There is little doubt
that the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union is
the single greatest hockey tournament, perhaps sporting event, ever.
Due to the political and cultural differences, and the dramatic
ending, it is unforeseeable that anything could rival 1972. However
the 1987 Canada Cup did rival it. While the Cold War was thawing,
the drama was almost equal to 1972. And unlike 1972, the tournament
was filled with great play on the ice. In fact most will agree that
the 1987 Canada Cup highlighted perhaps the greatest hockey ever
"I don't think
you'll ever see better hockey than what was played in that
series," said Wayne Gretzky. "For me, it was probably the
best hockey I've ever played."
The 1987 Cup not only
had the greatest player of all time in his prime, but many others as
well. Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov,
Sergei Makarov also were at the highest points of their incredible
careers. The series also saw the rise to prominence of a young
Dominik Hasek, as well as the elevation of Mario Lemieux to
The round robin went
pretty much as expected. Canada and the Soviets finished 1-2 with
Sweden and CSSR narrowly edging out the Americans for the final
playoff spots. The Soviets handed Sweden a 4-2 loss and Canada
downed the Czechs 5-3 to set up the greatest showdown in history.
The best of three series
went the distance and thrilled fans world wide. All three games
ended with the same score, 6-5, which was the identical score of the
final game of the eight-game 1972 Summit Series, which saw Paul
Henderson win the game for Canada with just 34 seconds left.
1987 was the longest
series since 1972 between the two nations. The three games dripped
with intrigue and drama. The Soviets shocked the Canadians with a
6-5 overtime win in game one in Montreal.
In the second game in
Hamilton, Ontario, the Canadians assumed a 3-1 lead but watched it
vanish. The game went into overtime which required a Mario Lemieux
tally in the second over time period to force a third and deciding
game. Some have called that second game the best game ever played.
In the third game, which
was also played in Hamilton, the Canadians fell behind early 3-0 and
4-2. But, by using grit, determination and skill, they rallied in
the second period to take a 5-4 lead, which the Soviets would erase
in the third period, setting up the last minute heroics.
Late in the third
period, Dale Hawerchuk was out to take an important faceoff in his
own zone. Hawerchuk won the draw from Valeri Kamensky and tied up
the Soviet center. Mario Lemieux got the puck and pushed it ahead to
Wayne Gretzky at the blueline. Breaking across center ice with
Lemieux and Larry Murphy trailing, Gretzky swooped in on Igor
Kravchuk, and goaltender Sergei Mylnikov.
Gretzky, who led all
tournament scorers, fed a perfect pass back to Lemieux, who led all
tournament snipers, at the top of the faceoff circle. "I had
lots of time," said Lemieux, "more than a second. The top
shelf was open and I just put it there." For the next minute
and 26 seconds, Team Canada would kill time by defending their zone,
knowing they were seconds away from being crowned winners of the
greatest series in hockey history.
"There is a
generation of hockey fans who have grown up not having seen the 1972
Summit Series," said tournament head Alan Eagleson. "But
the 1987 tournament bridged that generation gap. It was that good.
To a new generation it will be their 1972 series."
to Mario Lemieux's famous goal
Game By Game Details with
Complete Team by Team Rosters and Stats
Scoring Leaders and Goalie Leaders
Tournament Overviews and Summaries
Tournament Award Winners