Moscow, September 28, 1972, the final game of the first ever hockey show down between the Soviet Union and Canada’s best NHL players. After being down three games to one, with one game tied, Canada won game six and seven to tie the series. In offices, classrooms, and work places across the nation, millions of Canadians huddled around television sets and radios to witness the daytime broadcast of the eighth and deciding game. The Canadians had fought back from a two goal deficit in the third period to tie the score 5-5. Now with less than a minute remaining it looked like the game and the series would end in a tie. Then Paul Henderson of the Toronto Maple Leafs called a teammate off the ice and jumped over the boards. Henderson had scored the winning goals in games six and seven. He felt he could do it again. With the play by play of that dramatic last minute here’s the late Foster Hewitt:

Here’s a shot. Henderson made a wild stab. Here’s another shot right by and scores! Henderson has scored for Canada! Henderson, right in front of the net and the fans and the team are going wild!

No other sporting moment has caused such an outpouring of Canadian patriotism. Today people still remember where they were when Henderson notched the winning marker. The goal of the century. It’s a pleasure to introduce the hero of the 1972 Canada-Russia series, Mr. Paul Henderson.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is for a guy who played professional hockey for eighteen years and really be known for one lousy ten second shot? The thing that I find most frustrating is I could have scored that goal any time I wanted to. I get the distinct impression that you do not believe me. As sure as I’m standing here tonight, just to bring back your memory, that was an eight game series we played against the Russians, four games in Canada, four games over there. We get there and we have to win the last three games to win the series. I had scored the winning goal in the sixth and seventh game. The goal I scored in the seventh game was absolutely the best score I ever scored in my life.

Ronny Ellis was my friend in the world, a teammate of mine on the Toronto Maple Leafs. After the seventh game we’re sitting there dressed beside one another and I put my arm around my buddy and I said, “Ronny, you have been saving yourself. You are going to score the winning goal in the last game.” Well, we get into the game against the Russians and after the second period the score was 5-3 for the Russians. No big deal. Big Phil Esposito the real spiritual leader on our team, on and off the ice, scored a goal in the first shift of the third period and made the score 5-4. And then that great road runner from Montreal, Evon Cornwiay, scored a goal and made it 5-5 at the twelve minute mark. Well then the thirteen minute mark came in the third period. The fourteen, the fifteen, the sixteen, the seventeen, the eighteen, the nineteen minute mark. I’m mean I just couldn’t wait for Ellis any longer.

What I would like to do for the next few minutes is open up my life to you and get a little personal and share with you how I got to this spot that I have today. I was born in Ontario. In fact maybe one of the reasons I wanted to be a hockey player was because I was born on a sleigh in the middle of a snow storm. The roads were closed up there and they couldn’t get to the hospital and so they hitched up the team of horses and put my mother on the sleigh and we headed to the hospital but maybe, because I was always fast on the ice, and I was a little fast in this case also, and we didn’t make it to the hospital and I was born on a sleigh.

My father was a great hockey fan. Saturday night when Foster Hewitt came on the radio, hockey night in Canada, woe betide anybody that said anything in our house. I mean it was hockey night in Canada. My brother and I grew up in that atmosphere and my father certainly encouraged me to do it.

I can remember when I was in grade 5 I decided that I wanted to be a professional hockey player. I can distinctly remember starting to work on my autograph in grade 5 because if I ever made it, I wanted people to know who I was. Isn’t that ridiculous? But I had a dream. A dream as a young kid to go and play in the NHL.

When I was sixteen I met a great looking girl that used to go to a high school in a little different town than I did. I got to take her out a few times and started to go together and we planned to make a life together. Really a nice girl. Got to play a little better hockey and the Detroit Red Wings got a hold of me and I started playing junior league hockey with the Hamilton Red Wings. In 1962 we won the memorial cup. Champions of Canada. It is a wonderful experience to play on a championship team. I lost two Stanley Cups and I tell you I cried like a baby. So when I look back on that junior year of championship it was a fond memory.

After that year I had a year of junior left and I talked to my future wife and I decided that we were going to quit hockey and I was going to concentrate on getting an education. There was only a hundred jobs in the NHL. Six teams at that point. The money wasn’t that great and we wanted the good life. We used to sit there and talk about it and I wanted to have money. I wanted to be successful. I grew up in a rural area and we didn’t seem to have enough money. That seemed to be an aggravation. I was basically after the good life. To me the good life was to have money, to be successful in what ever you did, to have a good marriage, and enjoy good health.

I told the Detroit Red Wings that I was going to quit and I told my parents that I was going to quit and I was going to strictly concentrate on school because I really didn’t think that I could get my university education and play hockey. My dad said to me, “Paul, I would really encourage you to finish your junior and at least give the NHL a shot, because to the day you die you will wonder, could I have made it. I started to think about that and I thought about it all summer and it came September and I talked to my girlfriend who was going to be my future wife and I said, “You know , I really think that I should give it a shot.” We decided that I’d give it two years. I’d play my last year of junior and if I couldn’t make the NHL that means I’d go back to school and take it from there.

I played my last year of junior and set a scoring record in Hamilton and I made the Detroit Red Wings the next year, 1963. I came to Toronto in 1968. Some of you Toronto Maple Leaf fans may be a little upset at me. I hear this all the time. People who are Frank Mahobolach fans that say, “Henderson I can’t stand you. The day they traded Mahobolach in that trade.” If there are any former Toronto Maple leaf fans the players have nothing to do with the trades and so when I came to Toronto in 1968 I really enjoyed it.

In 1972, if you remember, we were going to put the Russians in their place. They’d been beating our amateur teams but they had never played the big boys. We really didn’t know how it was going to take place but then we found out it was going to be an eight game series. Then we found out they were going to invite thirty-five players to training camp and then they would take the team out of that. Had they picked twenty players, Paul Henderson would not have been invited to camp but when it went to thirty-five players I really felt that I would get invited.

Thank goodness I was invited. Ronny Ellis was invited also because we played on the line together. We didn’t know whether they’d pick seven lines, you know, twenty one forwards. At best we thought we’d make the fourth line but at worst we may even be seventh. There was a lot of different center iceman. They picked this kid Bobby Clark and there was a lot of controversy about that. A lot of people said why didn’t they pick Dave Keon or Norm Aldwin or Pitt Martin. We said, “Well if we go to camp, the one person we didn’t want was Bobby Clark, because then they’d probably be looking at us at the seventh line.”

We went to camp the first day and they put down the lines, Paul Henderson, Ronny Ellis, and Bobby Clark. Bobby Clark was not known that well but we get together the three of us and we decided it probably looks like we’re underdogs. Let’s give it our best shot and see if we can get into this line up. I don’t need to tell you Bobby Clark turned out to be one of the most dedicated, great hockey players that ever played the game. The best thing that happened to Ronny and I was to get this young kid. We were the only line that played together all eight games in that series. The only line that stayed together. It was Canada’s best line. We were put together as a checking line and ended up scoring a lot of goals along the way. It was a tremendous experience, it really was.

We went over to Russia and not only did we shut them down but I scored the winning goal in the sixth , seventh and eighth game. I came back to Canada and I was the toast of Canada. It was incredible. They gave me a car. They gave me golf clubs. I went on this program and that program. Everybody in the world wanted my autograph. I can remember I was at a stoplight one day and a guy in the car two lanes going both way and the guy recognized me and gets out of the car and he runs around and says I want your autograph. The light changed and people are honking and he says, “Shut up, it’s Paul Henderson. I’m getting his autograph.” I mean it was ridiculous. It was enjoyable. I certainly had a stature that I didn’t have before and it was really satisfying in a lot of ways. My friends would say to me, “You know, Henderson, you’re one of the luckiest guys in the world.”

At that time I was twenty-eight years of age. I’d played in the NHL now for eight years. Something I’d always wanted to do and, I’ll tell you what, hockey is a good life. The money is good. You get four months of holiday. It is a good life. There’s no two ways about it. I just proved to myself and proved to the world that I could play with the best hockey players in the world and do well. We had a nice home. We had the cars. In fact I had a car that no one ever passed me in two years in this thing. I was into those things. I belonged to the right country club.

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