County-based filmmaker Helen Parker is excited about the release of Ice-Breaker, a documentary that pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the historic Canada-USSR hockey series.
It debuted Sept. 6 and 7 in Perth, ON and is now on a month-long film festival and theatre circuit. It will eventually air on Bell TV. A subsequent television series is planned with Parker saying one episode will be devoted to hockey player alumni interviews she filmed in Moscow in 2017. For now, some of that footage appears in the end credits of Ice-Breaker.
With the release coinciding with the famous series of September 1972, which culminated in Canada beating Russia four games to three on Sept. 28 that year, Parker said the documentary focuses on Canadian diplomat Gary Smith. While just 26 at the time, Parker said he was the only person to have access to both teams’ dressing rooms. She added the documentary celebrates other behind-thescenes individuals.
“I’m excited for Canada. Especially right now with all of the awfulness that’s going on with Russia. It gives us hope that enemies can become friends and that countries that behave badly, figures that behave badly, can be turned around by sport,” she said.
Parker added, “How good is Canada? While the rest of the world was pointing missiles at each other, Canadians strapped on their ice skates and ended up being at the frontline of the Cold War. It’s incredible’.”
Parker said she was also impressed with Smith and his wife, Laurielle Chabeaux.
“I think it’s good for this generation to think about that. I think this generation, even though they grow up fast with the Internet, are kind of slow to make it into adulthood. So many young people in that 19-30-year-old age group live at home with mom and dad for various reasons. You think back to this previous generation who did things in their 20’s. It’s not better, just a different way of living.”
She said the story of Smith is, “this remarkable 26-year-old posted to Moscow, Russia. And they recognized very quickly he was very calm, considerate, and had diplomatic ways about him, so he became the centre of talking between the Russians and the Canadians and he was the only person who had a pass to both changerooms. It’s amazing.”
Parker had extraordinary access to the 45th anniversary celebration of the series in Moscow in 2017.
She spent five days and nights in the Russian capital interviewing former Soviet and Canadian hockey players who had been invited to the commemoration, which included an audience with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Parker did not get to meet Putin but did have an opportunity to interview 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 a 2021 chat with The Highlander. “Nobody else had interviewed those Russian players – so that was amazing.”
During a talk with the late Pat Stapleton, she said she asked him if he was proud to be back. He said, “I carry pride where ever I go. I don’t have to be here to feel it.” Parker said Stapleton wanted the documentary to be shown around the nation. “Now, that’s what will happen.”
To commemorate the 50th anniversary, two award-winning filmmakers, Robbie Hart of Adobe Productions International and Peter Raymont of White Pine Pictures teamed up to produce Ice-Breaker – The ’72 Summit Series.