September 25, 2012

Summit Series Heroes: Paul Henderson

Paul Henderson needs no introduction. He may never be a Hall of Famer, but he has achieved a state of hockey status reserved for the rare likes of Gretzky and Richard.

While representing the Toronto Maple Leafs as a member of Team Canada 1972, the left winger had the tournament of his life. He scored the most famous goal in hockey history when he put the puck behind Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak with just 34 seconds left in the final game to give Canada a victory in the unforgettable 1972 Summit Series. Henderson was a dominant force in the series, scoring the game winning goals in each of the final 3 games as Canada came from behind to claim victory 4-3-1. He will be forever immortalized in hockey history as he scored on what is arguably the greatest hockey moment ever.

Henderson was actually one of the last players to make the team. He had a terrific training camp along with Bobby Clarke and Ron Ellis. All three were on the bubble as to whether or not they'd make the team or not, but they played extremely well together. They were Canada's best threesome, and the only line that was kept together throughout the series.

All three were incredible. Clarke was instrumental with his defensive play and his crisp playmaking, which in particular helped Henderson. Ellis did a masterful job of shutting down the flashy Valeri Kharlamov and was also used against the big Alexander Yakushev.

And then there was Henderson. Henderson was on fire throughout the entire series. He tied with Phil Esposito and Alexander Yakushev for the goal scoring lead with 7. He was especially hot in Moscow - he scored twice in game 5 and scored the game winners in game 6 and game 7.

The game 7 goal was spectacular. With less than three minutes left to play, Henderson was sprung lose thanks to a nice pass from Serge Savard. Henderson was in alone on two Soviet defenseman - normally an impossible scoring chance. Going in alone on two Russian defenders, he crossed so that the two defensemen were forced to cross positions. Henderson slid the puck through the defenseman's legs and went around. Instead of playing the man, defenseman Evgeny Tsygankov tried to play the puck. He failed to stop the puck and Henderson was in alone. He scored just under the cross bar while falling down, as the defenders tackled him.

And of course there is the most famous goal in hockey history: Henderson's game winner in game eight.

"In the final seconds of that game, I stood up at the bench and called Pete Mahovlich off the ice. I'd never done such a thing before," wrote Henderson in Brian McFarlane's book Team Canada 1972: Where Are They Now?, and undoubtedly told over a million times elsewhere.

"I jumped on the and rushed straight for their net. I had this strange feeling that I could score the winning goal. I had a great chance just before I scored, but Cournoyer's pass went behind me. Then I was tripped up and crashed into the boards behind the net. I leaped up and moved in front, just in time to see Esposito take a shot at Tretiak from inside the face-off circle. The rebound came right to my stick and I tried to slide the puck past Tretiak. Damn! He got a piece of it. But a second rebound came right to me. This time I flipped the puck over him and into the net."

Although he couldn't have comprehended it at that moment in time, he had just become an immortal in the hockey world.

No comments: