For Canadians of a certain age, watching television images beamed by satellite from the Soviet Union of Paul Henderson scoring the epic goal that won the 1972 Summit Series is a defining moment.
“Henderson has scored for Canada!” belted the great Foster Hewitt in a moment that helped shape a nation’s collective identity.
But for one North Vancouver man, the memories are even more vivid. Wayne Hussey was one of only a few thousand Canadians who made the trip over to Moscow to watch the games live. He’d been given four tickets as part of a business deal, and made the trip over with his wife Jacqueline, and two good friends. Hussey is in his 90s now, but those memories of 50 years ago are still razor sharp.
“Right now, as I’m thinking about it, I’ve got shivers going up and down my back,” he told the North Shore News.
Party starts on flight across Atlantic
Many Canadian hockey fans are familiar with the ebbs and flows of that epic hockey series, but it’s fascinating to hear about the event from a hockey fan who had a truly unique view. Hussey’s memories start on the plane ride over.
“We dropped into Montreal, the jet did, to refuel and or otherwise, and lo and behold we heard a bunch of people singing,” he said. “The French people were boarding the plane. And before they got on, on came 12 dozen old-style beer.”
It was a cross-Atlantic flight for the record books.
“They were singing all the way over to Russia,” said Hussey. “They were the happiest, drunkest bunch that I’ve ever seen in my life out in public.”
When they arrived in the Soviet Union, it became clear that the rules were different.
“Here we were in Moscow at the height of the Cold War,” said Hussey. “The first thing they did when we got off the plane in Moscow was they took your passport away. Then you feel completely denuded of any security or anything that a passport means. And there we were in this great big country – it wasn’t a very nice feeling, but that was the rule.”
Speaking the common language of hockey
It was clear, however, that hockey was a shared passion for Canadians and Russians.
“The taxi driver was Russian, of course,” said Hussey, about his first interaction with a local resident. “I don’t know if the guy understood us or not. But then for some reason we had to bring up the word ‘Esposito.’ So all of a sudden the guy turns his head, even when he’s driving, and then looks at us with a great big smile, and he says ‘Esposito!’ He knew Esposito, knew all about him.”
There were museum visits, late-night drinks and some gentle shenanigans – Hussey said he and his buddy managed to sneak into a heated meeting between Canada and Soviet hockey officials about the referees – but some of the more mundane aspects of life in the Soviet Union are the most memorable for Hussey. Jet lag kept waking him up early in the morning, and revealed something of Russian life he’d heard about but hadn’t imagined he’d ever see.
“The Russian women, at four o’clock in the morning, were sweeping the streets with willow brooms. It was quite a thing to see. … We’d read about that in books, but to actually see it in progress was much different.”
Soviet players changed the game
As for the hockey, Hussey recalled being amazed by what he saw from the Soviet players.
“When they started out from their end and or their defence, the passing of the puck was unbelievable,” he said. “They would be going more or less side to side, they weren’t going straight ahead. They were sort of circling and going up the ice at the same time. It was like a new style of seeing hockey being played, so that was most startling.”
But in the end, of course, the defining moment was a goal for Canada.
“When we won, it was the greatest nationalistic thing that I’ve ever felt, or seen, or heard,” said Hussey. “To be there seeing it happen was tremendous. And believe me – nothing has ever compared to it since.”