Proof of Paul Henderson’s enduring fame from his role of scoring the game-winning goal that clinched the series for Team Canada against the Soviets in the ’72 Summit Series is the traveling exhibit called the Henderson Homecoming Jersey Tour.
It is the result of a Toronto businessman, Mitch Goldhar, who paid more than $1.2 million US at an auction in June of 2010 for the sweater because he thought it deserved to be in Canada and for Canadians to enjoy it as a piece of history.
Goldhar, who owns the Smartcentres retail outlet, was only 11 years of age in 1972, but the Summit Series had such a profound effect on his life as a Canadian and someone who loved sports that he felt it important to repatriate the jersey. Following the ’72 series, Henderson gave the sweater to Toronto Maple Leafs trainer Joe Sgro, who subsequently sold it. The sweater passed through several hands, but it was at the U.S. auction that its importance became relevant to Canada.
Several companies went public with the intention of buying the jersey, and it became a story unto itself. What Henderson didn’t know at the time was that Goldhar, whom he didn’t know, planned to buy the jersey and make it the cornerstone of a free exhibit that would travel throughout Canada so people could relive those glory days.
In the second installment of a two-part interview with sportsnet.ca, Henderson talks about the auction to buy the sweater, the travelling with it and other memorabilia, the goal in the final game that changed his life forever, living in Canada and a comment he made a few years ago about the slash of teammate Bobby Clarke that broke a Soviet player’s ankle in the series.
SN: What was your impression of what happened at the auction, because there had been talk that someone or some store would buy it? I know you had talked to Vancouver businessman Jim Pattison, who wanted to buy it and involve you in some way with it after the purchase. So, what happened?
PH: I was at home doing a crossword puzzle. I wasn’t even watching it online. My nine-year-old grandson and my wife were on the phone (talking about the bids). I did talk to Jim Pattison that night and I was really disappointed that he didn’t get it because he said they were going to use it and involve me and eventually it would end up in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. But like everything else in life, you never know and it’s probably turned out just as well that Mitch got it. He’s put this trailer together and it’s fabulous. It wasn’t my idea. This was a Canadian doing it. It was an iconic moment and (he felt) people needed to be educated about this. So I had nothing to do with it. He asked me if I would come and make some appearances, so I said sure. I’m going to do 16 or 17 appearances and some other players from the team will go out and interact with people.
Fans take in the Henderson jersey exhibit.
SN: What was the impression you had when the tour started in your hometown?
PH: We just had a ball, my wife (Eleanor) and I. People come out and go through the trailer. It’s incredible what’s in there. Here’s the kid from Lucknow, ON, who grew up poor as a churchmouse with probably less than a 1,000 and there were probably 500 there. It’s pretty satisfying.
SN: Why do you think the goal was so important that almost 40 years later it is still a big deal?
PH: I would say we were probably never more Canadian as Canadians right across the country. It’s something Canadians really took pride in. There’s no downside to this series. We won. We proved that we could come back and win, so it was a win for the NHL, it was a win for hockey and certainly it’s been a win for Paul Henderson and his family.
Somebody comes up and says, ‘Man, Paul, I was in Grade 4 and I remember going crazy.’ Well, how can you be blasé about that kind of stuff? So, there’s no downside. That’s the thing I love about it. Obviously it’s awful encouraging when people come up and tell you, ‘Man, that was such a great time.’ It’s mind-boggling. No one in a 100 years would have thought this goal would still be (as important) at this time. It’s been very positive for me. It’s fabulous. In terms of scoring the goal, yes it’s wonderful and they (describe it) as the greatest sports moment of the last century. That blows you away.
SN: They talk about Canadian heart; did that play a role in Team Canada winning?
PH: We were so consumed in it. I said to my wife at the time, ‘If we don’t win this series we’re going to be known as losers the rest of our lives.’ Fear is a wonderful motivator sometimes. Fear of failure, I think, drove as much as anything. We had pride in ourselves.
SN: There was a comment you made a few years ago that you were disgusted with the slash by Bobby Clarke that broke Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle. The comment created quite a controversy and Clarke wasn’t happy when he heard about it and made some remarks about you. What was behind all that?
PH: This is what the press does to you. They take things out of context and just cause grief. This is an example of that. Somebody will say something and they just blow it up and make it a big thing. In that situation, I was talking about my grandson and playing hockey and the ’72 series came up in the conversation. I thought it was fabulous. We wanted to win and everything was justified. I saw nothing wrong with it in ’72, none of us did. You get a little older and you look back and you’re a little more mature and you think, ‘Man, if you can’t beat them straight up, what difference is whacking the guy in the hallway than going out there and taking him out?” I said it in regards to now that I’ve got grandchildren, your perspective changes.
I finally got a hold of Bobby and I explained to him what happened and Bobby and I are fine today. But people still say, “You and Bobby Clarke hate each other.” Bobby and I have dealt with it. It’s all gone, but the press still brings it back up.
SN: You’ve had a chance to relive the series untold times and the game-winning goals in the final three games, why you?
PH: It never dawned on my mind that I might score the winning goal. Something within me — and it’s hard to explain today — I just felt I had to get on the ice. We had to win this game. It still amazes me. It really, really does.