“There’s no doubt the best memory (of Team Canada 72) would be the phone call that I got, I think it was in July, inviting to go to the camp. I was just 21 years old at that time, a first year NHLer–so it was a privilege to be chosen. I know that each team had to be represented by at least two players, so that was one of the reasons why Dale Tallon and myself got picked from Vancouver.
Overall, it was a great experience. Mind you, I don’t know how seriously we took this whole thing but I think we came back to reality very quickly after the first couple of games. There were about seven or ten guys that were on the team but we were never really part of it. We used to call ourselves the ‘Cheerleader Squad,’ but that was okay, because we were all rookies at that time—I’m talking about Marcel Dionne and Dale Tallon and Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin and myself and a few other guys—we were all rookies in the league so it was just a great experience to be there. But we weren’t really close to Eagleson and Ferguson and Sinden.
We were not told exactly what was going on. In my first day at training camp, I walked in the room where Ferguson and Sinden were, and they shook my hand and their words were, “We don’t really want you here, but you’re going to be here so just get along with everybody and have a good time.” They will never admit they said that to me, but I know they did. At that time, I didn’t realize what was going on so it didn’t really get to me until later on. So that’s what I did. I just went along for the ride.
I kept my mouth shut and worked hard in all the practices and I was having a ball. At least I can say one thing—they were straight to the point and very honest with me! Overall, the whole thing was a great experience. Just for me to be on the ice every day with White and Stapleton and Savard and Lapointe and Brad Park—they were all the best defensemen in the league at that time, so for me it was awesome just to be there in practice every day.
Regardless of what happened at the end, when I left the team and came home early, it was a great experience for me. I’m happy today that I can still be part of all the festivities that they’ve been holding over the years. It was fun then and it’s still fun. It’s a memory for the whole country and I think it was a wakeup call for hockey at the same time. It was a great eye opener for North Americans. Suddenly we realized we aren’t alone in this world—there are other people playing hockey on this planet.
I remember the first couple of games in Montreal and in Toronto, after the game, there was a couple of us, we’d follow those guys—the Russians—and I couldn’t believe the way they could drink beers and vodka…it was unbelievable! How could they stand up on their feet and sing and dance at three o’clock in the morning and have to get up at six to go around the ice for two hours? I thought ‘These guys must be in such great physical condition.’ But then again, I realized that drinking vodka to them was like us drinking Pepsi Cola. I have one shot of straight vodka and I pass out.
One big disappointment, and I think it still is recalled today because he won’t come to any of the events, is the fact that Gilbert Perreault didn’t play much–except for two games and in those games, he dominated the sixty minutes. In Winnipeg, he dominated the whole game and the Russians were actually happy to see him sitting out. Why they decided not to play him we’ll probably never know, but to me, that was a major disappointment that he didn’t get to play more. I know that’s the reason he left Russia that morning and he’s still bitter about it thirty years later. I don’t think he’s ever been to any of the events that Team Canada ’72 has held in the past twenty years.
The Russian team had some excellent hockey players, like Yakushev and Kharlamov and they had some very, very strong defensemen. On our part—by the time we woke up we were already in the third game of the series. You can always say about these guys that they took the bull by the horns and they went to work. Fortunately, it paid off.
The trip, by itself, was the highlight of my life because I’m not a big traveller. I’m a ‘stay at home boy.’ I’ve been down in Florida for seven years now so even a trip to the beach to me is no great deal. But I remember we had a great time in Sweden. The little time that I spent in Russia, we went to see some of the culture and it was interesting. But I was so young at that time that I didn’t really realize what these things were all about.
I came back before the series ended. Sinden never bought my story about me wanting to come back because my wife was sick. That’s the only reason I came back. She had been sick from day one, and the doctors on the team wouldn’t even take the time to go and see her, and that really pissed me off. They were too busy looking after I don’t know what. I know we had some injuries on the team but they could have at least taken fifteen minutes and have a look at her. She hadn’t eaten in three days and every time she’d eat something, she would throw up.
I didn’t know that Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin were about to leave, too. Sinden and Ferguson thought we were all plotting together because I was friends with Rick and Gilbert, but the only reason, and I’m going to say it again thirty years later, the only reason I came back was because my wife was sick.
I went on to play eight more seasons in the NHL. I was traded to Buffalo in 1974 and wound up my career in 1980 after a season with the New York Rangers and their New Haven farm team.
After retiring, I went back to Laval. I went on to do a little coaching—I coached midget AAA for one year then I went on to coach junior major for three years. I was the first Drummondville Voltigers coach in 1982 then I coached in Cornwall for two years where I had Doug Gilmour and Ray Sheppard on my team.
People don’t realize that when you spend almost ten years in the NHL from the age of twenty to thirty, for other people those years are for building their careers. But for most players, our careers are over by age thirty, and we’ve got to start all over again. It’s very difficult. I can’t speak for everyone, it was very, very difficult for me. I had serious marital problems at that time and within two years, the whole world collapsed on me. I went bankrupt and I was divorced. So from September 1980 for the next year and a half, the whole world was hell for me. I had managed to save some money during my career, but within eight months of quitting, a “friend” of mine took me to the cleaners. When you’re driving two cars and you have a nice house and a cottage up north and you’re living the good life, and suddenly you’re down to nothing, rock bottom, it hits you pretty hard. I went to the bottom of the barrel pretty hard. I remember the day like it was yesterday when the bank told me I had to foreclose on the house. At that time, a lawyer friend gave me the worst advice that I could get. He told me to declare bankruptcy, which I did, and that’s when I began living a life of hell.
In 1984, I was helping Bob Sirois and Yvan Cournoyer in Montreal with the Roadrunners roller hockey team. During that summer, I met the owner of that team in Miami. I went down and got a job with a hotel. I figured if I had to look for work, I might as well do it where it was warm and I could go to the beach.
Today, I teach hockey in South Florida with Professional Hockey Development. We do hockey clinics and hockey schools. Now I’m getting into a new venture with a football player agent, and we just got our license to become player agents in the NHL. That’s going to keep me busy in the next couple of years. I know it’s going to be tough for the first four of five years because unless you’re lucky and you get an active player, you have to recruit kids at fifteen, sixteen years old, and by the time they turn pro—if they ever turn pro—it’ll take four or five years.
We’re going to start another business which will get endorsements for players. You see all the football and baseball and basketball players on TV getting big endorsement contracts and you rarely see the hockey players involved. We hope to change that. Hockey’s getting so popular now everywhere in the States that I think the timing is very good. “