I actually never really understood why that goal was/is such a big deal in Canadian culture. I know it was from the 1972 Summit Series, but I could never grasp the importance of that series. Perhaps I'll do some research, it's about time.
It’s probably a combination of a few factors. One is simply the overall importance of hockey in Canadian culture in general. Most outside observers recognize the importance of hockey in Canada but don’t fully appreciate our emotional attachment to the game. We literally think of it as “our game.” You are conscious of it from a very early age in most cases. As Brian Burke (GM of the Anaheim Ducks) once noted, in Canada hockey isn’t a game – it’s a cult.
Now take that sentiment and place it in the context of the Cold War. The ’72 Summit Series was a microcosm of that period and the tension that came with it. We all hated the commies, Reds, Ruskies (whatever derogatory term you could come up with to describe the Soviets.) It was our system versus theirs and if we weren’t going to settle it with nukes, we sure as hell were going to settle it on the ice!
A bunch of commies beating us at our national game? Never! (Not surprisingly, once the Cold War ended, the intensity of the Canada-Russia rivalry faded quite quickly).
Canada has also historically suffered from stronger regional and cultural/linguistic cleavages than the United States where a civil war was fought to decide the north-south issue. At the time of the ’72 Series, Canada was a relatively young country with lingering ties to Britain and few national events/experiences that bound the country together. Corny as it sounds, the ’72 hockey series was one of those events. On September 28, 1972, the entire country literally came to a standstill. People stayed home from work or came home early. Crowds gathered everywhere a TV was nearby. If you didn’t have a TV, you listened on the radio. Kids were pulled from their classrooms and placed in front of a TV set in their school gymnasium. The politicians campaigning in the 1972 federal election stopped to watch the game. It was an intense moment of nationalist pride not seen since the end of WWII. Old newspaper article from the day: "The country goes wild."http://www.1972summitseries.com/SimcoeR ... 0Wild.html
Some old CBC clips from the period. (Clip number 7 “God is a Canadian” is good for a laugh.) http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-41-318/spo ... it_series/