MONTREAL -- It has been 44 years since the historic 1972 Summit Series, an eight-game showdown between an all-star team of NHL players and the national team of what was then the Soviet Union.
Paul Henderson famously scored the game-winning goals for Canada in Games 6, 7 and 8 in Moscow for a 4-3-1 series victory in a spine-tingling tournament played over 27 days in September 1972 in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and then Moscow.
If Henderson is the name most synonymous with Canada's victory, there was no one who played better hockey through all eight games than Phil Esposito, then a member of the Boston Bruins who was the greatest goal-scorer of his day, en route to 1984 induction in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Esposito grabbed Team Canada by the scruff of its neck and, according to coach Harry Sinden, "refused to let us lose." The emotional center's performance in Game 8 ranks among the greatest single-game efforts by any player; Esposito scored two goals and assisted on Yvan Cournoyer's game-tying goal 12:56 into the third period, then Henderson's clincher with 34 seconds remaining in the third, which gave Canada a 6-5 win.
Few players are better positioned than Esposito to speak about the pride of playing for one's country, the native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario having led Canada through hockey's most emotional, politically charged tournament.
On his way home to Tampa from Montreal early Saturday morning, where he had been part of a 1972 Summit Series tribute the night before, Esposito talked to NHL.com about the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and about pulling on his country's jersey.