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‘We’re doing the best we can’ — Phil Esposito

TIME Canada coverage

September 8
Game 4 (filing from Vancouver)
Once again, indiscipline cost Team Canada dearly. Two unnecessary penalties by right-winger Bill
Goldsworthy — one for cross-checking, the other for elbowing — allowed the Russians to score twice with a man advantage. Both goals were Boris Mikhailov deflections off shots by defenceman Vladimir Lutchenko. That was in the first seven minutes and twenty-nine seconds of the first period. The Canadians never recovered.

Russa 5-Canada 3

Although they made it 2-1 on Gilbert Perreault’s goal in the second period and scored two more times in the third, they could not keep pace with the Russians. The visitors got two goals in the second period and another in the third to win 5-3. Heading to Moscow, the Soviets were one game away from winning the series and the Canadian spectators made their feelings known with a deafening series of catcalls and boos. At one point they gave a Bronx cheer to goaler Ken Dryden for stopping an easy shot. They booed every missed Canadian pass. It was ugly. So ugly, that when Esposito was named Canadian player of the game, he took advantage of a live CTV interview with host Johnny Esaw to berate the Canadian fans.

It was a Churchillian moment:

“To the people across Canada,” he began, “we gave it our best. For the people that booed, geez, I am really… all of us guys are really disheartened, and we’re disillusioned and we’re disappointed in some of the people. We cannot believe the bad press we’ve got… Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps. We know we’re trying. Hell, I mean, we’re doing the best we can and they’ve got a good team and let’s face facts. It doesn’t mean we’re not giving it our 150% because we certainly are… Every one of us guys, 35 guys that came out and played for team Canada, we did it because we love our country and not for any other reason, no other reason.… And even though we may play in the United States and we earn money in the United States, Canada is still our home, and that’s the only reason we’ve come. And I don’t think it’s fair that we should be booed.”

The team was scheduled to fly back to Toronto and, after a three-day layover, move on to exhibition matches against the Swedish national team on September 16 and 17 before facing the Russians for four games in Moscow starting on September 22.

Robert Lewis

Twelve years in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, former Editor-in-Chief at Maclean's, author "Power, Prime Ministers and the Press" (2018, Dundurn; available as audiobook).


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