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On this day: Russia in a click

1972 Hockey Summit Series 1972 Hockey Summit Series

28 September

On September 28, 1972, the beloved Soviet sport commentator Nikolay Ozerov uttered the words, which had become famous nationwide, “We don’t play that kind of hockey!” These words were said in the last game of the 1972 Hockey Summit Series between the Soviet Union and Canada. The exclamation was provoked by the unusually violent style of the Canadians, which could be explained by the general pressure the two teams had played under while defending their hockey superpowers.

The phrase was particularly remembered because it was said by Ozerov, the passionate commentator, renowned tennis player, and, amazingly, an actor at the Moscow Art Theater. The love and dedication he expressed during his sports broadcasts instilled in people a love for sports and inspired parents to enroll their children into sport schools.

This sportscast was viewed by the entire Soviet Union as well as abroad, since the game was the crucial eighth and final match in the 1972 Summit Series, where the fate of the two hockey superpowers was to be decided.

By then, the two teams were tied and which ever scored the last point was to become the ultimate winner. After two periods the Soviets rushed ahead, while the Canadians fought savagely in every sense. They were extremely rude, both fighting and exerting psychological warfare. For example, when the referee hesitated whether to call a goal – the fifth, very important one for the Canadians – the Canadian manager, Alan Eagleson, was so infuriated that he charged at the referee and almost beat him, had it not been for the police, who held the emotional Canadian back. Then, Canadian fans took their coach’s side, inviting him along and comforted him – a relation between a coach and fans that was puzzling for the Soviets.

Eagleson’s fury taunted the Canadian team, who started fist fights with the Soviet players. This is when Ozerov came out with his legendary expression, “We don’t play that kind of hockey!” This was the general consensus among Soviet spectators: what had been a norm in the NHL was alien in Soviet hockey.

It was not until later, when the heat of battle cooled off, that experts agreed that such rage and fury only helped the teams recharge and get ready for the rest of the game, resulting in outstanding performances. As obsessed with hockey as the Canadians are, the Soviets proved they could play as well as the founders of the game.

The Soviet team, however, quickly adapted to the new style and at the next Summit series and interclub battles they finished first, becoming the real heroes of the Soviet Union, winning the Challenge Cup in 1979, beating the NHL 6:0 and the Canada Cup final, when the Soviet team scored 8:1.