Parker, who is a filmmaker and journalist, had extraordinary access to the 45th anniversary celebration of the series in Moscow in 2017. She spent five days and five nights in the Russian capital interviewing former Soviet and Canadian hockey players who had been invited to the commemoration, which included an audience with President Vladimir Putin. Some of that footage will feature in Ice Breaker.
Pat Stapleton, Phil Esposito, Wayne Cashman, Dennis Hull, Frank and Peter Mahovlich, Brad Park, Red Berenson and Yvon Cournoyer were some of the Canadians reunited with the likes of Vladislav Tretiak, Alexander Gusev, Alexander Maltsev, Alexander Yakushev, Vladimir Shadrin, Vyacheslav Anisin, Yevgeny Zimmin and Yuri Blinov at the three-day Summit Series commemoration sponsored by the Russian Sports Federation.
Parker did not get to meet Putin in person but said the most memorable part of the trip was when she was told she could get on a bus and do interviews with some of the Russian legends. They were en route to meet up with the Canadian veterans before boarding a plane to a function being hosted by Putin.
“Very poignant, very interesting, they were very excited to meet the Canadian players,” Parker recalled in an interview with The Highlander.
At one point, she had to leave her camera behind as she was given a tour of Moscow Dynamo’s VTB Arena. The Dynamo are equivalent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Canada.
Parker said the project only recently got the green light from the broadcasters. Principal production begins in a couple of weeks.
She said the summit has been a subject of many stories over the years so Ice Breaker will be “more a look at Canada, who we are and how we’ve evolved and where people were at those iconic moments.”
As an additional director, she will be steering the post production crew through all of the footage that she took and how it will be woven into the story.
“Nobody else has interviewed those Russian players – so that was amazing,” she said.
She recalled taking a crash course in Russian two weeks leading up to going. A few players spoke a bit of English, equivalent to her Russian. For the remainder, they had to use a translator.
Upon landing, the former Canadian ambassador to Russia, Gary Smith, pushed her first through customs, saying if the Aussie could get through, then they should be alright. Parker was born in Australia. Then she and her small crew of one other person, a sound recordist, waited in their hotel room for a call. She said she was in the hotel gym when that call came. She quickly cleaned herself up, grabbed her equipment and jumped on that bus.
Other highlights included the affection between the players with Park mentioned most by the Russians.
A touching moment saw Stapleton apologising at the sports museum for not shaking hands on the ice after game one and Yakushev shaking hands with him.
She said the players revisited Luznhiki stadium and for many it was their first time back.
“Blinov mentioned the Canadian fan blowing the trumpet. The Canadian fans were nothing like the Soviets had ever seen. Walking through the stadium corridors it was emotional for the Canadian players recounting the scene of 30,000 fan telegrams from Canada that lined the walls. That lifted their spirits in the last game in 72. I asked Pat Stapleton if he felt proud to be back. He said, “I carry pride whereever I go. I don’t have to be here to feel it.”
Parker said Stapleton, who has since passed away, wanted the documentary to be shown in schools and around the nation.
“Now that’s what will happen.” ‘
Feature film, doco series in fall 2022
White Pine Pictures and Adobe Productions International announced July 12 that the Department of Canadian Heritage is participating in the funding of Ice Breaker. In a joint press release, they said the film and series will be available at high profile community screenings, in schools and on television and streaming services.
Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, said, “The Summit Series of 1972 was eight games between Canadian professionals and Soviet elite players that not only changed hockey but also became a defining moment in Canadian culture.”
White Point Pictures’ president, Peter Raymont, added, “Sport can be an extraordinary catalyst for national unity and offers an important sense of belonging for new Canadians.”