“Henderson scores for Canada!” Those words carry tremendous truth. With the passage of time, it is now clear that Paul Henderson’s Game 8 winning goal on the 28th of September, 1972 was more than just a personal achievement; it was more than just the Series winning goal for Team Canada; it was something that rallied and inspired a nation on a collective and individual basis. I am one of the individuals who was, and continue to be, inspired by the 1972 Canada — Soviet Union Summit Series. It remains a personal and professional passion of mine to this day.
I was 8 years old in September 1972, and from my vantage point as a young hockey fanatic in rural southern New Brunswick the Summit Series seemed like the most important thing in the world! I was too young to fully appreciate either the political implications of sport in the Cold War, or the extent to which the Series was acting as a spur to Canadian nationalism, but I knew that it was something special. Whether Team Canada won or not mattered. They were not just Canada’s team; they had become my team too!
Like everyone else, I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions over the course of the first seven games of the Series, thus I could not wait for the 8th and deciding game. Sadly, the elementary school I attended was not one of those that brought televisions into the classrooms allowing students to watch the game. More happily, I arrived home after school in time for the start of the third period. Things seemed rather bleak, ‘we’ were down 5 to 3, but Team Canada had already bounced back from a two game deficit in the Series, so hope remained. We know the rest of the story. “Henderson scored for Canada!”
As a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan — insert joke here — the conclusion of the Summit Series remains the most joyous moment I have ever experienced in a sporting context. But it has become so much more than that. It serves as an ongoing reminder of how great obstacles can be overcome when all seems lost. As a person of faith, I have been inspired by Paul Henderson’s spiritual journey that was, in many ways, triggered by his experience in the ’72 Series. Even my career in now linked to ’72.
I teach Canadian History at Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo, BC. As a lifelong hockey fan and history buff, I dreamed of one day developing a course that would examine Canadians’ relationship with the game of hockey. A few years ago, that dream came true. I now offer two, third-year History courses at VIU centered on the theme of “Hockey and the Canadian Identity”. The ’72 Series is a major component of the second of those courses, sub-titled “Canada’s Game in the Cold War and Beyond”. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that my work now revolves, in part, around an event that has brought such joy to me over the years. I truly am blessed. It is also deeply satisfying to have an opportunity to share with new generations of Canadians what the ’72 experience meant to this nation. And, I am happy to report, students are almost as passionate in learning about the Series as I am about teaching it. For me, the ’72 Series lives on in multiple ways. “Henderson scores for Canada!”