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Comment: Memories of the Summit Series, watched at a tiny border-crossing outpost

The crowd slowly swelled to be about 10 people, which was a lot for the small office.
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Team Canada 1972 players Serge Savard, left, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Pat Stapleton, Peter Mahovlich, Phil Esposito and Guy Lapointe, right, pose for photos at a news conference, in Montreal on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

A commentary by a Sidney resident.

In 1972 I was working full-time with Customs at the port of Oungre, which is on the border about halfway between Regina and Estevan, Sask. It was not an overly large port and it was not unusual for it to be staffed by a single officer.

As it turned out, I was the only officer working on the day of the final hockey game. Since, as usual, it was a pretty quiet port, I decided to turn the radio on and listen to the deciding game in the series.

As usual, a few people, some truckers and travellers, would come into the office to conduct business and, hearing the game on the radio, would want to know the score. A few even asked if they could listen, which I allowed.

Slowly the number of people in the office grew as the game went on, and I made an urn of strong “border coffee” that they could (enjoy?) while listening to the game.

So the tension mounted as the game went on, and I kept running out to the traffic lane every now and then and would be briefed on the developments when I returned.

The crowd slowly swelled to be about 10 people, which was a lot for the small office.

I recall the Canadians being down 5-3 at the end of the second period in the deciding game, which Canada had to win to take the series since it was known that in the event of a tie the Soviets would claim the win on the basis of goals for and against.

But into the third period the Canadians were down just one goal when, according to the tournament rules, they changed ends for the final 10 minutes. By now the tension was incredible, and I suddenly had an idea.

I remembered that I had seized a TV set a few weeks earlier. So I went to the basement, unlocked the Queen’s Warehouse, and hauled the TV upstairs.

After some fiddling with the rabbit ears we acquired a fuzzy image of the game. It was a bad picture, but everyone crowded around to watch.

While not strictly allowed by Customs rules, I am pretty sure that Her Majesty would have understood a small breach of conduct in this particular case.

So the final 10 minutes of the epic game was memorable, with Canada first evening the series with a goal by Phil Esposito and then, with just 34 seconds left in the game, taking both the game and the series with Paul Henderson’s historic goal.

When Henderson scored, the crowded Customs house exploded in pure jubilation. Complete strangers, Americans, Canadians and one Customs officer, danced in pure joy. My hat even got knocked off and a trucker handed it back to me with a huge grin.

Then the crowd was soon on their way to their individual destinations in a happy mood with what was likely an indelible memory of a shared moment of sporting history that they were able to view in a remote Customs house out on the Canadian prairie.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: letters@timescolonist.com

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