Saturday, 3 June 2017

Our Own Stamp On History

The image to the left is a stamp that was sold in Sweden following the 1994 Albertville Olympic Games. It depicts Peter Forsberg scoring his gold medal-winning goal around Corey Hirsch in the Canadian net during the shootout. Knowing how I feel about shootouts to determine medal winners, I'm not certain this goal should be remembered as Sweden's greatest goal, but I don't get to make those decisions. For years, those stamps were seen around the world as mail left Sweden for parts unknown. It seems Canada wanted in on this action to remind the world of our greatest goal of all-time. Thanks to the 150th anniversary of the country's founding, we're getting that stamp!

Canada Post unveiled a stamp Wednesday with the image to the right of Paul Henderson being hugged by Yvan Cournoyer immediately after scoring the goal that gave Canada the Game Eight victory over the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series and the series win. There were a number of players on-hand in Winnipeg Wednesday to commemorate the unveiling including a number of players who all played a part in the series that still defined a generation of hockey.

The stamp will be part of a ten stamps but in a maple leaf design that mark important historical moments in the last 50 years of Canada's history.

Among the dignitaries at CFB 17 Wing were Pat Stapleton, Peter Mahovlich, Frank Mahovlich, Yvon Cournoyer, Bobby Clarke, Eddie Johnston, Brad Park, Wayne Cashman and Jean Ratelle. Sean Goldsworthy, son of legend Bill Goldsworthy, and John Ferguson Jr., son of John Ferguson, also were on-hand to represent their late fathers. The only game in the series that didn't produce a win for either Canada or the Soviet Union was played in Winnipeg with a 4-4 score. To that point, Canada had managed one win, two losses, and one tie against the relatively-unknown Soviet skaters.

"We didn't realize at the time when we started that it would be such a historical part of, not just hockey, but the culture of Canada," Pete Mahovlich told the crowd of 200 people. "And to be part of that just makes everyone of us so proud."

Canada's first game in Moscow saw them lose again, and suddenly there was concern that the Soviets would win. Despite the loss, though, the 3000-or-so Canadian fans kept spirits high after the game as the sung "O Canada" as their hockey heroes left the ice.

"To still to have those people cheer us after we lost that first game," Mahovlich said, his eyes welling up with tears. "Now we're three losses, one win and one tie. But there they were."

Canada would, as history shows, rally and win the final three games of the series to take the Summit Series by a 4-3-1 record, capped off by the eighth game's heroics by Paul Henderson. For a group of 25 guys who battled each and every minute after the Game Five loss, winning as Canadians brought with it a new sense of Canadian pride that was embodied by the maple leafs these men wore on their chests.

"What that series did, it made it a real honour to put that Maple Leaf on," Wayne Cashman said with purpose. "It was quite the feat we came back. I just think it was Canadian pride."

For some, this win was the pinnacle of their hockey careers. Bill Goldsworthy never won a Stanley Cup. He played 14 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Minnesota North Stars, but it was the Summit Series team he spoke about most often according to his son, Sean.

"Ten years with the North Stars was a big piece of his career," Goldsworthy told Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun. "But the team he talked about the most was this group - even though they were only together for about six weeks. This was his band of brothers."

And they will have that bond forever as these stamps commemorate those six weeks of intense hockey action. Among the other moments in history captured on the stamps, there's a stamp commemorating Expo '67, a Constitution stamp, a Canadarm stamp, a marriage equality stamp, a Trans-Canada Highway stamp, a stamp commemorating Terry Fox's 1980 Marathon of Hope, a stamp celebrating the creation of Nunavut, a stamp celebrating our hosting of and participation in several Olympic Games, and a stamp celebrating all of the achievements of our Paralympians.

There are a number of moments of Canadian achievement in the last fifty years that should be celebrated, but I'm pretty certain that the achievements of our 1972 Summit Series team brought the nation together like no other has. It's nearly poetic to have them celebrated as part of Canada's 150th birthday.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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