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Teach respect, sportsmanship, and fair play

November 22nd, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Summit Series 

For Canadians who lived through it, the eight games between Canada's best hockey players and the Soviets' in 1972 was a series to remember. For Canadian teens today, the series can serve as a great context for discussing character attributes of fairness, respect, and sportsmanship.

For years leading up the 1972 "Friendship Series" (ironically this was the name originally given to the tournament), Canada hadn't performed well in international hockey tournaments. Canadians believed it was because their best players were pros in the NHL, and at the time not allowed to play in international tournaments of 'amateurs' like the Olympics. So a tournament was set up that would pit Canada's best against the Soviets'. It would be no contest, most Canadians believed, because hockey was our sport. But all this changed when Canada lost Game 1 and the battle to win became a "war on ice.". Remember, too, that this was at the height of the Cold War which pitted the West against the Soviets.

Summit Series '72, a new book by sportswriter Richard Brignall, addresses many of the issues surrounding this series, including nationalism and the Cold War context. To use this series to tie-in with character education themes, students can refer to the following scenes from the book and discuss them in terms of these character attributes:

Fairness: After Canada's Game 4 loss in Vancouver, the Canadian fans booed their own players. Team captain Phil Esposito had this to say “I tell ya, every one of us thirty-five 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 I don’t think it’s fair that we should be booed.” (Refer to Summit Series '72 page 94)

Respect:  Heading into the series, the Canadian media debated not if we would win the series, but how much we'd win by. Players, too, thought there would be no contest. Afterwards goalie Ken Dryden said, "We didn't respect our opponents. We didn't have a sense that we could lose." (Refer to Summit Series '72 page 85)

Sportsmanship:  In Game 6, Bobby Clarke, then a rookie player, was told by one of the coaches to "take out" Soviet player Kharlamov. Clarke slashed Kharlamov's ankle with his stick and fractured his ankle. (Refer to Summit Series '72 page 115)

 For a review of this new book, click on this link to CM Magazine. The review sums up the book: "Highly recommended."

You can get Summit Series '72 from your usual library wholesaler. To order online, click here.



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