Canada-USSR hockey player skips celebration for concussion program
Brian Glennie is supposed to be in Russia celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 USSR-Canada hockey series.
Brian Glennie is surrounded by memories of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia. He was unable to make it to the celebrations in Russia.
Photo by Jennifer Bowman
Instead, the Bracebridge resident will be at a Toronto hospital having MRIs done through the concussion program of the NHL Alumni.
“I waited so long to get into this program that I cancelled Russia,” he said.
Glennie was one of the players on the famous Canadian team that went stick to stick with the Russians in the middle of the Cold War to prove who was better at hockey. The eight-game series, four of which were played in Vancouver and four in Russia, brought forth intense nationalism on both sides.
In the first game the Russians took the world by surprise, winning 7-3. That was followed by a tie, a Canadian win and another Soviet win.
Glennie said when they left Canada after the first four games in Vancouver they were discouraged, so they gave it all they had when they were in Russia.
“We were basically isolated because we were behind the Iron Curtain back then,” he said. “We had no idea the reaction that was going on in Canada. We were blown away when we got back that the country had basically stopped.”
Glennie never got to play at the Summit Series, but said that didn’t lessen the pride and feeling of being part of it.
He went on to play in the NHL, finally ending his career following a back injury.
He said the doctors now want him to have surgery on his knees, but he’s decided he doesn’t want any more surgeries.
He’s had operations on his left shoulder twice, a shattered jaw that left him on the operating table for four hours, a nose that’s been broken about seven times, a right shoulder operation, casts on both knees and one ankle, and 237 stitches on his face.
He’s also battled depression, had a heart attack, and five concussions.
“All for the love of the game,” he said.
Was it worth it?
“There’s days I’d say no, but most days I say yes,” he said.
Now he’s missing a trip to Russia with his son and the boys to go through a series of MRIs in the concussion program, hoping to find out if his brain was impacted by the game or if the symptoms such as memory loss are from old age.
He’s disappointed he isn’t able to be part of the celebration in Russia.
“I kind of regret the fact that my son and I didn’t get to go over because I would have loved to have seen how it’s changed and how it (Russia) is going on,” he said.
The Russian ceremony won’t be the last of the celebrations. Glennie will be in Toronto for two weeks starting on Sept. 17. Organizers are also trying to bring all the former players back to Russia for another game of hockey this winter.
Glennie joked that he’ll scout the game, but he won’t be playing.
It’ll be interesting to see how many of the old Ruskies and the old Canucks can still fit into their skates, he said.
Glennie hasn’t been able to find his skates since he moved to Bracebridge and he’s given away most of his jerseys and other memorabilia.
He has one original practice jersey from Team Canada and knows one of the Team Canada sweaters is hanging in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
He said he didn’t have the foresight to keep his jerseys.
“Memorabilia wasn’t huge back then,” he said.
For Glennie the series was an important moment in his life; he still stays in touch with the rest of the Canadian team which has had a reunion every year since the series, but he expects even the memory of the Summit Series to fade.