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The boisterous Canucks came to party

September 27

The Scene on the Eve of Game 8 (filing from Moscow)

My original report to TIME

Along with bubble gum, Maple Leaf pins and the magic dollar bill, Canadian fans brought their patented rooting style to Moscow for round two. Massed in their own sections of the Luzhniki arena, the gaily-garbed Canukskys were a sharp contrast to the blue-greys of the hometown crowd (many of them bureaucrats or delegates to a special party congress).

The red-white-and-blue Montreal Canadiens hockey sweaters dotted the Canuk sections like peppers in a tossed salad. While the Soviets were content with the occasional call of “Shaibu, shaibu” (Score!) and with whistled jeers, the Canadian contingent stomped like a rock group. Indicating a tentative grasp of basic Berlitz (and appearing somewhat gauche to the locals) the Canadians struck up the chant: “DA-DA KAN-eh-DA, NYET-NYET SOV-EE-ET” and clapped rhythmically in the traditional football chant, “LET’S GO.”

“Shaibu, Shaibu”

Back at the Hotel Intourist, after two straight victories, the Canadians spiked their jubilation with vodka, champagne, filet mignon and more vodka. One over-zealous celebrant tried to bust up the bar and ended up in the pokie when he tried to bop a local cop. (The only other incarceration took place after a man urinated in Red Square).

In the main, though, Canadian tourists were a reserved cross-section of Middle-Canada. A Montreal fireman wandered around dejectedly because he couldn’t get directions to the local firehouse. Secretaries from Parliament Hill guzzled with lawyers from Vancouver. One couple from Hamilton, Ont., took their 16-year-old daughter out of school for a magnificent two-week lesson in geography and sociology. The tourists did all the must scenes: the Kremlin, the ballet, the circus. For some, there were side trips to Leningrad and Kiev.

Wherever they went, the tourists were escorted in groups with animal names, FOX, BEAVER, DEER (it was the only way the fledgling Moscow tourist industry could handle such a sizeable crowd). The foxes and deer enjoyed a lavish meal and floor show in the Arbat restaurant Thursday night. Jean Beliveau was there to cast an approving eye on the ample charms of a belly dancer. Joyce and George Hawkins from Burlington, Ont., washed down their steaks with Georgian champagne while their 16-year-old daughter danced with a lawyer from Montreal.

Over belts of vodka the Canadians, reporters included, cheered and applauded the floor show. First came four girls, clad in skin-tight silver costumes who were quickly dubbed “the Lenin Sisters.” A high-stepping chorus line rivalled the Radio City Rockettes. An oriental belly dancer drew shouts of, “more, more” and the occasional “take it all off.” A svelte but muscular lady dressed in a costume split to the navel, climbed a rope hanging from the ceiling to do a number that was almost more erotic than acrobatic. Then came a duo of tumblers β€” “the second stringers of the Russian hockey tame,” Beliveau joked, as Globe columnist Dick Beddoes chortled. As the show drew to a close, there was a mixed pair of skaters (on miniature wheels), Kosack-style dancers and a back-lit show featuring an animated woman and man, apparently in the nude, tossing round discs. That performance drew a standing ovation.

Over belts of vodka the Canadians, reporters included, cheered and applauded the floor show.

Around midnight the tourists headed for their buses. On one of them an Intourist guide named Irene led the singing of Good Night, Irene. The next number was, Show Me the Way to Go Home. One man singing along took one step off the bus and fell flat on his face on the street. Inside the Intourist hotel, the dollar bars roared into the wee hours. Broken glass, beloved of the drinking class, littered the floors, some guests vomited in the washrooms and not a a few shouts of “OSKEE-WEE-WEE” resounded through the darkened lobby. Soviet hotel staff on duty generally smiled and shook their heads. The Canadians had come.

Most tourists here seemed to be coping and minding their manners. Anne Woolfe, spirited wife of sports lawyer Robert who represents (WHA recruit) Derek Sanderson, has been going around trading bubble gum for myriad national pins. In only a day of scouring, Anne collected 47 pins on the lapels of her double-breasted jacket.

Such massive injections of North American gum β€”and dollars β€” into the Soviet system this week are only part of of new advances in east-west relations. Along the boards of the Sports Palace, foreign ads appear for the first time (brand name only).

As for the players, the Canadians generally found the new surroundings less foreign than they expected. Goalers Tony Esposito and Ken Dryden were not at all defeated by the semi-circular creases. And the Canadian forwards, having worked themselves into better shape, found that the wider rink was ideal for their free-wheeling passing game.

By mid-week, in fact, the great questions were being debated away from the ice rink. The Canadians learned Wednesday morning after a practice that a deal they had closed the day before on officiating had come unstuck. Contrary to earlier agreements, the Soviets are now insisting on the two West German officials for the deciding game. The Canadians want the Swede Ulf Dahlberg and the Czech Rudi Bata to work the crucial game. The Soviets are insisting that the Germans, Franz Baader and Joseph Kompalla, officiate.

At this writing the last game appeared to hang in the balance as high-level Canadian and Soviet officials were meeting throughout the day to resolve the impasse. [After Canada threatened to withdraw from the series, both sides agreed to a compromise on game day that each side could choose one official].

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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