Thursday, August 16, 2012

Team Canada 72, Training Camp Continues

A continuing look at the how Team Canada's preparation progressed as chronicled in the newspapers of the day. Again, mainly looking at the writing of Ted Blackman, Sports Editor of the Montreal Gazette who was covering the proceedings.

Aug 16, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 3
Under the headline, “Shoot high, glove side, Team Canada told”, Blackman relays the thoughts of Harry Sinden after analyzing video of the Russian team.

Sinden took Team Canada into the classroom for the first in depth look at the enemy and came away convinced that while the Russians have improved at most aspects of hockey, they haven’t developed their goaltending in more than a decade. Which isn’t really news, but confirmation of his theory. “We’ve got to shoot often, and when we do we’ll score” Sinden said as they watched videotaped recordings of the last five world championship games involving the Russians.
“The Russians are weak with the glove on high shots,” Sinden pointed out as a Russian goalie allowed a 70-foot shot by a Czech to bounce off his chest pads into the crease, where it was slapped into the net by a cruising teammate. “See that” he said, “The goalie should have caught that one…but they don’t like handling the puck with the glove. That’s where we’ll drill them. High and to the glove side.”

Sinden conceded that the Russian net minders are as quick as the NHL masters, nimble on their feet in close, but can’t cope with the rising shot from 25 to 30 feet out. And he said they rarely step beyond the crease to cut down an angle. “They haven’t gotten any better in net since I played them,” Sinden said, a member of the 1958 world champion Whitby Dunlops. “The wingers have changed. They didn’t use to pass or shoot off the wing. From the sharp angle, so to speak. Now they do.”

Viewing the tapes, Sinden also corrected a misapprehension about the Russian penalty-killing tactics. He thought their front men hung back at centre ice, waiting for the play to develop, but discovered they now forecheck as NHLers do. “But they do have one glaring penalty-killing weakness and I’m not going to discuss it,” he said, it’s something we hope to exploit.”
Day 3 Notes

-Brad Park was hit in the left cheek when a Yvan Cournoyer block attempt of a Dennis Hull shot caught him. “We’re lucky,” Sinden said after x-rays showed only a bruised cheekbone that will keep him from practicing tomorrow. When asked if anyone had informed the Rangers of the close-call on their star defender Sinden said, “I certainly didn’t.”

-Richard Martin missed practice to attend a Montreal-area golf tournament that carries his name.
-Jocelyn Guevermont missed as well, for a softball tourney under his name.

Aug 17, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 4
In attendance at Maple Leaf Gardens for today’s workout was two Russian scouts, Arkadi Chernyshev who carried the title “Sport Master and Honored Scout” as well as Boris Kulagin, co-coach of the Soviet squad.

Their presence did not escape the players, as pride in their performance bordered on the boastful. When Frank Mahovlich slapped a veritable bullet behind Ken Dryden, Stan Mikita hollered in their direction: “How’d they like that little steamer?”
After the practice the two Russians met the media. When asked if Canada might win all eight games Kulagin’s eyes narrowed. “I can assure you that won’t happen,” he said.

The two conceded Russia – and Canada – will learn much from the outcome (of the series). “You have always been surprised by our team play and we have always been surprised by your individual play,” Kulagin said. “We have a Russian proverb – all is known by comparison. This will give us a chance to compare our systems.”
Day 4 Notes

-Paul Henderson and Rod Gilbert were excused from the afternoon scrimmage because of stomach cramps brought on by the stiff workouts.
-both Phil and Tony Esposito were absent because of hockey school commitments.

-Yvan Cournoyer missed the morning session for the same reason, then doubled his sprints in the afternoon.

-The players will be given Sunday off entirely, and Team Canada, a first-class operation, will offer them airfare home to visit their families.

 Aug 18, 1972 – On Ice Practice Day 5

"Team Canada Power Play: Power Plus" read the headline as Coach Sinden works on special teams with the formidable talent at his disposal. For his first unit Sinden went with a quintet of Phil Esposito, Frank Mahovlich, Yvan Cournoyer with Stan Mikita and Brad Park on the points.
 “Gotta be 3,000 career goals out there,” Pete Mahovlich moaned as he sank on the bench after trying largely without success, to kill off some of the 60-minute shorthand situation.
With the Russian scouts still looking on and scribbling furiously in the stands, Sinden’s super troop blitzed a beleaguered Tony Espostio and all who tried to stand in it’s way. Mahovlich and Esposito tapped each other’s passes in at will, both unbudged as they stood firmly in the slot or at the corner of the net. Cournoyer had a picnic on passes from Mikita at the left point.

“It’s going to work out all right, I think,” Sinden said, “Especially if the Russians maintain their penalty-killing style. But I’ll imagine they’ll change.” Sinden’s penalty-killers worked in Russian formations lifted from video tapes and were utterly unable to prevent the bang-bang passing that led to each shot on net.
After running his power play against what he expected to be Russia’s penalty-killing method, Sinden then tried to duplicate a Russian power play while employing the NHL-style shorthand process. “We’ve decided that the reason the Russians throw the puck around so well is that their opponents have always given them too much room,” he explained, “They play 15 feet back when the point man has the puck. We’ll be more on top of them. And the Russians do the same thing when they’re a man short, if they play back on us, we’ll throw it around too and wait for the sure shot. They may be able to make room on the bigger rink in Moscow, but we’ll be on top of them here.”

Sinden said earlier this week he hoped to exploit an undisclosed weakness in the Russian penalty-killing method, but won’t elaborate. It could only be the Russians’ habit of crouching in a box formation to block the net, thereby keeping the attacks at bay. The Czechs and Swedes, however don’t have the shots to crack this fortress. It may be a different matter when the Big M lets one of his blue darters go in the general direction of a Ruskie’s head.
Day 5 Notes

-The Russian scouts took in the movie ‘The Godfather’, and thought it was repulsive. “No mafia in Russia, I guess,” Pete Mahovlich said. “Just the government.”
- Brad Park returned to practice after sitting out a day. He played chess solitaire during his one-day recuperation. “The whites won,” he reported.

After a full week of two-a-day practices, Team Canada was given Sunday off. They would re-convene on Monday to prepare for the first of three Intra-Squad games on August 22.

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