facetime with phil

He was smarter than me,” Phil Esposito lamented after Canada’s 3-2 game six win over the Soviet Union in September of 1972, when the subject of Alexander Ragulin came up. A stalwart of the blueline for CSKA Moscow and the Soviet national team for more than a decade, Ragulin died on a Wednesday of this date in 2004 at the age of 63. He won Olympic gold with the Soviet Union in 1964, 1968, and 1972, and he was in on 10 world championship titles.

“Rags,” the Canadians dubbed him in ’72. Along with the rest of Canada’s forwards, Esposito saw a lot of him through the eight games of the Summit Series. In the sixth game, contacts between the two resulted in several penalties for the Canadian. In the first period, Esposito took a double minor penalty after clashing with Ragulin. “After I got the charging penalty,” Esposito recounted after the game, “he came at me and like you’d do in the NHL, I reacted defensively by giving him this,” raising a notional stick. “That’s those international rules. You can’t do that. He was smarter than me.”

In the third period, Canada’s big centreman added a five-minute major to his account after he was seen to high-stick Ragulin. “I wasn’t going to get a penalty until he went begging to the referee,” Esposito groused.

(Image: Frank Lennon, Library and Archives Canada, e010933352 /)

smell the glove

September 27 was an off-day in 1972 for the Canadians and Soviets who were locked in the battle for hockey supremacy at the Summit Series. The day before, September 26, Canada had prevailed in game seven on Luzhniki ice in Moscow, with Leafs left wing Paul Henderson scoring the decisive goal in a 4-3 win. Frank Mahovlich, another leftside winger, didn’t dress for that game, but Canadian coach Harry Sinden planned to bring him back in place of Bill Goldsworthy for the series finale the next day, September 28. “You’ve got to have Frank on the ice in the big one,” Sinden said of the Montreal Canadiens star. “He can bust a game wide open. He wants to beat ’em badly, perhaps too badly, but I’ve got to have him.”

Depicted here is Soviet defenceman Vladimir Lutchenko taking the man in game four of the series, where the man = Frank Mahovlich, and the taking = punching him in the face.

(Image: Frank Lennon, Library and Archives Canada, e010933356)

update: the defenceman formerly known as yuri lyapkin

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Net Presence: Paul Henderson, alone in front, sets himself up to leap into Yvan Cournoyer’s arms, moments later. (Photo: Frank Lennon, Library and Archives Canada, e010933341)

Cournoyer took a shot. The defenceman fell over, Lyapkin. And the — Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot! Henderson made a wild stab for it, and fell. Here’s another shot! Right in front! Score! Henderson has scored for Canada!

• Foster Hewitt narrates Paul Henderson’s winning goal from Moscow, September 28, 1972

Forty-four years ago, defenceman Yuri Lyapkin had the distinction of being the last Soviet mentioned by Foster Hewitt on the broadcast from Moscow before Paul Henderson scored the goal that won the Summit Series.

All three men are back on Canadian TV this week in Scotiabank’s new “Hockey Dreams” spot — it’s just that Lyapkin is wearing somebody else’s bearded face, now.

If you’ve been watching as hockey’s World Cup winds down, “Hockey Dreams” has been running in constant rotation when the puck’s not in play on CBC’s broadcast. As noted herebefore, the Soviet defenders depicted in Frank Lennon’s iconic Paul Henderson photo from 1972 have been … well, disguised. Richard Bendell, author of the definitive book on the Summit Series, was actually on this first, a week ago. He, too, wondered: why? What did Yuri Lyapkin, Valery Vasiliev, and Vladimir Shadrin do to deserve to have their numbers scrubbed and faces switched out all these years later on Canadian TV?

Probably not a matter of punishing the Russians, right? More likely a question of clearances — of securing permissions from those in the original photograph? That’s been a conjectured consensus. Patrick Conway of Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog recalled the case of a Swedish stamp depicting Peter Forsberg’s famous Olympic goal on Corey Hirsh; Lloyd Davis, hockey historian and editor extraordinaire, provided the link.

I e-mailed Joseph Bonnici, executive creative director at Bensimon Byrne, the Toronto agency, behind “Hockey Dreams.” (Marketing Magazine has the background on Scotiabank’s World Cup campaign here.)

“Correct,” Bonnici replied today, “it is to do with permissions.”

Toronto Star photographer Frank Lennon died in 2006, so the agency would have been working with his estate. As well as securing rights to Lennon’s image, Bonnici continued, Bensimon Byrne pursued “the rights of each of the individual players in the photo. We then sought to get individual approvals from visible players, and for players that we could not locate, we chose to alter the image to protect their individual likeness. Once this altering was done, the image was resubmitted to the rights holder, who approved it for Scotiabank’s commercial use.”

So there it is. Not entirely clear at this late hour is just whose faces those are replacing those of the crestfallen Soviets. I followed up to ask that. If I get an answer, I’ll share it.

the defenceman formerly known as yuri lyapkin

“From the plains of Saskatchewan to the suburbs of Ontario, kids dream of legendary hockey moments. That’s why we’re proud to support over 8,000 community teams from coast to coast. Because even if they don’t score the game-winning goal, every kid should know what being a hockey hero feels like.”

That’s the spiel with which Scotiabank glosses its new ad, “Hockey Dreams,” in heavy rotation during tonight’s opening game of the World Cup finals between Canada and Europe. Scotiabank, in case you missed it, is the Official Domestic Bank of The World Cup of Hockey as well as a title sponsor of the World Cup of Hockey Fan Village.

Charming, right? The ad, I mean. Not to mention Borgesian. Unwitting kids recreating famous hockey goals by way of some spontaneous alignment of the pan-Canadian road-hockey universe — great concept!

One strange detail: if you watch to the end, the Henderson goal, the Soviet defenders depicted in Frank Lennon’s famous photo have been mysteriously edited. That’s Vladislav Tretiak, of course, down on the ice; the defenceman is Yuri Lyapkin. Was. Maybe the ad agency couldn’t get a release to use the man’s image; or someone on the shoot saw this as their chance for (a kind of) immortality? Either way, in Scotiabank’s version, Liapkin has had his number, 25, scrubbed from his sweater, and he’s gained a beard, if not a whole new face.

Frank Lennon’s original 1972 photo:

lennon

Scotiabank’s newly barbered version:

scotiabank

rue paul

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Paul Henderson ascended to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. Two years later, he and a famous goal he scored in 1972 were commemorated with both a stamp and a coin. Governor-General David Johnston welcomed him as a member of the Order of Canada in 2012, the same year he also got a star of Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto. A year later he returned to Ottawa to receive Hockey Canada’s highest honour, the Order of Hockey in Canada. The International Ice Hockey Federation elevated him into their Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2014, he added the Order of Ontario to his CV, which by then already featured an honorary doctorate of Divinity from Toronto’s Tyndale University College and Seminary. Queen Elizabeth II has been been generous, bestowing a Golden Jubilee Medal (2002). The rink in Lucknow, near where he was born in western Ontario, has a Paul Henderson Hall, and he has streets bearing his name in Erin Mills and Mississauga. Canada’s Sports Hall of celebrated him a second time in 2005, when it recognized the heroics of the entire Team Canada ’72. And if you’re reaching back that far across the calendar, is it worth mentioning, too, that in October of that momentous year, Henderson topped a national popularity poll organized by Labatt’s Breweries? Around the same time he won the Life Saver of the Month Award. Labatt’s gave him a car. From the candy company, he got a trophy and something described in contemporary accounts as a home entertainment console.

All of which is to say: Paul Henderson, Hero of the Luzhniki, hasn’t been without honour in his country. What he also hasn’t been — glaringly, annually — is inducted into hockey’s holy pantheon, the Hall of Fame.

It’s not as though there hasn’t been a clamour about this — noisily, annually, there has. There will no doubt be more today, as the Hall announces its 2016 inductees, which could include up to four players, along with two builders and an on-ice official. Will Eric Lindros be called to join the 268 players, men and women, whose names are already enshrined? Paul Kariya? Mark Recchi? What about Vinny Prospal, who’s in his first year of eligibility? Is it Theo Fleury’s time, and/or maybe Jeremy Roenick’s? If Henderson, who’s 73 now, doesn’t make the cut, the roar from aggrieved fans might be more than usual: with all due respect to those accomplished players, the roster of likely candidates is seen as a bit of a weedy one compared to years past.

What’s keeping Henderson out? When it comes to the choice of its honorees, the Hall is famously opaque in its operations, and the selection committee doesn’t deign to discuss its decisions. Most of us would tend, I bet, to Stu Cowan’s view, which is that Henderson’s career as a whole is seen by the Hall’s gatekeepers as having been too narrow for a fit within its lofty environs. In the 1,128 games Henderson played in the NHL and WHA, he recorded 388 goals and 399 assists for 787 points. “Not necessarily Hall of Fame numbers,” Cowan wrote in 2012 in Montreal’s Gazette. And yet:

There’s no doubt that Henderson scored the most important goal in Canadian hockey history in Game 8 of the Summit Series. In fact, he scored the winner in the last three games, giving him a team-leading seven for the series. When Canada really needed a hockey hero, Henderson answered the call.

Does the Hall have no sense of (and place for) Henderson’s importance as a cultural and historical icon? I guess not. At this point, it’s hard not to take the Hall’s Hendersonlessness as some kind of statement somewhere on a spectrum ranging from confident self-assurance all the way to lockjawed contrariness. Either way, nobody’s going to tell them who deserves one of their fancy rings.

As for the man himself, Henderson says that when he travels the country, nine out of ten people he meets tell him he oughta be in there. That’s from The Goal of My Life (2012), a memoir he penned with an assist from Roger Lajoie. Nice to hear the support, but (Henderson says) he’s at peace:

I was a good NHL player, but I don’t have the numbers or the All-Star status or major trophy wins to be a candidate. I feel there are many retired players more deserving than me who still haven’t been inducted.

 Or as he told Stu Cowan in 2012: “I wouldn’t vote for me.”

(Photo: Frank Lennon/Library and Archives Canada, e010933346)