The 1972 Summit Series Between Canada and the USSR has Some Great Collectibles
The year was 1972 and the Cold war was in full swing. Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were tense, sometimes teetering on the brink of nuclear war. It was also a time when the USSR dominated international competition, displacing Canada as the world’s hockey power.
Since the Olympics were only open to amateurs in those years, Canada could not field their NHL players. The Soviets, on the other hand, claimed their players were amateurs because they had been employed as military officers. In reality, they exclusively played hockey, skirting the rules and gobbling up gold medals in the process. Canada, upset that it could not use NHLers, withdrew from the 1970 IIHF World Championships.
In 1971, the Canadian embassy in Moscow learned of the Soviets’ interest in playing a series of games after reading an article Soviet newspapers. The negotiations for the series were finalized at the Hotel International Prague during the 1972 World Ice Hockey Championships. The deal included the playing of eight games – four in Canada and the other four in the Soviet Union – and would pit players such as goaltender Vladislav Tretiak against future Hall of Famer Phil Esposito.
The games – known as the “Summit Series” – were contested between September 2-28. The expectation was that Canada would win given that they featured the world’s best players; a roster that also included goaltender Ken Dryden, defenseman Serge Savard and center Bobby Clarke.
Canada won the series 4-3 after the third game ended in a 4-4 tie. The hero of the series, however, was Paul Henderson, a player who otherwise had a relatively average NHL career. He played in all eight games for Canada, tallying seven goals and three assists. Henderson scored the winning goal in the 6-5 win in Game 8 that won Canada the series.
On the 50th anniversary of that epic series, here’s a look at the collectables, from trading cards to pucks to signed photos, that continue to grab the fascination of hockey fans everywhere.
Dual Signed Photos
Autographs are always a hot item and this one featuring two of the protagonists from that series remains an iconic memento. The 16 x 20 photo features Yvan Cournoyer trying to score a goal while goaltender Vladislav Tretiak extends his right leg.
Pucks used during that series featured a split logo design: a piece of the red Maple Leaf to represent Canada and CCCP – the Russian acronym for the USSR – across the top. The year ’72 appears in the middle. The pucks can still be found on eBay and other auction sites. Many of these pucks have been autographed by the Canadian players who took part in the Summit Series, making for a great collectable from that era.
If getting autographs on your own is what you prefer, then there are a variety of pucks from that series that can be found at shows and on eBay. In fact, commemorative ones with the players’ likeness on them can be great if you want to get them autographed.
Official TV Program
When the series moved to Moscow, Hockey Canada put together a 12-page “Official Home TV Program” for viewers to have in hand while watching from their living rooms. The great thing about this program is that it features box scores and photos from the first four games of the series.
1972 OPC “Team Canada” Insert Set
At a time when card sets did not feature subsets and inserts like they do today, it’s truly amazing that the 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee set featured just that. The cards featured just the players’ faces with a Canadian flag in the top left corner and the Soviet flag in bottom right. The 28-card set has the player’s stats from the Summit Series on the backs.
1991-92 Future Trends Canada ‘72 Summit Series
It was in the middle of the card boom that more Summit Series cards were put out to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The 101-card set, put out by Future Trends, features players from both teams along with key moments from the series. The cards remain relatively cheap to buy due to mass production. These are great cards if you want to get them autographed in person or through the mail.
It was 50 years ago that hockey fans got a glimpse behind the Iron Curtain to watch two hockey powerhouses face off. Five decades later, you can look back at that time by owning a piece of international hockey history.
Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.