The Ill-fated Scouting Trip to Moscow
Bob Davidson, along side Johnny McLellan, suffered an undeserving yet severe fate for his role in the 1972 Summit Series.
Davidson was an excellent hockey player during the 1930's and 1940's. He was a grinding two-way winger with the Toronto Maple Leafs, often playing on a top line with the legendary Syl Apps and sniper Gord Drillon. With the Leafs Davidson won two Stanley Cups, including one with him as the captain!
Following his playing career Davidson embarked upon a short coaching career before becoming a long time scout with the Leafs. He served 3 decades as the Leafs top scout, and found many of the team's greatest superstars in the 1950s and 1960s, including Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower and Dave Keon.
Needless to say by 1972 Davidson was considered to be among the top scouts in the business, and fellow Leafs scout Johnny McLellan, who also devoted his life to hockey, was highly regarded as well. The duo was asked to go to Moscow for an ill fated scouting mission for Team Canada 1972.
Davidson's and McLellan's scouting reporting is now infamous. Newspapers across the nation printed their findings as they observed the Soviet National Team in a single exhibition game against the Army Club.
Their findings were fairly obvious - the Russians could skate and pass. They laughed at the Russians primitive equipment, which by Canadian standards truly was primitive.
But it was the scouts findings on goaltender Vladislav Tretiak that came back to haunt them the most.
"It seems that Tretiak is till too inexperienced to stand up to the NHL sharpshooters. He is not confident with his ability in tight situations. The goalkeeper is definitely the weakest link on the Soviet team," they concluded.
Of course nothing could have been further from the truth, as the NHL sharpshooters quickly found out. Tretiak went on to not only stone the NHL's best in those 8 games, but for more than a decade.
Davidson and McLellan have been lambasted for their report over the years, but they deserve a break. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the exhibition game was not held under normal circumstances.
The game was held on the eve of Tretiak's wedding. Needless to say Tretiak probably had other things on his mind. That is if he could think at all - other reports say his bachelor's party was the night before the game!
Tretiak had probably the worst game of his career, which was perfect timing for the Canadian scouts, as far as the Russians were concerned.
There has been much speculation that the Russian exhibition game was a ruse to fool the Canadian scouts. Although they would never admit it, Soviet sports teams had been know to play possum at times to fool their opponents.
Tretiak never admitted such a ploy, although in the video "Summit on Ice" he talks about it with a definite smirk on his face which just fuels the debate whether it was all a show to show the Canadian scouts what Canadians and the NHL players wanted to see.