Hockey legend Paul Henderson held court inside the travelling hockey exhibit in Sylvan Lake on Sunday. The 68-year-old was surrounded by hockey fans who hang onto his every word.
He described the moments in the Canada versus Soviet Union 1972 Summit Series leading up to the most iconic goal in Canadian hockey history.
“I found myself standing up and yelling at Peter Mahovlich to come of the ice,” remembered Henderson, who was watching the action from the bench.
There was less than a minute left in Game 8 at the Luzhniki Ice Palace in Moscow. The series was tied but the Soviet Union led in goals and Canada needed a win to take the series. “You just don’t do that,” said Henderson.
“Peter Mahovolich, thank goodness, thought it was the coach yelling. Peter Mahovolich came off the ice and about 10 seconds later, I scored what is known as the goal of the century.”
Henderson scored with only 34 seconds left in the game and he has been celebrating that goal for nearly 39 years.
And since January he has been celebrating and reminiscing with hockey fans as part of The Paul Henderson Jersey Homecoming Tour which hits 65 stops across the country.
Toronto real estate mogul Mitchell Goldhar put the tour together after paying more than $1 million for the jersey at an auction last June.
Goldhar wanted to bring the sweater back to Canada because he felt it should be celebrated by Canadians.
He invited Henderson to join the tour which showcases a variety of 1972 Summit Series memorabilia – and most notably, the white and red Team Canada jersey with No.19 etched on the back.
Henderson and his wife, Eleanor, are not on all dates but they are enjoying the ride.
Inside the trailer, a big screen replays the rebound that gave Canada the series.
Henderson estimated he has watched the famous goal hundreds of thousands of times in the last three and a half decades.
Henderson put in another six goals in the series which he says were pretty good goals.
“The last one wasn’t that pretty but it was effective,” he said. “That’s a good thing about this trailer, I get a chance to see the other goals I scored.”
After playing professional hockey for 18 years, Henderson retired in 1981. He suited up for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings and ended his National Hockey League career with the Atlanta Flames. He played out the 1980-1981 season in the Central Hockey League with the Birmingham Bulls. He turned down an offer from Atlanta Flames general manager Cliff Fletcher to play another two years with Atlanta Flames, soon to be Calgary Flames.
For the last 27 years, he has been running a men’s Christian ministry out of Toronto. He speaks with his wife at marriage conferences and does his share of motivational speaking. Henderson does not spend much time in the hockey rink save for when his two grandsons are playing. Henderson promised his wife he would hang up his skates for good when he turned 60. Henderson has kept his promise and hasn’t played a game in eight years.
When Team Canada’s Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal in the gold medal game against the United States in the 2010 Olympics, Henderson was no where near a TV. He was at a conference in Victoria. He missed the first period but caught the second and third period.
“We thought this is fabulous, we are going to win the game and we’ll see them make the presentation,” said Henderson. “But (Zach) Parise scored and it went into overtime. We had to go in and do another talk so I told the people, if U.S. scores don’t say another word. But if Canada scores just yell it out. About 15 minutes into the talk, a lady screams out Canada has scored. Crosby has scored for Canada.”
Henderson said the room went crazy and he did something he has never done before.
“I led the singing of O Canada,” he laughed. “If you have ever heard me sing, you don’t want me leading the singing of O Canada. It was so spontaneous. We just had to cheer like all Canadians. A great moment for his generation.”
Crosby’s winning goal is often linked to Henderson’s historical goal.
“They are both great moments in Canadian hockey history,” said the die-hard Toronto Maple Leaf fan. “People ask me all the time which is bigger. That is the wrong question. It doesn’t matter which is bigger. They are both great times for Canadians so they need to be celebrated.”
On just about every stop, Henderson has been told he should be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. While he knows there is a big push in some circles, Henderson takes it all in stride. He said there are about 20 hockey players who have had better careers, and are more deserving in the National Hockey League.
“If they put all 20 of the guys that I think are ahead of me then I might I think I deserve but there are guys retiring all the time who have had great careers,” said Henderson. “I don’t ever expect it to happen. I am very comfortable with who I am today. What I would like to see is they put the whole team in. Then I would really feel good about it.”
Henderson has a ready answer for his fans.
“I say, ‘the worst thing they can do is put me in there,” laughed Henderson. “Then everybody would forget it. Nobody would think about me anymore. I am better on the outside looking in.”