The Making of the 1976 Canada Cup: Power Plays, Hockey Diplomacy, and the Rise of Alan Eagleson

in Sport History Review
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  • 1 University of Alberta
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In 1976, amidst a period of détente in the Cold War, the Government of Canada officially hosted an inaugural open-play invitational ice hockey tournament. A detailed narration of these events, pieced together from archival sources, allows scholars to understand the negotiations to prepare the political terrain for the event, including efforts to secure the official endorsement of the International Ice Hockey Federation for a tournament sponsored by the Government of Canada in exchange for Canada’s return to international competition in 1977; the participation of various countries and their respective hockey governing bodies, especially the Soviet Union, in an international tournament featuring professional players; and an agreement with the North American professional hockey cartels, especially the National Hockey League, to allow star players to participate in the event. The success of the 1976 Canada Cup accelerated the commodification and commercialization of hockey both in North America and globally—a process that was increasingly driven by the interests and aspirations of the National Hockey League. At the center of this history is one increasingly powerful—and avaricious—character: Alan Eagleson.

The author (jscherer@ualberta.ca) is with the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.