Volume 94, Issue 48

Thursday, November 23, 2000


The Legend of '72 still lingers - Henderson still baffled by "the goal"

Gee Gees prepping for Vanier Cup

The Legend of '72 still lingers - Henderson still baffled by "the goal"

Ryan Dixon/Gazette
I COULD HAVE SCORED IT WITH BOTH HANDS TIED BEHIND MY BACK. Paul Henderson stopped by Western Monday night to tell his story.

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

Paul Henderson has had over 28 years to think what the impact his goal in the 1972 Summit Series versus Russia had on this country, one would think by now he would have come to grips with it – think again.

"No I can't, I just can't. When you think of all the sporting events and they've given me the sporting moment of the century. That is beyond my wildest dreams, I still can't comprehend it," Henderson said.

That goal changed Henderson's life forever. At the time he was a solid hockey player making a good living with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After September of 1972, he was instantly launched into the annals of Canadian sports fame. The impact the goal had was by no means limited to his life. Henderson said his goal had the power to turn born losers, into Tom Cruise.

"Recently this girl came up to me and she said 'I was in grade five and there was this geek that was after me and I couldn't stand him'. She said 'when you scored that goal I had my arms around him and we were hugging each other and jumping up and down.' She said 'there was only one thing that would get me to hug that guy and it was you scoring that goal'," Henderson laughed.

Henderson said one of the most incredible aspects of his life-altering goal was the fact that people, who were not even alive during the disco decade, still have an appreciation for what it meant. "The thing that absolutely amazes me is the knowledge of the people that come up to me, like high school and university kids, they know more about the bloody thing than I do! That's the thing that amazes me – people can get caught up in it that weren't even born."

Henderson's rise to his current status was improbable. He came from humble beginnings in the town of Lucknow, just outside of Goderich, Ontario. He played 18 years of professional hockey, including extended stays with the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Henderson said playing with "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe in Detroit and long-time friend Ron Ellis in Toronto, were two of his career highlights. Everything on his journey from the shores of Lake Huron to behind the iron curtain has influenced his current occupation.

Currently, Henderson is director of Leadership Ministries in Toronto. He speaks mainly to business people and does some motivational speaking and marriage counselling. Henderson said the work he does now has a much more direct impact on people's lives than any goal he ever scored.

The fact that Henderson's goal is still front-and-centre in Canadian sports today would seem to indicate his place in history is firmly rooted. For that matter, so is the place of the entire Team Canada squad. What defined that historic team best? Henderson said one special quality stood out.

"I think it was perseverance. When you come back and win the last three games, especially over there [in Moscow] we hadn't played on the big rinks and there were a lot of adjustments," he said. To this day Henderson still feels strong ties to his mates. "There is a bond team Canada '72 will always have."

While the Summit Series was a watershed event, it is by no means the only great sporting moment in our nation's history. According to Henderson, what set this event apart from all others was really quite basic.

"The fact of it is we are Canadian and it is hockey," he said. Henderson pointed to the enthusiasm of the Canadian fans that made the trip to Russia in 1972 as evidence of how important this event was. "We had 3000 Canadian fans over there and they were drowning out 1200 Russians."

With the great fanfare Henderson's goal has received, many have argued Henderson should have a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Henderson, however is not one of them.

"Monuments to "the goal" have more space in the Hall of Fame than most guys that are members right now. There is a selection crew and there is an integrity to it and I'm happy to leave it in their hands. If I never get in it won't make one iota of difference in my life."

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