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Bearer of Bad Tidings

Valeri Kharlamov, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, was killed in a car accident in Russia in the fall of 1981. At that precise time, the Soviet National team was in Winnipeg for a Canada Cup game. I gave a morning radio report on the tragedy and immediately afterward was called to the phone. It was Winnipegger Aggie Kukulowicz, who was serving as the interpreter for the Soviet team. The hockey team knew nothing of the tragedy and demanded to know the origin of the story. I went to the team headquarters at the Viscount Gort hotel and told them what little I knew. They refused to believe me. They called the homeland, but no one would confirm what I had told them. It was an eerie feeling. A couple of players looked at me with “dagger eyes." Unfortunately, it was true, and fortunately, they didn’t shoot the messenger.

Valeri Kharlamov was incredible in the historic Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union in 1972. So much so that in game 6, Team Canada assistant coach John Ferguson enlisted Bobby Clarke to “Give Kharlamov a little tap on the ankle.” Clarke complied on his next shift, which rendered Kharlamov unavailable for game 7, and ineffective in game 8. Serge Savard, who played in that "72 series, ranked Kharlamov " one of the 5 greatest hockey players of all time”.

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