|The 1987 Canada Cup featured the emergence of Mario Lemieux as a true superstar. Teamed with Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux finally developed a work ethic to match his immense talent and the combination of hockey's two most gifted offensive players resulted in some of the most exciting games in the game's history.
Wayne Gretzky was late in accepting his invitation to join Team Canada after leading the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup during the longest season in NHL history, but he arrived at training camp in the best shape of his life. Thirty-four other players also arrived at training camp and the reduction to a 23-man roster left such stars as Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, Cam Neely and Wendel Clark off the team.
The Soviet Union brought a veteran-laden lineup to the 1987 Canada Cup and was eager to regain its championship form after losing the most recent world title to Sweden. As for the Swedes, eight national team members would be replaced by nine NHL stars during the Canada Cup, which only figured to make the team stronger. However, the 1984 Canada Cup finalists would not make it past the semifinals this year. The Americans were hurt by injuries to Mark Howe, Bryan Trottier and Neal Broten. Despite strong goaltending from John Vanbiesbrouck, the USA finished just 2-3-0 and was spared last place only by the 0-5-0 record of Finland, who had returned to the Canada Cup this year.
Canada was undefeated in the round-robin, but only had managed a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia to open the tournament and a 3-3 tie with the Soviets in the final game. Canada faced the Czechs again in the semifinals and fell behind 2-0 after one period before rallying for a 5-3 victory. The USSR had lost 5-3 to Sweden during the round-robin, but avenged that defeat with a 4-2 victory in the semifinals. Canada and the Soviets would meet for the Canada Cup championship.
Game One in the best-of-three finals was played at the Montreal Forum on September 11 and saw the Soviets defeat Canada 6-5 on Alexander Semak's overtime goal. Two nights later at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Mario Lemieux ended a classic game on a feed from Wayne Gretzky at 10:06 of the second overtime period for a 6-5 Canadian victory. With 1:26 remaining in the third and final game on September 15, Lemieux again converted a Gretzky pass for a 6-5 Canada Cup-winning victory. Lemieux had scored a tournament-leading 11 goals in nine games (including four game-winners), while his 18 points were second behind Wayne Gretzky's tournament-record 21 points (on three goals and 18 assists).