Paul Henderson knew he’d score the winning goal

Henderson remembers how in 1972 he called for his teammate to get off the ice so he could make the shot

The one and only goal

Frank Lennon/Toronto Star

Sept. 28 will mark the 40th anniversary of Canadian hockey’s iconic goal. When Paul Henderson scored in the last minute of the final game of the 1972 Canada-U.S.S.R. Summit Series, it electrified a nation that had been on an emotional roller coaster since the Soviet Union’s stunning Game One victory on Sept. 2. Henderson, a good but not great NHLer, had already risen magnificently to the occasion, and had scored the winning goals in the sixth and seventh games. In his memoir, The Goal of My Life, Henderson describes Game Eight’s indelible moment.

Time ticked down. There was less than a minute to play at Luzhniki Arena in Moscow and the fans, including the 3,000 Canadians present, were on the edge of their seats. Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer, and Peter Mahovlich were on the ice in that final minute as I watched from the bench. I then did something I had never done before, and would never do again in my hockey career.

“Pete! Pete!” I hollered at him. Don’t ask me how or why, but I felt if I could get out there one more time I could score a goal. I just felt it. For the first time in my life I was screaming at a player to get off the ice so I could get on, just one more time. You just didn’t do that—I had never heard another player do it in my 18-year hockey career—but I did.

“Pete! Pete!” I hollered for a second time and then a third. Finally, Mahovlich skated over to the bench, allowing me to hop over the boards and join the play.

As I got onto the ice, the puck went to Cournoyer on the far boards. I charged to the net and yelled for a pass, but when it came I had to reach forward for it and their defenceman tripped me, my momentum making me fall and slide into the boards behind the Russian goal.

I remember thinking that I still had time to get the puck back again and score. The Russians tried to clear the zone, but Esposito was able to whack the puck toward Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, who made the save. I was on my feet again and alone at the side of the goal, and when Tretiak couldn’t control the rebound off Esposito’s shot, I tried sliding a shot along the ice, but he blocked it.

The puck came right back to me. With Tretiak now down, I had some room, and I put the puck in the back of the net, with 34 seconds left on the clock. And then . . . well, perhaps the best way to describe the whole few moments was the way Foster Hewitt did to millions of Canadians watching at home on television.

“Here’s a shot! Henderson made a wild stab at it and fell. Here’s another shot, right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”

I have been asked a million times what went through my mind when that puck slid into the goal. I have answered it a million times, but I will tell you one more time now what I even said to myself out loud when that puck went in the net.

“Dad would have loved that one,” I said. I even had a sense of melancholy for a nanosecond that he wasn’t there to share the moment with me, as he had died in 1968. He was the most influential person in my life when it came to hockey, and at the greatest moment of my hockey life, I wanted to share it with him. After all those years, I guess I was still trying to please my father.

That moment of sadness lasted just a second, though, and was replaced by absolute jubilation! I jumped into Cournoyer’s arms, the guys came pouring off the bench, and the celebration was on. My goodness, what a moment in time that was; I still get tingles thinking about it 40 years later.




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Paul Henderson knew he’d score the winning goal

  1. Everybody who was around in ’72 remembers that fabulous day…I was hurrying home from school to watch the end of the game which was being avidly watched at our highschool in Sault Ste. Marie. I was half a kilometer away when I heard the yelling erupt back at the highschool when the tying goal went in, and I ran the remaining 2 blocks or so home. In the family room, it was only my Mom and I home to watch the end of the game. Well, my hands almost punched a hole in the ceiling when I leapt up off the couch after Henderson scored. It’s the most memorable goal I’ve seen in all my 58 years! You belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame and I think all of the nation holds that view! Thank you so much Paul Henderson and best wishes that you beat the cancer asap.

  2. On that day, I just happened to be passing by a t.v. set, in one of the several common rooms, in a residence at Carleton U. Two guys were watching the game. I was never a hockey fan, but I knew what was going on in the world. From the speaker came the screaming, then Foster Hewitt, then more screaming. I saw the Canadian uniforms in a bunch all over each other like lobsters in a tank. “We won”, I yelped. A fan was born.

  3. That day, in 1972, there were a large group of college students that gathered outside the campus radio studio watching the game. When Henderson potted the winning goal, the place erupted…then seconds later across the teletype came “Flash Team Canada wins 6-5″

    Years later I met Henderson, a prince of a guy who signed a highlight video tape package put out by Labatt Breweries. Ken Dryden added his signature years later…I still have the tape & it still plays.

    What a day!

  4. Was at home after surgery at age 17 remember my 80 year old Irish grandmother who knew nothing about hockey jumping up and down like a small child in joy after Henderson scored

  5. What a series! Once in a lifetime! The emotions…despair, anxiety, hope, fear, elation. OH MY GOD…..it was……….beautiful.

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