Early international vs. professional exhibitions such as the 1972 Summit Series, the 1974 WHA-USSR series, and Super Series ’76 created a high demand to see the world's best hockey players compete in a true world championship. In 1976 the Canada Cup, later reborn as the World Cup of Hockey, was created to fill this need.
The top players from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Finland, Canada and the United States would all be allowed to participate, whether they were deemed to be professional or amateur. Thus NHL players could represent their home countries.
Canada entered the inaugural tournament as heavy favourites, if only because the Soviets had sent an experimental lineup of younger players while leaving several established national team players at home. Canada iced arguably the strongest Canadian team to date. Coach Scotty Bowman had 16 eventual Hall of Famers on his bench, including Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Guy Lafleur, and Darryl Sittler.
Not much was expected of the other countries. A generic American team put in a gutsy effort. Finland was
outmatched but managed to pull off a major upset by defeating Scandinavian rival Sweden, led by the great
Borje Salming, in one of the most spirited contests in tournament history.
The lone Canadian loss meant the winner of the Canada vs. Soviet Union round robin match would advance to the 1976 Canada Cup finals against Czechoslovakia. Most hockey fans had predicted a Canada vs. Soviet Union final, which didn’t happen. Canada, led by tournament MVP Bobby Orr, managed to earn a 3-1 victory and advance to the finals against Czechoslovakia.
Canada managed to solve Dzurilla and the Czechs in game one of the best-of-three finals, scoring 4 goals in the opening period and chasing him from the game en route to a 6-0 game 1 victory. Dzurilla found his form in game two and was brilliant in forcing Canada into overtime tied at 4.
The lasting memory of the 1976 Canada Cup is Darryl Sittler scoring the winning goal in overtime to give Team Canada the inaugural championship. Sittler broke in off the left wing and - following the advice of assistant coach Don Cherry - faked a booming slap shot causing Dzurilla to fall to his knees. Once the star goalie was down, Sittler skated by and popped the puck into the open net. Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4. Canada won the 1976 Canada Cup.
For more information:
Brad Pascall Vice-President, Hockey Operations