The Greatest Comeback: How Team Canada Fought Back, Took the Summit Series, and Reinvented Hockey (Hardcover)
The series you thought you knew: the first book written with the complete co-operation of the whole team
“They’d stolen our beer and our steaks, and then to make it worse . . . they give us this Russian beer—the warm, skunky sh*t, and not the good, cold Labatts our sponsor sent. I remember thinking, ‘These pricks will never beat us again! They are not going to win another f*cking game.’”
When the Summit Series began on September 2, 1972, Cold War tensions could not have been higher. But that was the whole point of setting up this unprecedented hockey series. Team Canada, featuring the country’s best players—all NHL stars, half of them future Hall of Famers—would play an eight-game series, with four games played across Canada followed by four in Moscow. Almost everyone expected Team Canada to crush their untried opponents eight games to zero, with backups playing the last four games.
But five games into the series, Team Canada had mustered only one win against a tie and three stunning losses. With just three games left, Team Canada had to win them all, and on Moscow’s wider, unfamiliar rink. They would also have to overcome incompetent referees who sparked stick-swinging fights; surmount every obstacle the Soviets and even the KGB could throw at the players and their wives; invent a hybrid style of play combining the best of East and West, one that would change the sport more than any other factor before or since; and break down old rivalries to become a real team.
And they did it all.
With John U. Bacon’s unparalleled access to the players through dozens of interviews, The Greatest Comeback presents the incredible story of how this series inspired amazing heroics against long odds and under almost inhuman pressure—an experience so unforgettable that the players still consider the series to be the highlight of their storied careers.
John U. Bacon is the author of the national bestseller The Great Halifax Explosion and five bestselling books about college football, including Three and Out, Fourth and Long, Endzone, and Bo’s Lasting Lessons, co-authored with Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. A former feature writer for the Detroit News, his writing has been recognized three times in The Best American Sports Writing series. He appears often on NPR and national television, including ESPN’s 2019 documentary series on college football. He has taught at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the University of Michigan. A popular public speaker, he lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and son.
“I like to think I know the Summit Series as well as anyone could. But in The Greatest Comeback I discovered fascinating stories, details, and insights about my teammates, the games, and even the off-ice antics that I’d never heard before. I found myself experiencing it all over again. If you read only one book on the Series, this is the one.” — Paul Henderson
“Canadian hockey players are Canadians before they are hockey players. More than any other book on the Summit Series, The Greatest Comeback clearly shows the emotions of the players, and the country that came together, when we needed each other most. Together we won.” — Bob Clarke
“This book is fantastic. I knew these were the most emotional games of my career, but now I know why we got so involved in it, why it was the most important series of our lives, and why it still matters so much to us, even now. I’ve never seen the story put together so completely. You can say this is the best book on the series, because it’s true.” — Serge Savard
"The story of Canada’s 1972 hockey team is a testament to Canadians and their never-give-up attitude. The Greatest Comeback is an incredible behind-the-scenes portrayal of an over-confident hockey team against an equally proficient team from the former Soviet Union, its trials and tribulations and the spirit of Canadians. Read it and feel pride." — Harry Sinden
“John U. Bacon’s exhaustively-researched The Greatest Comeback perfectly captures the greatest moment in Canadian sports history. I lived it all, reported it all, and thought I knew and remembered everything that happened that glorious month of September 1972, but Bacon’s fresh reporting brings a striking, new perspective to the Cold War events that made for hockey history.” — Mark Mulvoy, former Editor-in-Chief, Sports Illustrated; co-author, Face-Off at the Summit with Ken Dryden