The late Gary Bergman was a top defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings in the
8 seasons prior to the 1972 showdown, but it was a mild surprise when he was given
the invite to be a member of the initial Team Canada. With Bobby Orr and Jacques
Laperriere injured and Dallas Smith declining for personal reasons, the 33 year
old Kenora, Ontario, native not only made the team, but played perhaps the 8
greatest games of his life!. He gained great respect from his teammates, his opponents and fans
all around the world for his gritty and effective play which made him standout
in a series full of standouts.
"He was one of the biggest surprises in terms of contribution that
we had," said coach Harry Sinden in retrospect. "We felt he could be a regular member of the team but his
contribution exceeded that. He was a terrific member of the team, and
``From my perspective, he was one of the great unsung heroes of that
series,'' series scoring star Paul Henderson told The Canadian
Press recently. ``He just played incredible hockey.''
Bergman's partner during the series was Hall of Famer Brad Park.
``We hit it off really good for guys who didn't know each other very well,''
Park noted years later. ``I was more of an offensive guy so we jelled very well
together. Right away I realized what a classy guy he was in how he handled
himself on and off the ice, and what a great competitor he was. He
had a lot of confidence in his ability and wasn't worried about how he was going
to play. He just went out and played. He was as solid a defenseman as has ever
played the game.''
Bergman is perhaps best remember for a dirty exchange in game 7 involving
Soviet captain Boris Mikhailov. Bergman hammered the centerman into the boards
late in the game, which triggered a minor brawl. Hockey fans everywhere were
sickened when Mikhailov began kicking Bergman in the shins in a disturbing
attempt to injure the Canadian defender.
" As we skated off the ice after the last game, I stopped for one
more look around the old barn. I realized that never in my life would I
be prouder or have more respect for a group of men than I did at that
moment," Gary Bergman was once quoted as saying.
Bergman, who wound out his career by
bouncing around with the Wings, Minnesota North Stars and Kansas City Scouts,
died on December 8, 2000 after an 8 month fight with cancer.