Birth: Kincardine, Ontario, January 28, 1943
Inducted: 1995, 2005
Career Highlights1971-72 - Scored 38 goals with Toronto Maple Leafs
1972 - Scored three game-winning goals in Summit Series
Toronto Toros – 1974-1976 (Player)
Birmingham Bulls – 1976-1979 (Player)
WHA Career Player Stats:
112 Penalty Minutes
Seven times during his NHL career did Paul Henderson score at least 20 goals, a production that peaked in 1971-72 with Toronto when he scored 38 times. It was this last that likely earned him an invitation that fall to training camp for Team Canada right in his home rink, Maple Leaf Gardens, but no one could see what was going to happen in that historic series of September 1972.
In the first five games of that series, Henderson was neither the best nor the worst player on the team. He contributed, didn’t cause any crucial goals against, and played hard. But after five games, the Soviets had the series in hand with three wins, a single loss, and a tie. Canada would have to win all three games remaining, all in Moscow, if it were to win the series and maintain its proud place atop the hockey world.
Henderson made that happen. In Game 6, he scored the game-winning goal. In Game 7, he split the Soviet defencemen, and while falling to the ice flipped the puck past a stunned Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak to win that game with the series’ most spectacular goal. In the final minute of Game 8, a 5-5 tie, he screamed for Peter Mahovlich to come off the ice. He tore to the net, took two swipes at a loose puck, and beat Tretiak again, this time at 19:34 to give Canada an historic 6-5 win. Foster Hewitt made the call—”Henderson has scored for Canada!”—and in that moment the psyche of a country changed forever, as did the life of Henderson.
It was the most important goal in hockey history, and from that day to this and forever it made Henderson a hero of untold proportion. He returned to the NHL and had two decent seasons with the Leafs before moving on to the WHA. Although his NHL totals are excellent, indeed-707 games, 236 goals—it was his play in that month of September ’72 that made him the player history now records as being so great. No one before or since has scored more timely and important goals for a nation.