Jul 7, 2004
Many experts described the 1972 Summit Series as a war. None other than Phil Esposito himself said he would have “killed” to capture victory in that series. The tension on the ice was that high.
There were some pretty dirty moments in that series. Bobby Clarke’s two-handed slash to the ankle of Valeri Kharlamov, perhaps the greatest Russian forward of all time, has been well documented. Boris Mikhailov’s use of his skate blades to bloody of Gary Bergman’s shins is equally disgusting. J.P. Parise almost committed the worse offense when he nearly clubbed controversial referee Josef Kompalla with his stick.
For all the tension, and all the dirty play, there was only one fight in the whole series. Early in the final period of the final game, normally mild-mannered superstar Rod Gilbert lost his temper with little-known Evgeny Mishakov. Mishakov allegedly kicked at the unprotected calf muscle on Gilbert’s leg. While the alleged Mishakov kick was not caught on video, it was definitely Gilbert who was the instigator of the fight itself.
The fight itself was hardly a classic, although Gilbert must have landed one punch as Mishakov’s nose was bloodied. The linesmen and referees showed up quickly, as did all the players. Both players were assessed five minute fighting majors, but curiously neither player was ejected from the game as per international rules, even back then.
"I'm always reminded of a fight I had with Rod Gilbert in the final game. Soviet coaches prohibit fighting. They asked us not to fight in the series. Because Gilbert was quick to use his fists. I had no choice. Fortunately, Bobrov was not upset,” recalled Mishakov several years later.
Fighting was heavily frowned upon in Russia back then, but Mishakov was never reprimanded. In fact Mishakov, was recognized for sending a message to Canada by fighting back.
"We always criticize our players for fighting," commented Russian sports writer Lev Lebedev of Pravda. "In this series we didn't do that. If our players didn't stand up to the Canadians, there wouldn't have been enough players to complete the game! After the fight between Mishakov and Gilbert, the professionals began to realize that Russians can fight too."
The fight was Mishakov’s 15 minutes of fame, at least as far as North American exposure was concerned. He was a decent goal scorer with the Soviet national team in the 1960s, scoring a career total of 49 goals in 91 games, but was reduced to role player status by the 1972 Summit Series. It was his defining moment in a career that would end inconspicuously two years later. Mishakov was a member of four world championship teams and two Olympic gold medal winning teams (1968 and 1972).
So whatever happened the Evgeny Mishakov? It turns out he is in the fight of his life these days.
Amidst the joyous celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series in September 2002 was the sad story of the plight of several of the Russian hockey heroes, most notably Mishakov.
Mishakov's story was highlighted across Canada by newspaper feature stories and television crews during those few days in September. Living on a puny military pension that paid him about $3 Canadian a day, Mishakov couldn't afford the major surgery he desperately needed to both of his knees to keep him out of a wheel chair.
The publicity stirred help from Canadians. But the spotlight quickly faded, and the story quickly was forgotten. Nearly 2 years later, Evgeny Mishakov is still waiting for the surgery he needs.
Things were looking up for Mishakov. For the first time in 30 years, Mishakov was in the spotlight again, and, seemingly with all the help falling perfectly in place, everything seemed rosy. A Canadian doctor, Dr. Lowell Van Zuiden of Calgary, generously offered to donate his services free of charge, while Ron Ellis pledged to help arrange the necessary $15,000 of financing for the travel and after care expenses.
So why did things fail to progress?
Dr. Van Zuiden says the surgery never was performed due to multiple medical concerns.
"I have indirectly been advised that Mr. Mishakov has other medical issues that require detailed assessment prior to consideration for surgery," said Van Zuiden.
It is unclear how much financing was ever raised for Mishakov, though significant additional funding likely would have been required if Mishakov were to have an extended stay in Canada to deal with all of his medical concerns to make the knee surgeries possible.
"The financial issues were a secondary consideration," said Van Zuiden.
Barring a miracle, it appears that Mishakov will not be getting the surgery he needs anytime soon.
Pelletier has two books, The Legends of Team Canada and The World Cup of Hockey. He is also the creator of 1972 Summit Series.com
In Book Stores Oct. 2004
THE LEGENDS OF TEAM CANADA
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THE WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY
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