the game to make the final 5-3, but were booed off the ice by the home fans at the end of the game.

Responding to the negative public and media reaction, Phil Esposito made an emotional outburst on Canadian national television:
"To the people across Canada, we tried, we gave it our best, and to the people that boo us, geez, I'm really, all of us guys are really disheartened and we're disillusioned, and we're disappointed at some of the people. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've gotten in our own buildings. If the Russians boo their players, the fans... Russians boo their players... Some of the Canadian fans - I'm not saying all of them, some of them booed us, then I'll come back and I'll apologize to each of of the Canadians, but I don't think they will. I'm really, really... I'm really disappointed. I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it' Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps, we know, we're trying like hell. I mean we're doing the best we can, and they got a good team, and let's face facts. But it doesn't mean that we're not giving it our 150%, because we certainly are.

I mean, the more - everyone of us guys, 35 guys that came out and played for Team Canada. We did it because we love our country, and not for any other reason, no other reason. They can throw the money, uh, for the pension fund out the window. We came because we love Canada. And even though we play in the United States, and we earn money in the United States, Canada is still our home, and that's the only reason we come. And I don't think it's fair that we should be booed."
From Phil Esposito's book "Thunder and Lightning";
We flew to Vancouver, and Harry changed line combinations again. The Soviets out played us, and they won the game 5-3, and what I'll never forget is how that crowed booed us. They were yelling obscenities at us. It was brutal. And we didn't deserve that.

I was picked as the star of the game for Canada. When I got out there afterwards, the television commentator Johnny Esaw asked me a question, and I don't even remember what it was because I was angry. My anger just came pouring out. I never really knew what I said until ten years later when I saw a tape of it. And now, every time I see it, I get embarrassed by it.

I said, "If the Russian fans boo their players in Moscow like you people are booing us, I'll come back and apologize personally to each and every one of you, but I don't think that's going to happen. I really don't."

"We're doing our best. They're a good hockey team, and we don't know what we can do better, but we're going to have to figure it out. But to be booed like this is ridiculous." I gave the whole country a toung-lashing on national television.
Today's featured jersey is a 1972 Team Canada Phil Esposito jersey worn during the first four games of the 1972 Summit Series in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Uniquely, there were no players names on the back, but simply "CANADA" on each jersey.


Here are several clips documenting Esposito's impassioned response to the fans booing as he vents his frustration after Game 4 in Vancouver with Canada down in games 1-2-1 and heading to the Soviet Union for four games on Soviet ice.

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