Witness To History
An Interview With A Canadian In Moscow
A 1972 Summit Series.com Exclusive
by Joe Pelletier

In September 1972, 3000 hockey fans had the crazy notion to fly half way across the world and go to Moscow in the deep of the Cold War. They were there to show support for Team Canada, and weren't afraid to show their Canadian flags and western world ideals.

It seemed like a crazy idea at the time, but it turned out to be the trip of a life time. Not only did these lucky few get to experience one of the world's greatest cities, but they were the eye witnesses to one of the greatest events in the history of Canada.

Creelman MacArthur, of Windsor, Nova Scotia, was one of the fans who crossed the Iron Curtain. He is now hoping to relive the trip with a reunion of those fans who he was there with.

In order to help promote his idea of a fans reunion, Creelman has granted 1972 Summit Series.com an exclusive interview regarding his amazing journey.

What made you decide to go to Moscow? 

MacArthur - I decided to go after hearing a travel agents ad on the radio saying that there were only three seats left for Atlantic Canada. This was in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where I was getting a new business ready to open. It could wait. I called my then-girlfriend in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where I lived at the time, to put my passport on an airplane to Fredericton, which I received the next day. I bought the three week deal for approximately eight hundred dollars. That was for air fare, game tickets, busses & hotel, plus breakfasts - Super Deal! This was around late August.

Who did you go with? 

MacArthur - I went alone, but at Montreal I was told that I would be doubled up with another man in Moscow. When we got to Moscow, with a 2 hour refuelling at Copenhagen, we were herded into a huge hall at the airport and split up into groups of about 100 people named after animals. We were the Elks. Canadian guides handled that and I was partnered up with a camp ground operator from central New Brunswick - Doug Moore. I think he's dead now. He was a great roommate - we stayed in touch for years after. We then took busses into our assigned hotels. Ours was the Stalingrad across the Volga River from the Kremlin. 

What was the reaction of family and friends when you told them you were going to the Soviet Union? 

MacArthur - My family thought it was a great idea. I was 34 years old then! No one feared the Cold War Russians.

How were you treated by a) locals and b) authorities?  

MacArthur - We were treated very well by the Russian guides and the people in general. The cops all carried machine guns and they would bum gum and smokes from us. I exchanged some money as well, which was not allowed but their Ruble was 8 to a dollar and a Ruble would buy you a shot of vodka in a bar. They were not as hospitable after we won the series, shutting off our hotel elevators we were on the 16th floor. Each group had their home guide who could speak English and Russian. But we only had them around on game days. I should tell you the Anglophones and the Francophones were on separate planes and generally kept separated except at the games. Also, there were three DC-8 loads of Americans there too from the Boston area (approximately 600 fans). Of course they cheered for Canada and had seating relatively close to us. At the Games we were not supposed to wave flags. The Russian police patrolled the aisles and tried to quiet us, but after game three over there they gave up and everyone was in a frenzy.

What were your thoughts on the first 4 games in Canada?

MacArthur
- I saw the first game in Canada at the Montreal Forum. Our guys were cocky and out of shape. At the end it was unbelievable. QUIET . . . everyone was in shock. I would like to say that the biggest problem with Canada at first was they were so badly out of shape, they kept taking hooking penalties, they could not skate with the Russians.

What were you expecting to happen in the 4 games in Moscow? 

MacArthur - I truly thought that Canada would be lucky to win one game. After Canada lost the first game there, we were all dejected. One day when it was drizzling rain , I flagged a cab to go back to my hotel. It was just before game three in Moscow. I was in this tiny Lada in the front seat and I spotted Mickey Redmond and Brad Park with their wives trying to hail a cab.. I got my cabby to pull over and pick them up too! He was not amused but he did. The players were staying at the "Intourist" Hotel - a newer place than ours. I asked the guys what were our chances and they both said at once - We`re going to beat them. They did, which set up game 8. 

Which players impressed you the most? 

MacArthur - The grinders impressed me the most. Gary Bergman, Bill White . . . those guys. Not to say the stars didn't shine. Phil Esposito, Yvon Cournoyer, Brad Park, Marcel Dionne were getting "hot" as the series went on, but Bergman took a lot of abuse and nearly had his ankle tendons severed by Russians kicking his shins with their skates - a trick the Russians got away with a lot. Paul Henderson was really a grinder, and he deserved the big goal. Also, the Russians tended to overlook him as a threat until the last game. For the Russians it was hard to pick a "star" - they were all amazing. BUT Tretiak kept them in most games. He changed the roll of the goalie forever. I liked Yakushev, Maltsev, and Kharlamov. But they were all like robots, and scary! It was too bad Bobby Orr did not play. We saw him a lot around the players' hotel. His knees were bad then. He would have slowed the game down in Canada 'til our guys got into shape. I wasn't impressed with Vic Hadfield, Wayne Cashman, or Gil Perreault. Hadfield and Perreault quit and went home. There was a lot of controversy over that.

Are there any odd moments, be it hockey related or just Moscow related, that > has always stuck with you over the years?

MacArthur - What stuck with me and others was how backward the Russians were with relation to phones, TV, goods in the stores. Communism does not work.

Game 8 - Henderson scores for Canada. What do you remember about the celebrations amongst Canadian fans in the arena and at the hotel afterwards?

MacArthur - I left my seat and was making my way to an exit a minute before the goal. I stopped to take another look at the ice as we were in their end and bang, it was in with half a minute to go. It took 5 minutes to play the last 30 seconds. The Canadian and American fans went nuts! After the centre ice ceremonies we were bussed back to our hotel. The management closed the bars early and as I said shut down the elevators. Everyone I knew had a bottle of Romanian champagne in their hand. It was cheap but very good. Just as well, the next morning our group had to be up early to fly to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. We were in Leningrad for a week before flying home. Back to Moscow then to Montreal for me.

Have you ever been back to Russia?

MacArthur - No I haven't been back . . . Yet. I would and my wife would too.

Do you consider being a witness to such a significant piece of Canadian > history as one of the greatest moments in your life?

MacArthur -  Going to the Russian series is probably the most memorable experience I ever had and probably ever will have, sporting or otherwise. I sometimes get very emotional when I talk about it. I was so proud to be a Canadian. It was Canada`s biggest sport victory.

If you'd like to contact Creelman MacArthur regarding the possibility of a 1972 Summit Series fan's reunion, please email him at c.macarthur@ns.sympatico.ca .

Also See:
***  "I was at game 5" an interview with Andrei Petrov 
***   They travelled to Moscow (Simcoe Times-Reformer Article)  
***  Video Canadian Fans Land At Moscow Airport - CBC (1:26)
***  Audio Fans Comments Upon Return To Canada - CBC Radio (3:41)