Cournoyer cherishes the memories and friendships made during the 1972 Summit Series

It was in the early 1990s, two decades after the historic summit series of 1972, and Russian goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak was landing at Mirabel Airport north of Montreal, heading to Toronto with Cornuer to sign his autograph.

“I picked Vladislav at the airport in the early afternoon, and we were flying out of Dorval (Montreal’s main airport) at about six,” Cornuer recalls. “We had about five hours to kill on a nice day, so I said to him, ‘Why don’t we go over to my place and you can swim?”

“I had an extra suit that fit him—it was red!—so he put it on and jumped in. I stood there for a minute and looked at him. I couldn’t believe it. I had a Russian guy in my pool.”

Team Canada’s Ivan Cornuer beats Russian goalkeeper Vladislav Tretyak for what would be a 4-1 winning goal in Game Two of the 1972 Summit Series. Graphic Artists / Hockey Hall of Fame

In 1972, he faced Tretiak Cournoyer, and a team of the best NHL players, in a historic eight-game series played in Canada and Moscow. Bitter than the opening confrontation on September 2, it immediately turned into a political confrontation as hockey, ideology and regimes versus another played at skating rinks in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Moscow.

Canada will eventually win, winning four games – the last three on the ice in Moscow – versus Russia’s three, with one game tied.

Corner won the Stanley Cup 10 times during his National Hockey League career, and tied with his late captain, good friend and inspiration Jean Bellevue for second place of any player in league history. The late Canadian center Henry Richard, whom Cornoer succeeded as captain in 1976, holds the record with 11

Corner won five championships by 1971, another in 1973, and then four consecutive championships during his lead from 1976 to 1979. But the Stanley Cup was off his mind when he joined Team Canada in 1972, having cut his jacket normally about six inches shorter , because he was upset that it was hung on his pants.

Yvan Cournoyer celebrates Canada’s final goal in a 4-1 win in Game Two of the 1972 Summit Series, scored by Frank Mahovlich (27, background). Graphic Artists / Hockey Hall of Fame

In September 2002, as he was sitting in his backyard remembering Trettyak hitting his back through the pool a decade earlier, Kornoyer pondered the severity of the series that had been shown half a century earlier this month.

“It was a cruel and dirty war,” he said. “It was a one-shot. We didn’t have a second chance. This was their system against ours. We made history, in Russia and here. We changed the game of hockey. The game changed, the regulations, the politics. But that 1972 serial will be the same as ever.

“I loved winning the Stanley Cup because that’s what you dreamed about as a kid when you slept on your skates. I wouldn’t have lived well if I didn’t win the cup. But I would have lived miserably forever if I lost in 1972.”

Today Cornoyer, a hugely popular Canadian ambassador, scored three goals in the 1972 series, behind Paul Henderson and Phil Esposito. He had two minutes of penalty kicks, the fewest of any Canadian striker to have played all eight strong matches.

Ivan Kornoyer prepares to dash around Russian defensive man Alexander Gusev during a Summit Series match in Moscow. Melchior DiGiacomo, Getty Images

“Before the first game, before we left for the Montreal Forum, I told Frank, ‘I’m worried,'” Cornoyer said. I don’t know the Russians,” he said, referring to Frank Mahovlish, fellow Canadians at the time. “I told him, ‘I’ve never played against them before. I don’t know how they play. I’m going to war and I don’t even know my enemy.’”

“All we know is that the Russians wore shoddy skates and ugly helmets and played with ugly sticks. But they were good hockey players. They were a good team, there’s no doubt about it. They were in good shape, which we weren’t. And you know what happened. in that night “.

The Russians humiliated their hosts 7-3 after trailing 2-0, skate the Canadians right out of the building with their superior conditioning, accurate passes and opportunistic shots.

Cournoyer scored what would prove to be the Game 2 winner over the Power Game in Toronto on September 4, two nights after the Forum disaster, and helped score Mahovlich’s goal, Canada’s last, in a 4-1 victory.

Evan Cornuer in the 1960s against Toronto Maple Leafs goalkeeper Gary Smith, and in the 1970s photo as a substitute captain. Frank Prazak/Hockey Hall of Fame; Graphic Artists / Hockey Hall of Fame

He scored a third-round equalizer in Moscow on September 24 as Canada emerged for the Wall in Game 6, trailing the series 1-3-1, and Henderson scored the winner 15 seconds later in a 4-3 win.

And at 12:56 of the third period in Game 8, Cornuer scored a big goal to equalize 5-5, then Henderson scored the break point in the drama series, the third consecutive winner, with 34 seconds remaining.

Cournoyer is totally okay with the fact that the most famous photo of himself, the one he has signed more than any other, is of his broad back, embracing a beaming Henderson immediately after the latter beat sprawling Tretillac in a rebound for the most famous goal in Canadian hockey history

“Paul said that when he jumped into my arms, he was afraid he’d break my back,” Cornuer said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry, it wasn’t as heavy as a Stanley Cup.’ I could hold and hug twice as much as Paul. I kept telling him, ‘We did it!'” We did it!”

Yvan Cournoyer finds himself in a jungle of Russian players during the 1972 Summit Series in Moscow. Collection courtesy of Dennis Brodeur

He remembers that the emotion in the dressing room in victorious Canada was not filled with joy

“Relief. Most of it is relief,” Cornuer said. “We were exhausted. We had to win. There was no other way. We wouldn’t remember the show as it is today in Canada if we lost.

“We had to win the last three games, so we played it like Stanley Cup (elimination) games – transformation by transformation, period after period, game after game. We never looked forward. We focused on game 6, then game 7, then game 8. By then, it was more like a Stanley Cup streak. When you play the same team over and over, you start to understand their style and tune in a little bit.”

With Game 8 kicking off at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada literally froze, holding its breath from sea to sea across six time zones with the series on the line.

Ivan Kornoyer in 1972 did the Summit Series in Moscow, and during a visit to Russia in 2002 on the 30th anniversary of the series, as a guest of the former Soviet national team. From left: Alexander Maltsev, Boris Mikhailov and Kornoir. Melchior DiGiacomo, Getty Images; Evelyn Cornuer

“People will tell me where they are going to watch Game 8,” Cornuer said. “Stop at work or watch TV in a class. It was a once in a lifetime moment. Canadiens fans remember me mostly because of my Stanley Cup trophies, but when I travel it’s probably 50/50, Summit Series and Montreal.”

In 2002, Cornuer and his wife Evelyn were the only Canadians invited to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary in Moscow, in the presence of which almost the entire Russian team was present.

Defrosting a relationship of Cold War bitterness into a warm bond, the Russians practically adopted Cournoyer—in the beginning of his career he was nicknamed “Roadrunner” for his speed—because he played the game quickly, creatively, and within the rules.

From the podium, Cornuer joked to the audience that the Russians love him “because my name is Ivan.” Then the Moscow mayor squandered the house when he stepped forward to present the esteemed guest with a CCCP jersey, signed by the Russian team with Cournoyer’s name on the back.

A CCCP Russian shirt awarded to Ivan Cornoyer during a visit to Moscow in 2002 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series. Evelyn Cornoyer

Half a century later, the 78-year-old Roadrunner keeps the memories of his life’s streak – from eight fierce, winner-takes-all games, to playing Russian in his swimming pool, to previously unimaginable friendships that will last forever. Forever bear.

The CCCP Shirt is a prized possession in the humble Cournoyer memorabilia collection. In 2002, he sold at auction both the red and white Team Canada sweatshirts.

“A few years ago, I was having dinner in Toronto and a businessman at my table told me, ‘I bought one of your 1972 T-shirts,'” he joked.

Unlike the sweatshirts, plates, odds and ends of Summit Series, Kornoir’s memories won’t gather any dust.

“When we see each other, we don’t even have to talk,” he said of his colleagues in 1972. “We look at each other and without saying anything, we know we, together, have done something incredible.

“When we won, we didn’t realize it was going to be this big back home. We had no idea. But when we got home, we realized, ‘Hey, this is a very big thing.'” “I thought a lot about how crazy it was at home. I would have loved to see what was happening in that moment.”

Then he laughed, “But believe me, I’d rather be in Russia.”

Best Images: Melchior DiGiacomo, Getty Images (left); Evelyn Cornuer