Paul Henderson's goal at the 1972 Canada-Soviet hockey summit is arguably the most iconic moment in Canadian sports history, Fifty years have gone by since that momentous event. A half century has passed since that goal electrified a nation - and I missed it. Let me tell you how and why.
I am a baby boomer. I was attending my high school classes on September 28, 1972, when Henderson scored his famous goal in the deciding game of the eight-game summit series. I remember the atmosphere surrounding that series. Younger Canadians will never truly understand the significance of that victory. You had to be there. It was a different era and the Soviets were an unknown entity. They were a novelty to Canadian hockey fans. At the time, there were no Soviet players in the NHL and the Cold War was raging. The mysterious Soviets emerged from behind the Iron Curtain to challenge Canadian hockey supremacy. No one was certain how good they really were.
For much of the first four games in Canada, the Soviets outplayed Team Canada. We soon learned how good the Soviets were and any smugness we had soon changed into concern that Canada would lose the series to the upstart Soviets. What a blow to Canadian pride! Everything hinged on the final four games in Moscow.
Right in front of me, in the office where I sit typing this post, hangs a painted portrait of the well-known photograph of Henderson and Yvan Cournoyer in celebration. It was Toronto Star photographer Frank Lennon who captured that joyful moment (Lennon passed away in August of 2006) The photo shows Henderson lifting his hands in triumph as Cournoyer wraps his arms around him.
I recall sitting in a classroom watching the final game of the series on a little black and white television, which sat on a high stand with wheels. Team Canada was losing 5-3 entering the third period and the prospects didn't look good. I was watching the game anxiously when the bell rang. We were told we had to leave the classroom because school was over for the day. Disappointed, I hurried home to catch the remainder of the game.
Although I rushed to the bus stop and hopped on the first bus I could get, I did not get home in time. When I arrived, the game was already over and I was told what had happened. I heard the cheers and joined in the celebrations. Since then, I have seen Henderson's goal replayed countless times and I always enjoy it. However, it does not compensate for having missed it live. Alas, I can't change what happened, but at I can still revel in the triumph of Henderson's goal.
Paul Henderson is 79 years old now. He turn 80 years old on January 28th. In 2009, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. As a result, he was unable to attend the 40th anniversary of the Summit Series in Moscow. However, he responded well to experimental treatment as part of a clinical trial he underwent in the United States.
Here we are in 2022. The Russians have invaded Ukraine and they have been banned from international hockey tournaments. The more things change . . .