Thursday, August 29, 2013

Team Canada 1972, What Might have Been

Guy Lafleur, if he had played in the 72 Summit Series

"No way. Can you imagine what our fans would say if we allowed Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito to play for Canada in that series and either...suffered an injury that might prevent them from playing with us for a year or more?" This was the concern of Weston Adams Jr, president of the Boston Bruins as quoted on April 20, 1972. After being speculated and discussed since February 1972 at the Olympics in Sapporo Japan, the series was set to go. Early on however, controversy stirred as to who exactly would be representing Canada.

Bruins GM, Milt Schmidt agreed with his boss saying, "My only interest would be to see the Russians play the Bruins for the world championship...or whatever team wins the Stanley Cup." In the Vancouver Sun a few days later, the legendary Jim Coleman responds to the American naysayers suggesting that Team Canada should be made up strictly of players from Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. In the Vancouver Sun on April 25, 1972 he suggests;

 "No one invited the Americans to stick their noses into this private little shinny tournament...Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have membership on the board of Hockey Canada. Thus, (they) are the only professional hockey clubs which are involved directly in the Canada-Russia series. Vancouver Canucks also have a representative on the board of Hockey Canada but, the Canucks don't count for a hill of beans. The Canucks are Canadian in name only. The Canucks are controlled by a group of carpet-bagging Americans (Tom Scallen's Medicor group out of Minnesota). Forget them. Let's have no more crap from Blathering Bill Jennings (NY Rangers president), Wet Ears Westy Adams or any other American club owner."

Pretty harsh stuff from Mr. Coleman. NHL President, Clarence Campbell weighed in on the situation, "the three Canadian teams in the NHL are committed...but I think this will be broadened. There are many Canadians playing for American teams who would want to play for a Canadian team against Russia. I am certain about this." Of course, in the end Campbell was correct. Other than players who jumped to the WHA that summer, all Canadian players were allowed to play by their respective club teams and the NHL. The question is, what would a Team Canada have looked like if made up of players from only the three Canadian based NHL squads? Let's turn on the old What-if Time Machine and have a look.

Below is my 35 man Team Canada 1972 camp roster selected from only the Canadiens, Leafs and Canucks excluding WHA jumpers, with their 1971/72 stats.

  • Pete Mahovlich 75-35-32-67
  • Dave Keon 72-18-30-48
  • Jacques Lemaire 77-32-49-81
  • Norm Ullman 77-23-50-73
  • Henri Richard 75-12-32-44
  • Darryl Sittler 74-15-17-32
  • Orland Kurtenbach 78-24-37-61
  • Yvan Cournoyer 73-47-36-83
  • Ron Ellis 78-23-24-47
  • Guy Lafleur 73-29-35-64
  • Bobby Schmautz 60-12-12-25
  • Claude Larose 77-20-18-38
  • Rick Kehoe 38-8-8-16
  • Frank Mahovlich 76-43-53-96
  • Paul Henderson 73-38-19-57
  • Marc Tardif 75-31-22-53
  • Andre Boudrias 78-27-34-61
  • Rejean Houle 77-11-17-28
  • Wayne Maki 76-22-25-47
  • Don Lever 63-61-65-126 (OHA)
  • Steve Shutt 58-63-49-112 (OHA)
  • Guy Lapointe 69-11-38-49
  • Serge Savard 23-1-8-9
  • Jacques Laperriere 73-3-25-28
  • Brian Glennie 61-2-8-10
  • Jim McKenny 76-5-31-36
  • Jocelyn Guevermont 75-13-38-51
  • Dale Tallon 69-17-27-44
  • Bobby Baun 74-2-12-14
  • Dennis Kearns 73-3-26-29
  • John Van Boxmeer 56-30-42-72 (JrA)
  • Ken Dryden 39-8-15, 2.24
  • Jacques Plante 16-13-5, 2.63
  • Dunc Wilson 16-30-3, 3.62
  • Michel Larocque 3.45 (OHA)
Bold names are players that were at least in a small part a member of the actual 1972 Team Canada. A few names that at the time were considered rather strong omissions to Harry Sinden's 35 man camp invitee list were Dave Keon and Jacques Lemaire. Jacques Laperriere was indeed initially invited but turned down the offer. I've included a few junior players and youngsters to round out camp as Sinden did with the likes of Larocque and Van Boxmeer.

With eight members of my squad playing large parts of Canada's actual victory in 1972, and the additions of players like Keon, Lemaire, Ullman, Richard, Lafleur and Plante, I think this squad would have a fairly good chance in squeaking out victory against the Russians back then. The one thing they would be missing that the actual team had was the big-body presence and leadership of Phil Esposito.

Dave Keon as a fictitious member of Team Canada 1972

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