Setting the record straight

For Richard Bendell, something in an historic hockey series just didn't add up.

When Richard Bendell sat down on Boxing Day in 2002 to watch a video of the 1972 Canada-Soviet hockey Summit Series, the outcome was hardly what he expected. Canada still won the historic competition when Paul Henderson fired a game-winning goal in the deciding match, but Bendell couldn't have predicted his initial observations would set him on a decade- long odyssey and revise the story line of a mythic sporting tale.

Just 30 seconds into viewing the first game, the Welland, Ont., accountant noticed something was amiss with the scoring summary. "They were giving the goal to someone who didn't score," Bendell recalls. "And the assist to someone who was five people away from having touched the puck." As he continued to watch, he noticed many similar discrepancies — 42, in fact.

Nearly 10 years of subsequent investigation would result in a 2012 book, 1972 — The Summit Series: Canada vs. USSR, Stats, Lies & Videotape, the Untold Story of Hockey's Series of the Century, and challenge conventional wisdom of the games. The book provides the first true accounting of statistics in the series, from goals and assists to how successfully Canadian lines matched up against the Russians.

Working by day as a financial analyst at the Regional Municipality of Niagara and researching and writing after his wife and two children went to bed, Bendell likened the process to a forensic audit. His conclusions, however, are anything but dry. "I just tried to put together the truest picture of what happened," notes the first-time author.

Bendell, who was entranced by the series in 1972 as a seven-year-old, tells a story of Canadian hockey players, coaches and management who went into the matches willfully blind to the excellence of the Soviet team. "Canada had a better team and had better players," he says. "But we were caught off guard in almost every respect."

The book also chronicles the unlikely story of Team Canada's comeback in Moscow and the barriers it overcame. "It was the series we thought we knew, but it turned out that it still had many secrets," Bendell says of the 27-day Summit Series. "And I think the Canadian public deserves to know the way it happened and how it could have been different."