Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cold War Renewed

As if Vladimir Putin's iron-handed rule wasn't reminiscent enough of the bad old days of the Soviet Union, now comes word that the Cold War really has resumed.

Apparently, some people on both sides of the Atlantic would like to see a replay of the 1972 Summit Series, an eight-game hockey showdown between Canada and Russian professional players - the first time the world's two primary hockey superpowers had met on the ice under equal terms.

No doubt, in the United States, the series passed with but a whisper. In Canada, however, the whole nation stopped during Game 8 where, with the series tied 3-3-1 and the final game tied in the final minute, Paul Henderson picked the puck up in the Soviet corner found his way to the front of the net and forced it past goaltender Vladislav Tretiak with 34 seconds remaining.

Here's a really cool little clip from the CBC of the moments leading up to and after the goal. The call is by Foster Hewitt, a Canadian icon for more than 50 years who basically created the term "He shoots! He scores!"

The goal comes about three minutes in but watch up until then to see the tension etched in the faces of viewers.

It's a moment that remains locked in the Canadian identity because the series was more than hockey (and, in Canada, just hockey is pretty powerful on its own)- it was us vs. them; the free world vs. tyranny...and freedom won (largely due to Bobby Clarke's Machiavellian attack on Valeri Kharlamov's ankle that forced the Soviet superstar from the series, it must be noted).

Personally, I think the idea of trying to resurrect the series is ridiculous. You could never recreate that kind of tension with the emotional overtones of the first. Canada and Russia have played numerous times since then and the best Russian players now play in the NHL alongside Canadian players every day. We send our best to the Olympics just like they do (and did in 1972, while we sent amateurs) and there are many other tournaments where the two nations meet. On top of that, Russian hockey is now only in the mix of the world's best nations; Canada is a consistent number one but any of Russia, Sweden, Finland and occasionally the US can have dominant moments.

On the plus side, with the way Putin's been acting lately, maybe a nasty Bobby Clarke two-hander to his skull would serve the world well.

On another Russian note, it was interesting to see the Russians pull much of their technical staff from Iran over reported stalled payments on the Iranians plan to incinerate Israel (oh, sorry, peaceful nuclear power program), with speculation it could have been due to side negotiations with the US.

But then they turn around and block the UN from issuing a stronger rebuke to Iran for its kidnapping of 15 British sailors (and, yes, I absolutely mean kidnapping). The reason? Well, let's see: oil has gone up three or four dollars a barrel since the kidnapping and Russia is making scads on the world oil markets. Coincidence? I think not.

As for the Britain/Iran standoff: the Iranians have once again shown their complete disregard for any kind of civility and humanity (not to mention the Geneva Convention). First they kidnap the 15 Brits, then they parade one of them on TV (after agreeing not to) and then they force her to write an obviously coerced statement.

Is there going to be a point, I wonder, at which the civilized world realizes Iran must be reined in and that sanctions and other penalties are put in place to ensure it happens?

And, lastly, I was going to write a few words about the renewal of the Arab League "peace plan" with Israel. But, then I thought, "why? Everyone with half-a-brain already realizes it's a complete and utter farce." Sadly, I'm not sure that Ehud Olmert has the half brain necessary but for Israel's sake, I truly hope he's at least that smart

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