Where Were You in 1972?

Alumni remember

This is part of Northern Notables, a collection of interviews with NSS Alumni who have made an impact in their personal and professional lives.

by Joe Pascucci

Where were you in ’72? That’s a question Canadians of a certain vintage have asked one another these past 50 years. If the answer doesn’t come immediately to mind, you’re too young to have experienced one of the greatest unifying days our country has experienced.
On September 28th, from coast to coast, this nation was on the edge of their seats, whether at home, work, at school, or in transit, because of a hockey game. Of course it wasn’t just any other ordinary game. This was Game Eight of the ‘Summit Series’ between Team Canada and the Soviet Union and Northern students were caught up in the emotions and euphoria that day brought. 
But first let's look back at 1972 and what it was like for Northern students. For instance, in the days before cell phones, the cost of making a call from a pay phone was 20 cents. But at Northern, at the pay phone on the main floor near the supply office you could still put in a nickel and make a call – until Bell Canada finally caught on. A gallon of gas – we weren’t using the metric system yet – was 36 cents. If you took the bus or streetcar to get to school, it would set you back 15 cents with your student ID card. And minimum wage was $1.50 an hour. 
Northern students returned to classes on Tuesday September 5th. The first two games of the series had been played between Canada’s best NHL players and the Soviets. It was supposed to be an eight game sweep by Team Canada. Our chance to prove to the world that hockey was ‘our game.’
For the first seven minutes of Game One it was as Team Canada led 2-0 but after that the Soviets were the far better team and won easily by the embarrassing score of 7 to 3. As the headline on the front page of the Toronto Sun proclaimed the next day “Myth Shattered.”
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Tass: Myth Shattered - newspaper clipping
We Did It ! We Did It ! 4 –1 - newspaper clipping
From Game One's loss to Game Two's victory
Game Two was Monday in Toronto and Team Canada rebounded with a rousing 4-1 victory at Maple Leaf Gardens highlighted by Peter Mahovlich’s shorthanded goal that still stands as one of the most incredible individual efforts and worth watching even five decades later. As we returned to Northern the following morning it was what most of us were talking about as we made our way from class to class. 
By the end of four games in Canada, the Soviet Union had the lead in the series: two games to one, with one tie. There was a two week break in the series. When it resumed for Game Five in Moscow on the 22nd, the Soviet Union took a commanding series lead with a 5-4 victory. They now needed just one more win to claim victory.
Team Canada bounced back, though, to win Game Six 3-2, with Paul Henderson of the Maple Leafs scoring the game-winning goal. The games in Moscow started at 12:30 ET and Game Seven was on a Tuesday in middle of the school day. Team Canada had a chance to tie the series, and being the hockey crazed 15 year old Canadian kid that I was, I wasn’t going to be in class and not know what was going on in the game. So I brought my small transistor radio to school and ran the ear phone plug underneath my shirt and up my sleeve to my ear to listen to the CBC broadcast.
For the last period of the day I was in English class and the score was tied at three. This time I was able to keep my ear plug hidden by cupping my hand over my ear as I rested my elbow on the desk. It was all going so well until I heard Bob Cole exclaim “goal” and I literally jumped up from my desk, raising both my arms in the air, like hockey players do after a goal, and breaking the silence of the classroom screaming “SCORES!” ... but ... then I began to doubt myself because why was the crowd noise of the fans in Moscow coming out of my radio so loud? I feared that the Soviets had actually scored for a few seconds until I thankfully heard Cole say Paul Henderson’s name and I was relieved as Team Canada had comeback to tie the series with the deciding game to be played on Thursday September 28th.
Paul Henderson For Team Canada Scores against the Soviets - newspaper clipping
Paul Henderson For Team Canada Scores against the Soviets
"The 48 hours of tension and anticipation leading up to the final game was incredible and there was no way I was going to be in a classroom."
–  Joe Pascucci
That morning before heading to Northern I asked my dad to write me a permission note excusing me from school in the afternoon so I could watch the hockey game LIVE on TV.. When I arrived at Northern the lineup to get into the office was out the door. I was not the only one with a note from their parents. For most of my fellow students, their notes were for doctor or dentist appointments. So when I handed my slip of paper to the secretary she took one look and immediately took it to Vice Principal Scott. While both were looking over my note I remember saying to Mr. Scott: “at least I’m being honest about it.” With a short smirk he agreed to let me go home early.
In the end none of us needed our parents to sign us out. So many students had come to school with a note that a decision was made and during the morning announcements we heard that classes would end at noon so we could all watch the game. As we all later learned: this wasn’t’ just for Northern students. It was happening all across the Toronto District School Board and across the country as Canada came to a stand still to watch a hockey game.
All of Canada Was Watching - newspaper clipping
Canada came to a stand still to watch the final game of the series.
I took to FaceBook to ask former Northern Alumni for their own memories of that day:
Ron Gumbs replied “I was in grade 13. A group of us met up at Ted's and decided to watched the game at someone's near-by apartment. We drank beer and cheered in appreciation for Team Canada. Good times!"
Marilyn Stewart also headed to Ted’s but she and her friends stayed. “We all did jump and cheer so loud.” Meanwhile Deborah Scott was with a big group in the basement of Jamie Mullins' home. “Fantastic afternoon.”
Some, like Debbie Henderson, stayed at Northern to watch with their teacher Miss Smyths . “She was a big hockey fan and brought a TV in the classroom and we watched the game.” Meanwhile in Mr. Tumon’s music class was Mary Simpson. “We were all given the afternoon off to watch the game.” 
Future Northern students like John Smith was in grade seven. “It was magical. I remember every game and the drama was real every game.” Colleen Edwards was at Glenview Sr. Public school and she remembers that they brought a TV into the gym and students sat on the floor to watch the game. “It was so much fun,” she recalled. 

Mike Davidson went home to watch with his brother Tony, who also had attended Northern. Does he remember the series from half a century ago? “Like yesterday,” was his response. 
Things were looking rather bleak after two periods with the Soviets ahead by two goals.
But early in the third period Phil Esposito scored and then assisted Yvan Cournoyer’s tying goal with just under nine minutes remaining. Time was running out, and it appeared as if the game and the series was heading for a tie.

We later learned that the Soviets would have claimed victory in the series because in International Hockey Rules in the event of a tie the team with the most goals is declared the winner and the Soviets had scored one more goal than Team Canada.
Then came the final minute. Paul Henderson comes off the bench and skates straight to the Soviet goal. He makes a stab for the puck but misses and is spun around falling into the boards. Henderson quickly gets back up on his skates and heads to the net at about the same time that Phil Esposito gets to a loose puck between two Russian defensemen. Espo shoots. Goalie Vladislav Tretriak makes the save. But the puck bounces off his pad to Henderson who fires it quickly. Once again Tretiak makes the save, but the puck is still loose and comes back onto Henderson’s stick.

With Tretriak now sprawled down on the ice, Henderson doesn’t miss sliding home the series winning goal with 34 seconds left on the clock. It was his third consecutive game winning goal as Team Canada won Game Eight 6-5 and the ‘Summit Series’ 4 games to 3 with 1 tie. The three thousand Canadian fans in Moscow went crazy, as did all of us back in Canada.
Millions of Canadians watched Paul Henderson score the winning goal.
Paul Henderson was a national hero. Calls to Maple Leaf Gardens were answered with “The Home of Paul Henderson” and the Toronto Sun renamed itself for their September 29th edition as “The Hendersun.” 

There are no official TV ratings for Game Eight but you’d be hard press to find Canadians who didn’t see Paul Henderson score his most famous goal LIVE! Of course it was all we could talk about the following day and for the next few weeks. Canadians could still say ‘Hockey Was Our Game.’ But the players from the Soviet Union gained respect for how they played the game and would never be taken lightly again.

My last recollection about the Northern experience was in the years that followed – during assemblies we’d all loudly sing O’ Canada with a sense of pride in our voices. September 1972 was a special month for Northern students and all Canadians. 


Joe Pascucci NSS'76 is a veteran sports journalist and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015. With professional roots in Winnipeg, stretching back to 1982 when he was a sports reporter for Winnipeg’s CKND-TV, Joe has freelanced for ESPN and TSN, and was Sports Director for Global Winnipeg from 1986 until 2014. Joe became a CFL historian of note by compiling a celebratory video of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' history, producing videos for Bombers Hall of Fame inductions, and transferring to video key historical moments from the 1930s to '70s, including matching grainy footage of the Bombers’ 1939 Grey Cup victory with a CBC radio broadcast. Joe is a Director of the Northern Secondary School Foundation.