Ken Dryden didn’t want to write about the 1972 Summit Series.
Then COVID-19 struck.
With the borders closed and his children and grandchildren living in the US, his plans for Christmas 2020 quickly changed.
“So I had a couple of days where I wasn’t doing what I had in mind. I just said, ‘OK, if I had to write what I’m not going to write, what would I write?'” Dryden told the Canadian Press.
Relying solely on his own memories, he sat down and “in a kind of frenzy” wrote his latest book, The Series: What I Remember, How It Felt, How It Feels Now. The hardcover was published Tuesday by McClelland & Stewart published.
Spread over 192 beautiful pages, the book combines a player’s memories of the Summit Series with photos, letters and other memorabilia to give the reader a deeply personal look at eight games that united a nation.
There is a postcard to Timmins, Ontario from a Canadian who attended a game in Moscow. There are editorial cartoons depicting the differences between Canadian and Russian ice hockey fans. There is a scrap of a cover on which Canadian winger Frank Mahovlich designed a play.
These are the images Dryden and the rest of the team didn’t see almost 50 years ago.
“It’s like ‘holy cow,'” he said. “We were in Moscow at the time. I never thought people would watch like that.”
Another point that caught Dryden’s attention was a diary entry by a young Igor Kuperman, who chronicled every detail of Game 5 in Russian, from the goals to the shirts worn by both sides.
In the entry, the author saw a universal experience.
Dryden also takes readers on his own personal journey, describing in vivid color what he remembers – and doesn’t remember – from the late summer and fall of 1972, including the moments leading up to Game 1.
“I don’t remember flying to Montreal. I don’t remember the day of the game. I don’t remember the dressing room,” he writes. “All I remember is a feeling that just kept building and building, growing and growing. It happens before a Stanley Cup series, before a Stanley Cup final, but not like this.
“It built where it could build no more, grew where there was no more room to grow, then continued to build and grow.”
‘Put her there right now’
It’s details that transport a reader back not only to 1972, but also onto the ice, into the helmet of a goaltender who helped make history.
Dryden wanted his latest book to tell the story of the Summit Series in a way that people who didn’t experience the games nearly 50 years ago would understand.
“The only way to do that would be to get them there, literally get them there in that moment,” he said. “And of course the moment is not just the moment, it’s the moments leading up to it.
“And what would have been in us as players? What would have been inside of us as 22 million Canadians at that particular moment that caused us to respond the way we did? And to evoke the kind of vehement and vivid memories that came out of it.”