Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Team Canada - 1987 Canada Cup
One on One Turning Point

Team Canada - 1987 Canada Cup

17 JUNE 2014
Canada's Grant Fuhr and Rick Tocchet look on during 1987 Canada Cup final action against the Soviet Union.
(Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Canada Cup tournament of 1987 was one for the ages. Political rivals faced off with teams comprised of some of the greatest players of all-time in a series that easily rivals better-remembered series. Many, in fact, would argue that this was the greatest hockey ever played.

Six nations competed in the prestigious tournament: Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, the Soviet Union, Sweden and the United States. It must be remembered that the Iron Curtain was still preventing hockey players from Communist countries from pursuing careers in North America, so exhibition tournaments like the Canada Cup were the only opportunities for fans in the Western world to witness the skills of players like those from the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, and to see the best of those countries face off against the best from other countries. But there was one rivalry that most hoped they would see: Canada against the Soviet Union.

Canada's Brent Sutter and the Soviet Union's Alexei Gusarov have words while Doug Gilmour, Igor Stelnov and Yevgeny Belosheikin look on during 1987 Canada Cup final action.
(Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Thirty-four players arrived at Canada's training camp, but in order to reduce the roster to twenty-three, stars including Cam Neely, Patrick Roy and Steve Yzerman did not make the final cut. Coaches Mike Keenan, John Muckler, Jean Perron and Tom Watt selected Grant Fuhr, Ron Hextall and Kelly Hrudey in goal, defencemen Raymond Bourque, Paul Coffey, Doug Crossman, Craig Hartsburg, Larry Murphy, James Patrick and Normand Rochefort, while at forward, Team Canada included Glenn Anderson, Kevin Dineen, Mike Gartner, Doug Gilmour, Michel Goulet, Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Claude Lemieux, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Brian Propp, Brent Sutter and Rick Tocchet.

Canada's Mario Lemieux on his way to scoring the 6-5 game-winning goal against the Soviet Union's Sergei Mylnikov during Game 3 of the 1987 Canada Cup final.
(Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Soviet Union had just lost the World Championship to Sweden and were intent on revenge in the form of winning the Canada Cup. They brought a veteran roster to the tournament, including Viacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Gusarov, Valeri Kamensky, Alexei Kasatonov, Yuri Khmylev, Igor Kravchuk, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, Andrei Lomakin, Sergei Makarov, Sergei Nemchinov, Alexander Semak and Anatoly Semenov. The team was coached by Viktor Tikhonov and Igor Dmitriev.

Team Canada jersey worn by Mario Lemieux during the 1987 Canada Cup. (Matthew Manor/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The tournament began with Canada tying Czechoslovakia 4-4 in a game played in Calgary. Team Canada then dumped Finland by a 4-1 score and edged the USA 3-2, both games played in Hamilton, earned a 5-3 win over Sweden at the Montreal Forum and then, in a contest played in Hamilton, tied the Soviet Union at three apiece.

The final standings after the round-robin saw Team Canada atop with eight points (three wins and two ties), followed by the Soviet Union (seven points), Sweden (six), Czechoslovakia (five), Team USA (four points) and Finland, who failed to earn a point.

The semi-finals had the Soviet Union doubling Sweden 4-2 at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, and Canada over the Czechs by a 5-3 count in a game played in Montreal.

Canada's Mario Lemieux scores the 6-5 game-winning goal against the Soviet Union's Sergei Mylnikov during Game 3 of the 1987 Canada Cup final. (Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
This set up a three-game final between Team Canada and Soviet Union, the pairing of rivals that many prayed they would see. All three games ended in 6-5 scores.

Game One, played in Montreal, saw the Canadians rebound after being down 4-1 in the second period to tie the game in regulation, only to lose 6-5 in overtime to the Soviets on a goal by Alexander Semak.

Canada's Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Brian Propp celebrating after capturing the 1987 Canada Cup title with a series win over the Soviet Union. (Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The series moved to Hamilton, and Team Canada led 3-1 after the first period, but this time it was the Soviets who fought back to tie the game at three in the second period. Canada scored twice in the third but the Soviets answered with two goals of their own to tie the game at 5-5 at the end of sixty minutes. After a scoreless overtime frame, the teams went into a second overtime period, and it was Mario Lemieux completing his hat trick on an assist by Wayne Gretzky that ended the game at 10:06 of the second overtime period. It was Gretzky's fifth assist on the evening as Team Canada topped the Soviet Union 6-5 this time.

The third and deciding game started slowly for the Canadians as the Soviet Union scored three times in the first eight minutes, but by the end of the second, Canada had clawed their way back and led 5-4. The game was tied late in the third when Canadian coach Mike Keenan sent Lemieux, Gretzky and Dale Hawerchuk out for a faceoff in Canada's end. Gretzky and Lemieux moved the puck up the ice, joined on the rush by defenceman Larry Murphy, with only Igor Kravchuk defending in front of Sergei Mylnikov. Kravchuk attempted to block a pass from Gretzky to Lemieux but failed, and Lemieux fired a shot that beat Mylnikov glove-side with just 1:26 remaining. The game ended with Canada winning 6-5 to take the game and the series.

While many will debate the greatest hockey tournament ever staged, with some choosing the Summit Series of 1972 and others, the Winter Olympic Games of 2002 and 2010, fans must also consider the sensational Canada Cup tournament that took place in 1987.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.