Depuis ses premiers matchs disputés sur une patinoire de fortune à Landrienne, en Abitibi, où il a passé son enfance, Serge Savard a été animé par une seule passion: celle du hockey. Dans ce récit biographique, l’athlète et homme d’affaires qui a évolué au sein de l’organisation du Canadien de Montréal pendant 33 ans nous entraîne dans les coulisses d’une carrière plus grande que nature. Sous la plume habile du journaliste Philippe Cantin, il revient sur les moments forts, les hauts comme les bas, qui l’ont façonné comme joueur – de ses années d’apprentissage en tant que recrue jusqu’à sa retraite du Canadien – et, plus tard, comme directeur général du club. Cet ouvrage captivant et abondamment documenté dresse le portrait de la riche histoire du hockey au Québec à travers la vie d’un homme qui en a été l’un des témoins les plus privilégiés.
Consistent coaching at all age levels seemed key
The Russians were good at hockey — that much was apparent.
In 1972 a team from the Soviet Union had given Team Canada a run for its money, though they ultimately lost the Summit Series. But they won a repeat of the series in 1974, proving that Soviet hockey skills were no fluke. And that same year, a group of hockey coaches from across Canada travelled to Moscow to find out why.
"To a man, they're impressed with the hockey program backed by the unlimited resources of the state," said CBC reporter Ron Laplante.
At the Red Army sports club in Moscow, the coaches looked on as a group of 11-year-olds who had been shown by "scientific tests" to have hockey potential played the game.
"So, their entire education is built around their hockey training," said Laplante, noting that some kids had started the program at as young as six years old.
Players Vladislav Tretiak and Valeri Kharlamov, both Summit Series standouts, had honed their skills with the club.
"These kids are doing the same drills that the national team does," said a coach. "Our guys, from 12 to 15 or 17, they don't get the same type of training."
"Where we're losing out, I think, is from [age] 12 on," said another.
Gathering knowledge about the Soviets' system was one thing. Applying that knowledge to Canadian hockey was another.
"[There are] two totally different ideologies," said a coach with a Newfoundland accent, comparing the "capitalistic" and "communistic" natures of each country. "Here it's the state, totally. In our country we have everybody involved."
As a group of boys in hockey jerseys carried weights and jumped from foot to foot behind him, Laplante summed up the coaches' conclusions.
"They feel that our system is standing still while the Russian one is moving ahead quickly," he said. "In order to at least stay even with them, the time has come for us to make some changes."
Thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame for Harry's biography where he is enshrined as an honoured member. Harry was born on September 14, 1932.
When Harry Sinden accepted the job of coaching Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviet Union, he had no idea he was about to become part of the biggest hockey story of the century.
Sinden rode a roller coaster of emotions during those 28 days, until his powerful collection of NHL stars staged a dramatic comeback on Moscow ice to win the series four games to three with one game tied when Team Canada scored the winning goal with 34 seconds left in the final game as millions of Canadians watching on TV jumped for joy.
Sinden had been the target of critics earlier in the series when the Soviets took a 3-1-1 lead in games. He also faced the difficult task of keeping a large squad of more than 30 stars happy with their playing time. Selected as coach on the basis of his international experience as a player, Sinden was available because he had gone into the home-building business in Rochester, New York, after the Boston Bruins rejected his request for more money.
In the 1969-70 season, with Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito playing starring roles, Sinden coached the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1940-41. Later he succeeded Milt Schmidt as general manager of the club in 1972-73. Over the years, Sinden gained a reputation as a penny pincher in negotiating contracts with players. But he always managed to put a respectable team on the ice in Boston.
In the summer of 1999, he made history by becoming the first GM to turn his back on a salary arbitration award, letting Dmitri Khristich, a 29-goal scorer, walk away from the team with no compensation. Sinden had been highly critical of Khristich's performance in the playoffs and was highly incensed when an arbitrator awarded him a salary of $2.8 million. Khristich became a free agent and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 1999-2000 season. In the 1996-97 season, Sinden was fined $5,000 by the National Hockey League for a verbal assault on a video replay judge in Ottawa. During a January 22 game between the Bruins and Senators, Sinden jumped all over Ian Sandercock after he'd disallowed a goal in the second period of Boston's 4-1 win.
Although he was an outstanding amateur hockey player, Sinden never played in the National Hockey League. Born in Collins Bay, Ontario, near Kingston, he captained the Whitby Dunlops to the Allan Cup Canadian senior championship in 1957, then to the World Championship title, representing Canada in Oslo, Norway, in 1958.
After the Dunlops scored two quick goals late in the game to defeat the Soviet Union 4-2, the Canadian anthem was played and Sinden stood on the top pedestal of the medals stand, leaning over to give the captain Nickolai Sologubov a hug. The Dunlops won all seven games, outscoring the opposition by a whopping margin of 82-6.
Sinden was also recruited by the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen to play in the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, winning a silver medal. He went on to become a player-coach with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Eastern Professional Hockey League. In the 1961-62 season, he shared the award for best defenseman in the league with Jean Gauthier of the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens.
In 1965-66, as player-coach of the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Professional Hockey League, Sinden won the Jack Adams Award when he guided the team to second place in regular-season play, then to eight straight playoffs wins to become CPHL champions.
USA Hockey honoured Sinden in 1999 by granting him and the U.S. women's hockey team the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding hockey service in the United States. The U.S. team had defeated Canada to win their first women's Olympic gold medal in hockey at Nagano, Japan, in February of 1998.
Sinden was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 1983.