A nervous final 34 seconds to Summit Series 0
Members of Team Canada who played in the 1972 Summit Series Bill White (left), Marcel Dionne (middle) and Ron Ellis. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
Bill White had the usual pre-game butterflies before the puck dropped in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series.
Like usual, though, they disappeared when the big defenceman hit the ice.
But after Paul Henderson's goal gave Canada a 6-5 lead with 34 seconds remaining in the third period, White experienced something new.
"That's when another set of butterflies set it," White admitted. "Thirty-four seconds. Man, Bill Mosienko scored three times in 21 seconds, so a lot could happen."
With all that transpired over the series, you bet the players wondered what would happen next.
"I remember thinking, 'What do they have planned?' " defenceman Pat Stapleton recalled. "I've often said, I didn't think they competed very hard in those last 34 seconds. I've never looked at the video and watched it closely, because it's history."
White and Stapleton were on the ice for Canada, with Phil Esposito, Peter Mahovlich and Ron Ellis at forward.
Amazingly, the Soviets never mounted much of a comeback.
Esposito won the ensuing faceoff, pulling the puck to Stapleton, and he smoothly lofted the puck into the Soviet zone.
The Soviets moved up the ice and Boris Mikhailov dumped the puck into the corner. White tried a breakout pass to Esposito, which was just out of reach, but for some reason it wasn't called icing.
"I was afraid on that. I just wanted to lob it out and it kept going and going," White said.
With a dozen seconds remaining, the hosts again mounted something of an attack, but the best they could do was a long, wide shot by Aleksander Gusev.
The buzzer sounded and Stapleton grabbed the puck.
"I thought maybe they had a play for a situation like that," White said. "I expected somebody to come through the centre off the faceoff. But there was no aggressive play.
"They shot it in the zone at the end and Patty took it behind the net, and ragged it halfway to the blueline and ran out the clock."
Thanks to victories in the final three games, Team Canada claimed the Summit Series by winning four times, losing three and tying one match.
They celebrated, but it was muted in the room.
"After the game, there was not a sense of 'Wow we did it.' Everybody just kind of sat there," Stapleton said. "There wasn't a lot of wild jubilation. Guys congratulated one another. We just all sat down and took off our equipment."
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