Film scores with stars

Film scores with stars
1972 hockey heroes approve of CBC mini-series
`They've really captured the sense of what happened'
Mar. 21, 2006. 01:00 AM
CHRIS ZELKOVICH
SPORTS MEDIA COLUMNIST


Outside of a few Hollywood moments, members of Team Canada are giving the made-for-television mini-series on the 1972 hockey summit series a collective thumbs up.

"They've really captured the sense of what happened," said series hero Paul Henderson, who attended last night's preview at the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with four other members of the team.

The series, Canada-Russia 1972, will air April 9 and 10 on CBC.

"You never know what they're going to do with a movie, but this is pretty true."

The four-hour movie, produced by Summit Films and Dream Street Pictures, covers the legendary series that pitted Canada's best players against the best from the Soviet Union for the first time, at the height of the Cold War.

It shows all, from behind-the-scenes battles between officials to battles between coaches and players to bloodier battles on the ice.

"There's a little Hollywood and a little pizzazz that's been added, but other than that it really shows how things happened," said Harry Sinden, who coached Team Canada to its dramatic eight-game victory.

That opinion might not be shared by some of the players who didn't accept invitations to the screening. Former New York Ranger Vic Hadfield, who led a player revolt and bolted the team in Moscow, did not attend.

Neither did former Philadelphia Flyer Bobby Clarke, who is shown delivering a two-handed slash to the ankle of Soviet star Valery Kharlamov, knocking him out of the game and nullifying his effectiveness after that.

But those depicted in a more positive light were happy with what they saw.

Maple Leaf great Ron Ellis said the movie brought back great memories from what he calls the highlight of his career.

"Winning a Stanley Cup was special, but for 27 days this brought together the entire country, not just Maple Leaf fans," he said. "I've met a lot of people over the years who say it united the country like never before."

There were some complaints, though. Henderson said he thought he had suffered some sort of memory loss because he couldn't remember Gabrielle Fournier, the government official who helped organize the event.

There was, of course, no such person. The producers created a character as a composite of various Hockey Canada officials. Making the character a woman was the CBC's idea.

All agreed the movie got it wrong in showing fans booing the team before the fourth game in Vancouver.

"That's not the way it happened," said defenceman Bill White. "They sure booed us during the game, and definitely after, but they were cheering us when we came on the ice."

Nobody could remember Kharlamov firing a puck into the stands, where Canadian players sat mocking the Soviet practice.

But Sinden isn't convinced the scene was entirely fabricated.

"I do remember us watching them practice and I do remember a lot of the guys having a laugh at what they were seeing," he said. "They did a lot of stuff that looked strange to us.

"There was an incident, I think one of the Russians said something, but I don't remember anybody shooting a puck at us."

Regardless, it was a great scene and set up the animosity that developed between the teams.

"It was supposed to be the Friendship Series," Ellis said. "That lasted about two minutes.

After that it was a war between our way of life and theirs."

White felt the action scenes were generally very good, "but these guys are actors, not hockey players."

He was also amazed to learn some of the behind-the-scenes intrigue. "Thirty years later, I'm seeing some of this stuff for the first time." While most of the movie brought back good feelings, there were some memories the players would have rather seen left on the cutting-room floor.

Sinden says the turmoil, caused mainly by having 35 players but being able to dress only 19, was partly his fault.

"It wasn't an easy situation, but I could have handled it better." While the pain of having Canadian fans call them bums and goons after the first two losses has faded, Henderson said he'd rather forget it. "Some of that was hard to watch," he said.

Seeing themselves portrayed in a movie produced mixed reactions, but White loved it.

"I really liked the guy who played me," said the balding former defenceman. "He's got nice hair."