Campbell's Cuts: Summit Series? So what.
So, this is what it has come toÂ…Friday's big news about the Canadian junior team for the Super Series against Russia was how they conducted a bodychecking drill.
How compelling. Boy, now I'm really fired up to see this thing get going.
Don't know about you, but I couldn't care less about the Super Series. Perhaps it's because in the back of my mind, these kids essentially have no choice in whether or not they participate Â– just try turning them down for this and getting an invite to the World Junior camp Â– and they're not receiving a cent for all their hard work.
More than that, it's probably because I don't care anymore about the original Summit Series, the one to which this series is supposed to pay tribute. It was great in 1972 and I was just like millions of other kids in Canada who zealously followed every game and watched the final one on television at school and almost coughed up a lung cheering when Paul Henderson scored to clinch the series.
(An aside: Henderson's heroics do not give him the right to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Didn't then. Doesn't now. Never will.)
But it was 35 years ago, people. Let it go. Since then, Canada has won five world senior championships, 13 world junior championships, five Canada/World Cups, nine world women's championships, one men's Olympic gold medal and two women's Olympic gold medals.
But it still seems every five years now we have to subject ourselves to sappy tributes to the Summit Series. Yeah, yeah, us against them, much bigger than hockey, the forces of capitalism against the evil communist menaceÂ…blah, blah, blah.
Am I the only one who's getting tired of having the notion of how compelling and important and exciting and groundbreaking this series was shoved down my throat all the time?
I've said it before and, at risk of looking like an unpatriotic ingrate, I'll say it again. The Canada-Soviet clash in 1972 was basically a meaningless exhibition series.
Everybody loves to talk about how Canada rallied and showed immense character and pride by coming back to beat the Soviets. But does anyone ever mention that just a couple of months before that, the Czechoslovaks stunned the world by defeating the Soviets in the world championship?
Ask anyone who watched the Soviets role into Prague in their tanks in 1968 whether that victory had any historical significance for them. That was a real victory in a real tournament against a real enemy, not a trumped-up Alan Eagleson production.
The world has changed since then. All these kids on both teams will dream of chasing millions of dollars in the NHL someday and some of them might even be teammates in an NHL uniform.
The kids on the Canadian team watched parts of the Summit Series before leaving for Moscow Â– and the betting here is that they were shocked at how lousy the quality of the hockey was Â– and said all the right things about it stirring up all those old emotions that they never even knew they had.
But the fact is, Canadian kids these days see USA as a far more hated rival these days than the Russians. They grow up playing against one another in minor hockey tournaments and with and against each other in major junior and college hockey.
I'm willing to bet that these games would be a lot more compelling to watch and intensely played if they were between the best juniors north and south of the 49th parallel.
Like a lot of other people, I'll be watching when Canada takes on Russia in the first game Monday. But I'll be far more interested in how players such as John Tavares and Alexei Cherepanov perform than who wins any of the games.
FLETCHER SITS OUT:
For the first time in 51 years, Cliff Fletcher won't have anything to do this fall.
Since 1956, when the Montreal Canadiens first hired him as a scout, Fletcher has always had a training camp to attend and a season for which to prepare. But after being let go as executive vice-president of hockey operations by the Phoenix Coyotes, Fletcher finds himself without a team for the first time in 51 years.
Having just celebrated his 72nd birthday, Fletcher realizes there's a very good chance his retirement from the game will be permanent.
But that doesn't mean he's not following the game.
During a recent conversation, Fletcher pointed out that the Toronto Maple Leafs were minus-27 in special teams last season and he's right. They scored 71 goals on the power play, but gave up 90 while killing penalties and 11 more shorthanded goals, while scoring just three of their own.
"I'd be willing to explore anything," Fletcher said, "but I'm also realistic about it."
Ken Campbell's Cuts appears regularly only on The Hockey News.com. Want to get the inside edge from Ken himself? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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