Truro businessman recalls visit to Russia

Published on February 10, 2014
Terry Sack, under the alias of Terry Puck, signs autographs for the Russian army in Moscow in 1974.

By Lyle Carter
The entire world seems to be watching as 90 nations and almost 3,000 of the finest athletes on the planet compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The entire world seems to be watching as 90 nations and almost 3,000 of the finest athletes on the planet compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

As Canada, 221 athletes strong, set high goals it reminds Truro businessman Terry Sack, the owner of Estate Jewellery and Terry's Tunes on Inglis Place, of a special time in his own life.

"I made the trip to Moscow, more the 1,000 miles from Sochi, in 1974 to watch the completion of an eight-game hockey series between Team Canada and the USSR," Sack, 69, who resides in Hilden, said. "It's nearly 40 years since I applied to go as a hockey coach. Canada sent 50 coaches out of approximately 20,000 coaches who had applied. I was lucky to be one of the coaches picked."

A Level 5 coach living in Antigonish, Sack was manager of Goodman's Department Store and president of The Chamber of Commerce. He was also a business opportunist.

"Before I left for Russia, a friend, Neil MacKinnon, gave me about 10,000 stickers," Sack recalled. "There were quite a number of stickers on individual sheets. The stickers had a beaver and Canada inscribed on them. All you had to do was peel a sticker off and you could stick it on anything."

During 11 days in Moscow, Sack wore a Team Canada jacket and was armed with the Canada stickers and Canadian souvenirs he had taken along. On a number of occasions he gave out stickers in exchange for favours.

"I also traded an awful lot of these stickers for Russian pins and souvenirs. I gave a lot away and I found that whenever you gave the Russians something they wanted to give you something in return."

An occasion in Red Square is still strong on Sack's mind.

"There was a long lineup of people. All of a sudden, two young guys looked at my Team Canada jacket and they asked me for my autograph. I remembered Peter Puck on hockey commercials back home on television. I quickly decided my name meant nothing in Russia so I signed Terry Puck as being Peter Puck's brother. The next thing I know there was a big lineup of Russians waiting to get my autograph. The line got so big we were blocking off the water fountain."

Inside the hockey arena where Canada was to play the USSR Sack's popularity continued.

"Around the stands there were truck loads of the Russian army," Sack said. "These army personal wanted my autograph too. I signed Terry Puck so many times I was getting tired. The Russian army kept thanking me. I recall the Russian army loved the Canadians."

After all these years, an incident involving the KGB still stands out.

"A knock came on my hotel room door about 5 a.m. this morning," Sack said. "I was half asleep and when I opened the door, two tall, bald KGB officers in black suits were standing there. I had no idea what they wanted. ‘We want to buy all your clothes' (and possibly souvenirs) one of them said. I told them I didn't want to sell my clothes. They quietly left and I never heard from them again."

Sack recalled other experiences such as looking into the eyes of a happy 80-year-old Russian lady as she swept the street with a long broom handle with only a few pieces of straw attached.

"Missing the bus on an outing and hitchhiking across Moscow was an adventure," he said. "I watched skiers doing dryland training on wooden shutes. They were preparing for the next Olympics four years off. I spent time with Team Canada's Bobby Hull, Frank Mahovlich, Gordie Howe and sons Mark and Marty."

Although Canada lost the hockey series to the Soviets, Sack enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.

"I had $600 going into Russia," Sack said. "At the Moscow airport when leaving, I still had $580. I set up a little store right in the arena to sell Canadian souvenirs and do business. I also sold my Team Canada jacket for 120 rubles and I sold two pair of my jeans. I got back to Canada with lots of souvenirs and a Russian hockey stick."

Sack said one day he would like to return to Russia.

Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.