The miniseries begins in medias res on September 8, 1972, as Team Canada takes the ice for Game 4 of the series in Vancouver. The team is shocked from the boos they receive from their home crowd and the cheers for the Soviet team. The film then cuts back five months earlier to April 1972 with Alan Eagleson meeting with Gabrielle Fournier, an official with External Affairs Canada, and the heads of the Soviet (headed by Alexander Gresko) and Canadian hockey programmes (headed by Joe Kryczka and Charles Hay) in Prague, Czechoslovakia. They iron out the deal for an eight-game hockey series between the USSR and a team compiled of the best Canadian NHLers.
Eagleson travels to Rochester to seek out former Boston Bruins coach Harry Sinden and convinces Sinden to coach the team. Sinden's interview with the Hockey Canada brass does not go well because of Joe Kryczka's doubt of his capabilities and disagreement over wanting John Ferguson as an assistant coach, but Eagleson convinces them to hire Sinden, claiming he's the coach the players want. Sinden, Eagleson, and Ferguson then pick out the Canadian uniforms. Sinden comes up with the name "Team Canada". Sinden announces the roster of Team Canada in July at a press conference in Toronto. The roster includes notable players Phil Esposito, Paul Henderson, Ken Dryden, Vic Hadfield, Rod Gilbert, Bobby Clarke, Gary Bergman, Frank and Peter Mahovlich.
Team Canada's training camp begins in August, with many of the players arriving out of shape and not taking the camp seriously. Sinden shows the team a video of his 1958 team winning the World Championships, which the team treats as a joke. In the weeks before the series begins, it becomes increasingly clear that most Canadians expect an eight-game sweep. Shortly prior to Game 1, Sinden privately confesses to Eagleson that he doesn't think the team is ready. Team Canada's scout reports to Sinden and Ferguson that the Soviets are a slow, poorly skilled team with the exception of one player, Valeri Kharlamov ("Karla-something") and that their goalie, Vladislav Tretiak (mispronounced "Tet-tri-ak"), couldn't stop a bus. Some of the Canadian players attend a Soviet practice and spend it laughing at the Soviet players, until Kharlamov shoots a puck into the stands at them, creating instant hostility between the teams.
Game 1 in Montreal starts out as expected. Esposito scores less than 30 seconds into the game. Five minutes later, Bobby Clarke wins a faceoff and passes the puck back to Paul Henderson, who scores on a slapshot to give the Canadians a 2-0 lead. However, the Soviets quickly respond back and tie the game 2-2 before the first period is over. The Canadian players become fatigued by the rising temperature in the Montreal Forum, making it continuously more difficult for them to play. Kharlamov scores twice on Ken Dryden in the second period, giving the Soviets a 4-2 lead. Throughout the game, Tretiak proves to be impregnable as a goalie, and the fatigue of the Canadian players is noticeably shown. The Soviets defeat the Canadians 7-3 in Game 1.
With Team Canada and the country left in shock after their defeat, the team begins to receive large amounts of criticism. For Game 2 in Toronto, Sinden takes Vic Hadfield and his line out of the lineup and replaces them with grinders (Wayne Cashman, J.P Parise and Bill Goldsworthy). Hadfield does not take the decision lightly and invades Sinden's dressing room to show his disapproval. Also, Tony Esposito replaces Dryden in net. During the practice, Frank Mahovlich notices politician Robert Stanfield in the stands wearing a Team Canada jersey and talking with Alan Eagleson. Frank complains about this to Sinden, claiming they're not playing the series for the politicians. Frank then leaves the practice in protest. Before Game 2, Frank privately confesses to Pete his fear of losing the series to Communists.
During Game 2, Team Canada builds up a 2-1 lead. While killing a penalty in the third period, Pete Mahovlich gets possession of the puck. He dekes the Soviet defenceman and dangles the puck past Tretiak for an incredible shorthanded goal, giving Canada a 3-1 lead. Team Canada wins the game 4-1, tying the series at 1-1. After the game, frustrated Soviet coach Vsevolod Bobrov invades the officials dressing room, angrily complaining about their officiating and Team Canada's play.
In Winnipeg, Gresko and Bobrov request that the referees who officiated Game 2 not officiate again and that the referees who officiated Game 1 work Game 3 and 4. Although initially objecting due its violation of the series contract, Eagleson agrees to the request, thinking the Russians will know they owe them one. Much to his frustration, Vic Hadfield sits out Game 3 too. This game focuses entirely on the players in the press box. At one point, Hadfield's wife asks Ken Dryden about how hard it is to sit out, and Gabrielle Fournier asks him if he's on the wrong team, to which Dryden simply stares her down and says no. Paul Henderson scores to give Team Canada a 3-1 lead, but the Soviets come back and the game ends in a 4-4 tie. While sitting in the airport before a flight to Vancouver, Frank expresses his paranoia about the Soviets further to Serge Savard.
As they prepare for Game 4 in Vancouver, Sinden and Ferguson decide to put Dryden and the Hadfield line back in the lineup. When Team Canada takes the ice for the game, they are booed by the Vancouver fans. Seconds later, the Soviets take the ice and are cheered by the Vancouver fans, leaving the team shocked and frustrated. In the first five minutes of the game, Goldsworthy takes 2 penalties, both resulting in goals for the Soviets. Trailing after the second period, Esposito tells Henderson that he wants to give the fans a piece of his mind. Team Canada loses the game 5-3, falling behind in the series 2 games to 1 (with one tied) going to Moscow. As the team is booed off the ice, Esposito stays back for an interview. Esposito emotionally remarks on his disappointment in the Canadian crowd, and claims that they're only playing because they love Canada.
Part 2 begins with Alan Eagleson being interviewed on the CBC TV show Front Page Challenge, in which Eagleson comments on his disapproval of the Vancouver fans. While waiting in the Vancouver airport, Eagleson receives news that Frank Mahovlich will not be travelling to Sweden for their exhibition game due to allergies. At a reception with the Canadian ambassador at Canada's Embassy in Stockholm, Sinden promises it will just be "a friendly game of shinny" against the Swedish national team. However, the game turns into a brutal one. Sinden and Ferguson become aggravated by the officiating of Josef Kompalla and Franz Baader. During the game, a Swedish player slashes Wayne Cashman in the mouth and slices his tongue, in which no call is made and a fight ensues. After the game, Sinden and Ferguson follow the officials to their dressing room, angrily complaining about Cashman’s cut. At the same time, a brawl ensues in the hallway of the dressing room between both teams until they are broken up by police. Back at the hotel, Hadfield has a private conversation with Eagleson, in which he expresses his disapproval of Sinden's coaching. The next day, Frank Mahovlich rejoins the team, which Hadfield takes as a sign that he's not getting anymore ice time. It is also there that Eagleson informs the team that there will be no room in the hotel in Moscow for the players' wives. Esposito, fed up all the bad press, ridicule, and contempt that the team has received during the series, leads the team in threatening to not go to Russia if their wives don't.
As they arrive at the hotel in Moscow, Gabrielle Fournier warns the team about getting in trouble in Russia. Before practice, Hadfield sees that he is not playing in Game 5. A frustrated Hadfield has an argument with Sinden during practice, which subsequently results in Hadfield leaving the team and going back to Canada, along with a few other players.
During the Game 5 ceremony, Phil Esposito falls on the ice, breaking a lot of the pre-game tension. During the game, Henderson slips past the Soviet defence and takes a shot. Just after Tretiak stops the shot, Henderson is tripped and slides head-first into the boards. After being helped off the ice, the doctor checks on Henderson and tells Ferguson that he has a concussion and can't play. Despite that, Henderson returns to the ice and almost immediately scores on Tretiak, giving Canada a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period. During the celebration, a Soviet soldier pulls a Canadian fan who was making noise by blowing into a plastic horn out of the crowd and drags him into a backroom. Ms. Fournier runs after them and gets Gresko to go talk to the police. Gresko tells her that he is being arrested for assault. As Ms. Fournier waits for the police to come out, she hears the crowd roar several times. She finally goes back in to check the score and it's 4-4. The Soviets then score another goal and win the game 5-4, scoring four unanswered goals in the third period. As the game ends, Sinden immediately leaves the bench and destroys his dressing room in frustration. Team Canada now is down 3 games to 1 with only three must win games remaining. The next morning, Fournier makes a deal with the Soviet police to free the Canadian fan on the condition that he leaves the country immediately. The now fully shaved fan confesses to Fournier that the police took his clothes, hung him by his ankles, and tattooed his heels.
Back at the hotel, Cashman, Esposito, and Bergman decide to search Bergman's room for bugs. Thinking they have found something under the carpet, they unscrew a box and hear a noise from below. They go to the lobby and see they unscrewed the system that was holding up a chandelier, thus causing the chandelier to shatter all over the floor.
For Game 6, Sinden puts Dryden back in net. During the warm-ups for the game, Sinden and Ferguson notice that Baader and Kompalla, the "two clowns" from Sweden are officiating. The two referees call penalties against the Canadians all game long. At one point, Esposito collides with a Soviet player, cutting him below his eye. Although no penalty is called, Bobrov tells the player to show Kompalla the blood. After seeing the player's cut, Kompalla gives Esposito a 5-minute major penalty. Sinden angrily objects, claiming it a penalty for bleeding. As Kharlamov continues to dominate the game, Ferguson leans over and whispers something in Bobby Clarke's ear. Henderson, who is sitting next to Clarke, is shocked at what he overhears, although he says nothing. On his next shift, Clarke comes up behind Kharlamov and aggressively slashs him on the ankle, injuring him. Henderson scores later in the game and the Canadians hold on for a 3-2 win. After the game, Gresko and Bobrov show their anger to the camera crew about Clarke's slash. Fournier confronts Ferguson about the slash, to which Ferguson replies he doesn't care how his team wins, just as long as they win.
The next day Sinden, Ferguson, and Eagleson meet with Gresko about Baader and Kompalla. Gresko agrees that they will not officiate again in the series on several conditions that Sinden objects to, but they accept anyway. For Game 7, Kharlamov sits out due to his ankle injury. During the game, a fight breaks out between the teams. During the fight, Soviet player Boris Mikhailov kicks Bergman with his skate. Late in the game, Henderson dekes several defensemen and scores, giving Team Canada a 4-3 lead and the win. In the dressing room after the game, Bergman shows the team his blooded shin pad as a result of Mikhailov's kick. Ferguson takes the shin pad and shows it to Fournier, who earlier criticized the team for their violent play.
The next day, Gresko goes back on his promise and says Badder and Kompalla will officiate Game 8. Ferguson threatens they will not play if they do. Eagleson and the coaches hold out their decision to not play, until the next day when Fournier suggests a deal in which both teams pick one referee. The teams agree to the compromise. The Russians choose Kompalla. However, the referee the Canadians choose surprisingly is sick, so the Canadians go with another referee. Sinden informs the team that the game is on. They also inform Dryden that he will be starting. Dryden is visibly shaking as he leaves the table.
Before the game, the Canadian dressing room is silent, and Dryden claims he cannot stop shaking. Sinden tells the team winning is now the only thing that matters, and that by winning the series they will vindicate themselves. The Canadian team is surprised to see Kharlamov is playing despite his severe injury. In the first minutes, the Canadians receive questionable penalties from Kompalla. With the advantage, the Russians score a powerplay goal to give them a 1-0 lead. Shortly after, J.P. Parise is given a penalty on what appears to be an obvious dive. The Canadians' emotions quickly boil over, and Parise nearly swings his stick at Kompalla. As a result, Parise is given a game misconduct and a match penalty. A highly tempered Sinden and Ferguson throw a stick and a chair onto the ice in frustration. Esposito later scores to tie the game. However, the Russians hold a 5-3 lead at the 2nd intermission. In the dressing room, a determined Esposito claims they will not lose. Esposito goes to Sinden and suggests he make a change to his line. Sinden has Peter Mahovlich take his brother's place on the line.
The Canadians quickly score in the 3rd period to make it 5-4. Later in the game, Yvan Cournoyer scores to tie the game. Eagleson notices something from the stands and storms to the timekeeper's box. Eagleson is subdued by the Russian guards and appears to be being arrested. Team Canada, led by Pete Mahovlich, storm the area and rescue Eagleson from the guards. As he's being walked backed to the Canadian bench, an angered Eagleson shoves his fist to the crowd. At the Canadians' bench, Eagleson tells Sinden that he noticed the goal light didn't go on and went to the timekeeper's box to make sure the Russians didn't cheat them out of a goal. Late during the game, Gresko comes to the Canadian bench and informs Eagleson that if the game ends in a tie, the Russians will win the series based on goal differential (the Russians had two more goals than the Canadians). Esposito overhears the conversation, and becomes more determined to win the game, even refusing to get off the ice despite being fatigued. In the last minute of the game, Henderson calls Pete Mahovlich off the ice and skates to the net. Though he doesn't score, Esposito shoots the puck at Tretiak. Henderson picks up the rebound and scores to give the Canadians a 6-5 lead with 34 seconds left in the game. The Canadians clear the bench and crowd Henderson in celebration. Team Canada holds the lead and wins the game, thus winning the series. As the game ends, one of the Canadian players picks up the game-winning puck (the camera does not show the player's face or number, therefore leaving the player's identity unknown.)
As the Canadians proudly celebrate in the dressing room, Alexander Yakushev gifts the team with a samovar from the Russians. Esposito accepts the samovar, and gives Yakushev a hockey stick and a beer in return on behalf of the team. Pete Mahovlich names the samovar the "Commie Cup". As the team continues celebrating, Sinden and Ferguson quietly sit in their room. Ferguson asks Sinden if he wants to join them. Sinden says he needs a couple minutes to "take this all in". A handshake between the two follows, as they continue to sit silently in their room (In the extended version, Sinden leaves and Ferguson breaks down in tears).
The miniseries ends with several players of the team going onto the ice one more time. The team stand and sit on the ice in silence, absorbing the series and their experience as a whole. (This concluding moment was the one scene in the mini-series that liberally interpreted the truth and perhaps was the most dramatized. The players did not go back on the ice, but this coda was based on an interview with defenseman Gary Bergman, who said that he stopped before leaving the ice for the final time and took in the "old barn" (Luzhniki Ice Palace).
There is no official soundtrack or musical score for the miniseries. This is a list of all the songs that are featured in the miniseries. All of the songs featured are songs released during the early 1970s from Canadian musicians to fit the setting of music during the 1972 Summit Series. Most of these songs are featured more than once throughout the miniseries.
In order of appearance:"No Sugar Tonight" - The Guess Who
"Oh, What a Feeling" - Crowbar
"Runnin' Back to Saskatoon" - The Guess Who
"No Time" - The Guess Who
"One Fine Morning" - Lighthouse
"Absolutely Right" - Five Man Electrical Band
"Signs" - Five Man Electrical Band
"The Weight" - The Band
"Where Evil Grows" - The Poppy Family
"Avalanche" - Leonard Cohen