The Summit Series, or Super Series, known at the time simply as the Canadaâ€“USSR Series, was an eight-game series of ice hockey between the Soviet Union and Canada, held in September 1972. It was the first competition between the Soviet national team and a Canadian team represented by professional players of the National Hockey League (NHL), known as Team Canada. It was the first international ice hockey competition for Canada after Canada had withdrawn from international ice hockey competitions in a dispute with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The series was organized with the intention to create a true best-on-best competition in the sport of ice hockey. The Soviets had become the dominant team in international competitions, which disallowed the professional players of Canada. Canada had had a long history of dominance of the sport prior to the Soviets' rise.
The first four games of the series were held in Canada and the final four in Moscow. The Soviet Union surprised the Canadian team and most of the hockey media with an opening game victory, 7â€“3. Many sportswriters had predicted an overwhelming victory for Canada in the series. Canada won the next game 4â€“1; the third game was a tie and the Soviets won game four to take a two games to one lead after the Canadian segment. The series resumed two weeks later in Moscow. The Soviets won game five to take a three games to one series lead. The Canadians won the final three games in Moscow to win the series four games to three, with one tie. The final game was won in dramatic fashion, with the Canadians overcoming a two-goal Soviet lead after two periods. The Canadians scored three in the third, the final one scored with 34 seconds left, by Paul Henderson.
The series was played at the height of the Cold War, and intense feelings of nationalism were aroused in both Canada and the Soviet Union, as well as on the ice. The games showcased many great Soviet players previously unknown in North America, such as Alexander Yakushev, Valeri Kharlamov and especially goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, who was outstanding in several of the series' games. Team Canada, which was the first NHL and professional all-star team formed for international play, was led by Phil Esposito, who led the series in scoring, as well as contributing in other roles. The Canadian line of Bobby Clarke, Ron Ellis and Henderson, which was not expected to start for the team, as none were yet stars, played a surprisingly large role in the Canadian win. The series was filled with controversy, starting with the exclusion of top Canadian player Bobby Hull and including disputes over officiating, dirty play on the part of both teams and the deliberate injury of Kharlamov by Clarke in game six that likely affected the outcome of the series.