Trudeau, Brezhnev used 
hockey for political gains

Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Leonid Brezhnev might not have had a lot in common, but a love of sports and a belief that sports, and in greater context culture, can play a vital role in the development of the nation.

Trudeau was an avid outdoorsman, but whether he was a true fan of professional sports in Canada only those close to him know. He was often seen at highly popular events such as big hockey games or CFL Grey Cup games. However it might have been more of a political posing moment than genuine interest.

But Trudeau had a very keen interest in developing sport in Canada. He saw sport and culture as a way of easing the national identity and unity issues that have to some degree always plagued politics in Canada.

In 1968 when he was elected into power he set up The Task Force on Sport for Canadians. While the mandate was broad, much of the focus was on hockey and specifically on why Canada wasn't doing well on the international hockey scene.

Meanwhile, over in Russia Leonid Brezhnev took a strikingly similar stance. He wanted Russian athletes to be the best in every sport. That would instil great pride in the nation and show the West that the Communist ways were working incredibly well.

Unlike Trudeau, there is no doubt that Brezhnev had a keen interest in hockey. He attended all 4 1972 Summit Series games attended in Moscow.

There always has been some speculation that Brezhnev might have abused his power to try to influence the outcome of the 1972 Summit Series. Off-ice games were being played by the Soviets - games such as disappearing food and beer imported from Canada for Canadian players; mysterious late night phone calls waking players up; and even reports of bugged hotel rooms. Some conspiracy-creators believe that a political higher up was behind this, perhaps even Brezhnev himself.