By Ben Waldman
On Sept. 28, 1972, Phil Esposito led Canada to victory over the Soviet Union in the eighth game of the Summit Series, scoring two goals before Paul Henderson netted his famous series-winner.
On Sept. 28, 2016, Esposito is still scoring goals, albeit at a different level.
“Once I scored tonight, I said ‘That’s it!’ because I felt so good I might’ve hurt myself,” the 74-year-old Esposito said after his charity game at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Wednesday. “I’m not a baby anymore, so it was the smart thing to do. Do what you can and get the hell off.”
The game raised money towards Toronto’s SickKids Hospital and was a part of Esposito’s 2016 Espotour.
The tour, which began Sept. 23 and ends Oct. 1, consists of a fantasy camp, on-ice workshops with NHL legends and a series of VIP receptions.
“Phil has a real passion for the game,” said Mike White, a member of the team that planned the tour. “More importantly, he’s an absolute gentlemen.”
A pair of teams featuring NHL alumni played against each other at the MAC, including past stars like Bobby Carpenter, Ron Duguay, Ken Daneyko and Dennis Maruk.
“It’s great to be raising money for SickKids,” said Maruk, a 60-goal scorer for the Washington Capitals in the 1980s. “To come back and do it in [the former Maple Leaf Gardens] is very special, too.”
The crowd could have been bigger, said Esposito, but the team will play another game on Friday against the Toronto Fire Department to raise money for cancer research.
Esposito couldn’t help but recall what he was doing at this time in 1972 after the series win.
“We would’ve been partying like crazy right now,” he said, laughing. “In Russia.”
*A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Esposito is playing in Friday’s game. Esposito will not play Friday. The Eyeopener regrets this error.