In the summer of 1981, we were getting ready for the second great hockey tournament featuring the best players from the best hockey-playing nations. Canada won in 1976 and were favored to win again five years later. The trophy stayed in Canada, but for a different reason.
The summer of 1981 was a particularly busy time in the hockey world because of the building anticipation for the Canada Cup. After wins by Canada at the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup, interest was high north of the border and fans were hanging on every word and declaration made by then-renowned tournament organizer Alan Eagleson. Oh, how innocent we were. In this edition of Throwback Thursday, let’s look at some of the things we featured in the August edition of The Hockey News. Our cover featured six hockey gloves – one for each nation participating – reaching out to take ahold of the Canada Cup. Inside was a 24-page special section.
The Canada Cup was supposed to be held a year earlier – keeping the four-year increment spread intact – but was postponed following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That kept Eagleson in the spotlight an additional year. Our editorial that issue gave Eagleson a backhanded compliment for his organizational efforts: “So once again, the man deserves credit and thanks for what he’s accomplished – despite his maddening, unorthodox style.” Then, on the editorial page, we got Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard to pipe in, explaining why Toronto would not host any games (games were played in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal). In the space of 300 words, he managed to write h-e-double-hockey-sticks three times. “They’re not getting near my building,” Ballard wrote, talking about the Russians. “I’ll make more money putting in one extra rock show during the summer than I will from as many games as those damn Russians can play.”
On the lighter side, imagine a full-page advertisement for Cooperalls, which featured a listing of the amateur teams using the one-piece hockey uniform.
And what a great photo of Montreal star defenseman Larry Robinson welcoming two Canadiens draft picks Gilbert Delorme and Mark Hunter.
And arbitration was a different beast back then. When Hartford signed goalie Greg Millen, an arbitrator awarded two players to the Penguins as arbitration. Pat Boutette and Kevin McClelland were Pennsylvania bound. The top four picks in the 1981 OHL midget draft? Dan Quinn to Belleville, Brian Bradley to London, Pat Verbeek to Sudbury and Steve Yzerman to Peterborough. As for the Canada Cup, spoiler alert. Twenty-year-old Wayne Gretzky led the tournament in scoring, but Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak was MVP and the Soviet Union beat Canada 8-1 in the final. The Soviets were led by Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov, Viacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov, all in their early twenties. Controversy soon followed after the awarding of the Canada Cup. Eagleson refused to allow the Russians to take the trophy with them to the Soviet Union. He went to the airport and took it back from them. A group of Canadians raised funds to create a replica Canada Cup, which was then presented to the Soviet team.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and
a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog.
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