Authors: Paul Henderson
Copyright © 2012 by Paul Henderson and Roger Lajoie
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Henderson, Paul, 1943-
The goal of my life / Paul Henderson, Roger Lajoie.
1. Henderson, Paul, 1943-. 2. Hockey players – Canada – Biography. I. Lajoie,
Roger, 1958–. II. Title.
45 2012 796.962092
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.
Published simultaneously in the United States of America by Fenn/McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012932349
Fenn/McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited
One Toronto Street
traded all-star left-winger Frank Mahovlich to the Detroit Red Wings, along with forwards Pete Stemkowski and Garry Unger and the rights to defenceman Carl Brewer. In return, the Leafs got the services of Norm Ullman and Floyd Smith, both of whom were
veterans, and a young, up-and-coming star by the name of Paul Henderson. This was the first major trade I had witnessed in my career that involved teammates who had become close friends, reminding me that professional sport is a business. Little did I know at the time how this trade would affect the rest of my life.
In my first three seasons with the Leafs, I had lined up for faceoffs against Henderson many nights. He was fast – he could reach full speed in two strides – and he possessed an enviable snap shot that he used effectively coming off the left wing as a right-hand shot. It was obvious to me that I couldn’t give him a lot of room on the ice. After Henny joined the Leafs, he said, “Well, at least I won’t be shadowed by that
Ellis guy anymore.” By the start of the 1968–69 season, we had become the best of friends, and so had our wives. We enjoyed many holidays in Florida together as couples after the rigours of long hockey seasons.
A major break in my career occurred when Leafs coach Punch Imlach inserted me on the right side of a line with Normie and Henny, and over the better part of six years we were known to the fans as the
Line. It was a pleasure going to work every day knowing that I would be sharing the ice with friends. Even though the Leafs failed to reach the upper echelon in the league standings, our line was as productive as any in the league; each of us tallied more than 150 goals between the trade and the end of the 1973–74 season. Paul led in goals, though I would have gotten closer to him if he hadn’t gotten in the way one night. While I wound up to shoot the puck into an open net, Henny slid across the goal crease after being tripped and took the puck on the chin, breaking his jaw. I didn’t get the goal, and Paul had to wear a cage for the rest of the season. Sorry, buddy!
Henny radiated confidence in his abilities, which was the opposite of his linemate, who was always dealing with self-doubt. His encouragement helped me through more than one scoring slump, and this wonderful character trait carried into his life after hockey. It always amazed me when he would come into the locker room before a game and quietly tell me he was going to notch a couple that night. More times than not, he’d do it. Normie and I would be the beneficiaries, picking up a few points as well.
There was a major buzz in the hockey world in the spring of 1972 around the proposed Summit Series between the
Soviet Union and Canada. The Russians were dominating international hockey at the time, and the only defence Canadian fans had was the fact that our professionals were not playing. The general consensus was that our best Canadian pros would give the Russians a thumping.
Line was clicking on all cylinders, to our delight Henny and I got an invitation to the Team Canada training camp being held in Toronto that August. The selection committee also decided to choose Bobby Clarke, a young centre from the Philadelphia Flyers on the verge of breaking out as a star, and on the first day of camp assigned him to play between Henny and me. Clarke’s style of play was very similar to Norm Ullman’s, and as a result Paul and I didn’t have to make adjustments to our game. To my mind, this is the main reason our line impressed and played all eight games of the series as a unit.
All of Canada remembers the shock of game one on a September evening in Montreal as we were handed a 7–3 loss. Early in the first period, when we held a 2–0 lead, Henny said to me after a shift on the ice, “This is going to be a long, long series.” How right he was. The Russians were dancing and we were sucking air. This initial setback, however, set the scene for a great Canadian comeback and the heroics of my friend and teammate Paul Henderson. The script that followed was so unbelievable that Hollywood would probably have turned it down. With thirty-four seconds left on the clock in game eight, Paul Henderson scored the goal that was heard around the world. Team Canada won the Summit Series with a 4–3–1 record. Henny scored the winning goal in the final three games in Moscow, which we won 3–2, 4–3, and 6–5. Yes, we really thumped those
Russians! I was so proud of my friend, and being able to experience this life event together with him was magic.
A story came out of the winning goal, and it changes somewhat depending on who is telling it. Before the final game, Henny said to me in the locker room, “I think you are going to get the winner tonight.” As noted, he was pretty good with his predictions, but I proved him wrong this time. You see, he actually scored the “Goal of the Century.” No doubt about it, I got the best of him … I think.
In September 1973, before the Leafs training camp, we decided to take our wives for a holiday in Switzerland using the Air Canada tickets that were a gift from the series. We had a super time driving around, catching all the sights while breaking bread and sipping wine together at our various stops around the country. This holiday also started a new journey in life for all four of us.
It was decided that I would be the main driver and that Henny would be responsible for reading the maps – and unfortunately also be responsible for looking after the plane tickets. The guy who scored the Goal of the Century misread the time of departure, and as a result we missed our return flight. To top it off, Paul had to dole out some cash to put his wife, Nora, on a flight with another airline as she had to get home for one of their daughters’ medical procedure. The remaining three of us had to stay over another night and fly out the next day.
On the flight home, Paul reiterated to me a statement he had made on the top of a Swiss mountain: “I am going to find God.” When Paul Henderson makes a commitment to something, look out. A good example is the day he challenged himself to win the open golf championship at the Mississauga
Golf and Country Club. In short order, he accomplished the feat after his sixtieth birthday, defeating much younger competitors, many of whom were scratch golfers.
Paul was relentless on his journey and drove people crazy – among them Mel Stevens from Teen Ranch – trying to get answers to his questions. I believe that in the end, as Paul made himself open to Christian principles, God found him, and shortly afterwards Nora invited the Lord into her life. Paul challenged Jan and me to consider our spiritual life, and with the help of godly friends such as Mel Stevens and their prayers, we also became believers.
As professional athletes, we tend to concentrate on developing ourselves physically, intellectually, and emotionally, often neglecting the spiritual side of life. Thanks to someone who cared about me, I finally addressed the issue of what I knew was missing in my life and now feel totally complete in the Lord.
After a storied hockey career, Paul considered the financial investment industry as a possible new opportunity. During our playing days together, he had been very much into the stock market. It was obvious to all around him at the time that he would be very successful in this field of endeavour. But the Lord had a different plan, and after much prayer and discussion with advisers, Paul joined a ministry that would in time find him affecting the spiritual lives of countless executives across our country. I have met many of the men whose lives have been changed through Paul’s ministry. As Rick Warren says in his book
The Purpose-Driven Life
, these men, myself included, have found that being successful and fulfilling your life’s purpose are not at all the same issue.