Skip to main content


NHL Insider

Yvan Cournoyer discusses Summit Series

Canadiens great talks to about historic defeat of USSR in 1972

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

Cournoyer on '72 Summit: Part 1

Yvan Cournoyer on 1972 Summit Series: Part 1

Hockey Hall of Famer Yvan Cournoyer discusses the historic 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series and his vital role in it

  • 03:05 •

MONTREAL -- The most famous photograph of Yvan Cournoyer shows not his face, but his back.

And to this day, 44 years after the dramatic image was recorded on grainy 35-millimeter film, the man nicknamed "Roadrunner" is entirely fine with that.

In the photo taken Sept 28. 1972, Cournoyer is leaping into the arms of teammate Paul Henderson, the latter having scored the decisive goal for Canada with 34 seconds remaining in the third period of Game 8 of the historic Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

Shot simultaneously by photographers Denis Brodeur and Frank Lennon, who were sitting shoulder to shoulder Luzhniki Ice Palace in Moscow, the image is the most famous in Canada hockey history.

As time has passed, Brodeur's photo has often been confused for Lennon's, and vice versa, given that they're such similar images.

Cournoyer, now 72, had 428 goals and 435 assists with the Canadiens between 1963-64 and 1978-79, and won the 1973 Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 1982 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee won 10 Stanley Cup championships and remains one of the greatest players ever.

A hugely popular figure, a gentleman and a graceful ambassador, Cournoyer is an enduring reminder of the Canadiens' dynasty of the late 1970s.

Cournoyer has said that his career was transformed by two events: The Canadiens losing the 1967 Stanley Cup Final to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team he says his Canadiens took too lightly; and Canada's defeat of the USSR in the Summit Series five years later.

Video: Yvan Cournoyer on 1972 Summit Series: Part 2

"The Canadiens were not afraid of losing to the Leafs in 1967," Cournoyer said. "We had the Cup in our pocket. But we lost, and from that day I was always afraid of losing.

"Against the Soviets, before Game 1 in Montreal, just before we left for the Forum, I told [Canada forward] Frank Mahovlich, 'I'm worried. I don't know the Russians. I've never played against them. I don't know how they play. I'm going to war and I don't even know my enemy.'

"All that we knew about them was that they wore bad skates, ugly helmets and played with ugly sticks. But they were good hockey players. They were in shape, which we were not. And you know what happened that night."

The Soviets thumped Canada 7-3, a result no one expected. The USSR gave Canada all it could handle and then some before Henderson's goal for the ages in the final minute of the final game.

Cournoyer had three goals and two assists in the series. He scored what would be the game-winner in Game 2, a must-win for Canada in Toronto two nights after the embarrassment in Montreal; scored the tying goal midway through the third period of Game 8; then played a huge role in Henderson's clincher, leading to their hug, which was immortalized in a photograph.

On Tuesday morning, the sun still not up, Cournoyer was headed to Winnipeg for that night's multimedia Summit Series event with a number of his 1972 teammates, all of them happy to answer the same questions from fans they've heard hundreds of times before, many of those admirers not alive when the games were played.

Before he boarded, joking that his replaced joints would trip the airport's metal detectors, Cournoyer sat with to talk about the Summit Series and how it continues to define a large part of his hockey life.

Video: Yvan Cournoyer on 1972 Summit Series: Part 3

View More