Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First Practice for Team Canada, 40 years ago today

Today is the 40th anniversary of the moment Team Canada transitioned from names on paper into a flesh and blood hockey team. Aug 14, 1972 at Maple Leaf Gardens was the date of the squad's first ever on-ice appearance. Using mainly quotes and descriptions from Ted Blackman of the Montreal Gazette who was on the scene, the following are some of the main notes and observations from the first few days of training camp. (Blackman's word's in italics)

Aug 13, 1972- Players Report, Medicals Conducted
32 players checked in on time and coach Harry Sinden said only “a few look paunchy” as a result of summer loafing. All look fit. Alan Eagleson described the medicals as more detailed than those for normal team training camps and said every player who suffered an injury during the last six months would be x-rayed. “We don’t want some NHL owner saying we returned damaged goods when they were damaged when they got here.”
Sinden said there would be a full blown scrimmage every morning at nine and conditioning exercises would form part of the afternoon curriculum. Players will do 20 minutes of calisthenics in the hallway before hitting the ice. Sinden also named four co-captains – Frank Mahovlich, Phil Esposito, Stan Mikita and Jean Ratelle. And, ending the confab on a happy note he said there would be no curfew during camp. “But John Ferguson (assistant coach) will be sitting in the lobby every night at midnight,” quipped Eagleson.
 Dennis Hull was the first to arrive today and reveals that he wouldn’t be here at all, except for brother Bobby’s insistence. Dennis said after Bobby was banned, he decided to boycott the series. “But Bobby said that would be foolish, that it wouldn’t accomplish anything and that I should go.”Denis said. “He told me someone had to represent the Hull family”

Aug 14, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 1
Coach Sinden began formulating his plans and roles for various players very early in the camp.

“If we’re ahead by one goal with three seconds left to play and they’ve got an extra man on the ice for a faceoff in our end, Mikita will take the faceoff.” Sinden said. “I’ve got Clarke for the same job. Mikita will handle most of the big faceoffs and Clarke will have his share.” Sinden said the Brothers Mahovlich would be the primary penalty killers, as they are with Montreal.
Montreal’s Ken Dryden, of course, is the No.1 goalie in camp but the Sept. 2 assignment in the opener will go to the hottest hand in the ‘intramural’ scrimmages. Sinden expects the exhibitions to be heatedly contested – “after all, there are jobs on the line…jobs in a pretty historic game.”
After a morning long picture session, all but goalie Eddie Johnston (attending his father’s funeral) and Cournoyer (away for a day to open his hockey school) hit the ice at precisely 2:30 pm. Within two minutes streams of sweat began to flow freely as Sinden whipped them through largely-unfamiliar calisthenics . “They’re new to some people, but not the Bruins.” Sinden said of the exercises that took up more than one hour of the 100-minute workout. “Did I invent them? No, I stole everything I got. These were borrowed from one of Lloyd Percival’s books.” Sinden’s pace was torrid beside usual league workouts and he thought the regimen was well-received. “These guys are in a lot better shape than I expected. I wanted to find out just how good they might be and I’m pleased.”

 Aug 15, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 2
Just as Sinden had stated, Dryden appeared to be solidly entrenched as the number one option in goal.
Ken Dryden made two of his typically brilliant stops on Redmond and Parise, causing coach Sinden to remark “This guy’s ready now, would you believe it?” Dryden was beaten, and barely, by Paul Henderson. But that evened out because Henderson scored on Tony Esposito at the other end too. The goalies switched sides after Henderson, Rod Seiling and Marcel Dionne had given their side a 3-0 edge.

Sinden saw very early on that the line of Clarke, Henderson and Ellis would be a valuable one to Team Canada. A full two weeks before the first encounter with the Soviets he prophetically praised the trio as one of his best.

Henderson, aided by the dynamic Bobby Clarke and hard-working Ron Ellis was one of the two best units on the ice. “That could be a great line,” Sinden said. “Perfect balance. Paul is the big goal scorer, Clarke can make the plays and forecheck and Ellis is always going to head back with his wing. Clarke can forecheck knowing Ellis will always be back there. They won’t get caught up the ice.”
Team Canada continued under Harry Sinden's rigorous regime and planned to play full inter-squad games on August 22, 26 and 29 in preparation for the Soviets.

1 comment:

Oregon Alumni Blog said...

Thank you for preserving this information, Nitzy.

Here's an ode to the original Team Canada:


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