Interview With Don Awrey
Colleague Jay Moran recently interviewed Don Awrey, Rod Seiling and Harry Sinden. Mr. Moran is writing a book on the Rangers/Bruins rivalry during the Emile Francis era. He has agreed to share the interview transcripts pertaining to 1972 with the loyal readers of 1972 Summit Series.com
Below is the interview with Don Awrey
JM: You only played a couple of games in the ’72 Summit.
DA: “Yes, I played two.”
JM: Serge Savard said that you liked to block shots but that wasn’t the right style for the defensemen against the Russians. What was he looking for in a defensemen in that series, more offense?
DA: “Well, probably just that. I guess, they were very heady hockey players, very, you know, when they had the puck their head was up. That was just the style that they played. And I guess with a shot-blocking defenseman I was waiting for them to put their head down and then I just, I would know that, I would go down and block the shot. But if you watch - and I’ve watched the games many times - the two games that I played, which was game one and four, was not the result of me going down and trying to block any shots. And even the one goal that they said that, I don’t know who it was, walked around the outside of me and ended up scoring, I thought it was a bad, bad goal and he really didn’t beat me to the outside. He didn’t cut in and go to the net, but I thought it was a bad goal on Dryden.”
JM: At the time Vic Hadfield left the team it was handled badly in the media, he knew he wasn’t going to play.
DA: “I felt sorry for him. Remember, that was just, that summer or whatever, he had just had a great year prior to and had signed, I think, now you correct me if I’m wrong, he had just signed a big contract and then this Team Canada deal came up. Well, if he was told by Harry and, um, what‘s his name, the co-coach? John Ferguson. That if he wasn‘t going to play, he thought that he could do more good for the Rangers and the Rangers’ fans to not sit over there and just practice. Look it, we didn’t know what the outcome of this series was going to end up being. And so, when he decided to leave, it was because of the fact that he owed it to the Rangers and owed it to the New York fans to go back home and continue his training camp to get ready for the year.”
JM: Sure, to get in shape.
DA: “Absolutely. And I felt bad for him. I don’t know what was taken out of context, I don’t know what was said, if he said something, I don’t know what he said. But when he left it wasn’t the idea that he and Martin and…who else left? Was it Jocelyn Guevremont? Yeah, that was his first year. See, these guys, they were…I think Jocelyn was a first year or second year and he owed a lot to the team. I think it was Vancouver. And it wasn’t that, maybe they were told that they weren’t going to play and, you know, what’s the sense of staying there? Look it, we didn’t realize what it was going to be like for this Team Canada ’72. We didn’t realize that was going to be as big as what it ended up and here it is, thirty-three, thirty-four years later and still as big as it was back when we played.”
JM: Oh yeah. I remember reading in the NY papers that they were surprised they didn’t keep the GAG line together. Was it because Sinden’s Boston connection? They were guessing.
DA: “Well, that’s right, you can surmise all you want. What was the reason why he didn’t play ‘em? Well, you’d have to ask Harry. I can’t be trying to second-guess any of their moves. Go to the horse’s mouth.”
JM: I’ve read that after the Summit series the players that had fought together changed or treated one another differently.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I don’t think you can go through that and fight the battle that we fought for our country and not get together like, you know, you talk about firemen and policemen like brothers. I think you got that kind of camaraderie and even though it was kind of short-lived, I think you’ll carry that forever and ever and I think that carried on into the next season.”
JM: I interviewed Emile Francis and he respected that but it also bugged him a little too. He was old school. In his day you didn’t even talk to the other players.
“That’s true. And we didn’t, you know? I mean, it was just like, you know, I have a lot of friends in hockey and the reason why I do more than the average bear is I played for six teams. So unlike a guy that say spent his whole career with one team or two teams, he might have, you know, forty acquaintances. I got 120 acquaintances. And then being asked to play for Team Canada ’72 - whether I was deservedly asked or not, that didn’t make any difference - the thing is, they asked me and my wife at that time was pregnant and I had to get her okay to, you know, commit myself. And like every time I went on the ice, it was like playing in an All-Star game. Like playing in an actual All-Star game. Because we scrimmaged and so I scrimmaged against the best that the National Hockey League, Canada, had to offer at that time.”
Interview by Jay Moran