I can stand here and tell you that if I’d a chose from all the woman in the world I could not have married a better woman than the woman I married. She’s suited to me. We’ve been married over twenty-nine years today and have a terrific marriage. We had three children by this time and I knew that I had everything that I ever set out in life to accomplish but deep down there was a restlessness. I just could never seem to be content. I used to go and talk to people about were they really satisfied with where they were. I started to ask questions like, “What is the real purpose and meaning to life.” I could never get any real solid answers.

At the time when I was searching and may have become a little more teachable, I met one of these religious guys. One of these born againers. One of these Christians. Now I didn’t know what born again meant, but I used to make fun of these religious fanatics. You can believe anything you wanted to but don’t lay anything on me. As I got to talk to this man he started to ask me some questions that really got me thinking. In fact he said, “Paul, if you died tonight do you know where you spend eternity?” Well you know, I’m not into dying. I’m only twenty-eight and eternity is that religious stuff.

I really thought that Christianity was for people that couldn’t cut it. If you couldn’t make it out there you needed somebody else. You needed a crutch and then you had to turn to God but the real man’s man certainly didn’t need any God to get by. I was very negative toward him but then I started to ask my wife, “Do you think there’s anything after this?” We weren’t really sure. Fortunately we grew up going to Sunday School in church and we heard the stories and everything but after I played junior hockey I set that aside. I was going to be a man’s man. There was no Wright Gartners or Laurie Boschmans or Ryan Walters or Keith Browns or Stu Crimsons or Kent Austins or Richie Halls or Pinball Clemens or Joe Carters. None of these Christian athletes. I didn’t know any, in fact, I didn’t even think you could be a hockey player and be a Christian at that time and so I was a little negative, but I decided to look into it.

I got a Bible and I read it once and for the next two and a half years I drove this man crazy. I asked thousands of questions. I read the Bible through several times and I just looked at the whole spectrum and after two and a half years I came to the these four little points I’d like to share with you tonight. I really came to believe and understand that there was indeed a God in heaven that loved me very much. He didn’t want me to be discontent or restless and wanted my life to have purpose and meaning in it. The second thing he explained to me and I really believed was that I was separated from God because of the things that I had done. I basically said, “God, you go your way and I’ll go mine.” Paul Henderson did everything he wanted to do when he wanted to do it and as he wanted to do it, and believe me, as a hockey player you have access to a lot of things out there.

He explained to me and showed me from the Bible the penalty and the consequences of this is eternal separation from God. Now that didn’t excite me. The third thing he shared with me is that God loved me so much and all of mankind and that’s why He sent His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to earth to live the perfect life. When He died on the Cross he took the sins of all mankind on His shoulders and paved the way for us so that we could approach God. The fourth thing he explained to me was God leaves it up to you. He gives you the opportunity of becoming a Christian if you want to.

He explained what born again meant. ” It’s simply, Paul, when you’re born physically you’re going to die physically someday.” He said the ratio has been one on one through all eternity. For every person who’s been born they’ve died eventually. History is all there. When you’re born, though, you’re born dead spiritually and you have the opportunity of having spiritual life by inviting the Lord Jesus Christ into your life. When you do that, at that moment you receive spiritual life and that’s what it means to be born again.

I worked with this man and he was no where socially. He was no where financially. I could have bought and sold him a thousand times over. He had no fame, but the one thing had was he had a quietness and a contentment in his life that I knew came from what he talked as having-a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I got to a point that I wanted to become a Christian and I couldn’t do it for three reasons. Mainly because I didn’t have enough courage. I was worried about ridicule. What are the Toronto Maple Leafs going to say? What are the guys in my Golf and Country Club going to say? The guys that I run with and drink with and gamble with. They’re going to say Henny’s got religion and they’re going to make fun of me. I was petrified.

The second reason was I was a man’s man. I was one of the boys and I knew that if I became a Christian there was going to be some things that would have to change in my life. To turn my life over to someone else and let Him take control I thought that was a little narrow. I really thought that you have to give up a lot to become a Christian. The third reason and the real clincher was, I read by this time, that if you really love the Lord you’ll stand up for Him. You’ll be a witness. Time out! There is no way that this polliwog would ever tell anybody that I became a Christian.

Now this went on in my life for several months till one day in March of 1975. I was thirty-two years of age and I was in my library all by myself. I had a conversation with God. I said, “God, I can’t fight you any longer. I have got everything that the world can imagine and I don’t have the one thing that I think that I need and that’s peace of mind and quietness. I accept the fact that you love me. I accept the fact that I’m separated from you and I ask you to forgive me of all the things that I’ve ever done right now. I invite your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ into my life as my Lord and Saviour.” I basically committed myself to Him and in the same breath I told Him don’t you ever expect me to tell anybody about this.

Well obviously it’s many years later and I’m here to tell you that there is a God that I really believes answers prayers. Remember I told you about ridicule. I did get a little bit after people found out about it. The guys would get a few drinks in them and you’d have six or seven together and good naturedly you’d get a few shots. Of course when you’re a new Christian you have elephant ears and you hear everything but it wasn’t near as bad as I thought it was going to be. There’s always someone a little worse than anybody else.

I jumped to the WHA by this time and we used to go in and play the Hartford Whalers. They had a defenseman on there team and this guy was a animal. The guy was sub human. We would play and he would say, “Watch out for Henderson he’ll hit you with his Bible.” The fans would laugh and I just couldn’t stand this guy. We went in to play Hartford this one night. You get the program and you see who’s hot and who’s scoring and Billy’s name is not on the lineup. So I said to the stick boy, “Where’s Butters?” Well he said, “He got sent down.” I said, “Praise the Lord this is the happiest day of my life. This guy is gone.” This guy was an animal like you couldn’t believe.

We went into the building two years later and I looked down at the lineup again and Bill Butters. I could just feel the anger rising up and I could just hear this guy yelling at me. I”m thinking good Christian thoughts like, “I hope he steps out on the ice and breaks his leg.” You know good Christian thoughts.

We went out there and skated around a couple times and I came around the net and I happened to look up and here’s the animal at center ice and he’s giving me one of these. The blood pressure I could just feel it going up. If some of you have watched me play I’m not a very good fighter but I’m not stupid. I look over at my right and who is skating right beside me but Joe Bilado. Joe was a French Canadian kid and his greatest goal in life was to have 500 penalty minutes in one year. I turned to Jimmy and I said, “Jimmy there’s going to be trouble at center ice.”

We skated to center ice loaded for bear and you know what this animal said to me? He looked me right in the eye and he said, “Paul, have you got any information on any of this Christianity stuff of yours?” I looked at him and said, “Billy are you serious?” He said, “Paul, I’ve never been more serious in my life.” To make a long story short several months later Bill Butters prayed to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. The guy I thought was farther away than anybody that I ever knew. The guy that irritated me more than anybody else in the whole world. I realized that he needed a Saviour also. Today he works with Hockey Ministries International, a group down in Minnesota. He tells kids that you can have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I told you that I was worried about changing. I thought I was going to have to give so much up. I can stand here today and tell you I got thirty-two years experiencing it and doing it my way and the last seventeen I’ve tried to live for the Lord Jesus Christ. The most exciting life there is, is to live to the Lord. I can tell you I’m a far better husband. I’m a far better father. I’m a far better friend. In fact, I was a far better and more dedicated hockey player. I played for six years after I gave my heart to the Lord. God has changed my life, my priorities around in so many different way. I still believe in working hard. I still believe in excellence and doing the very best you can. You don’t lose that edge. And I think you’ve seen some Ryan Walters and Mike Gardners and Mark Osbornes come along and they can be a very good hockey player and you can play in the NHL.

I learned also that I was a self-centered person. I was out there for everything for Paul Henderson. I found the greatest joy in life is to give things away. It really is in a whole lot of areas. Scoring that goal in Russia, from an athletes’ standpoint, was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but in comparison to having the Lord as my Saviour and walking for Him even that pales into insignificance.

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