The Hero of a Nation and the Biggest day of His Life – Paul Henderson – Team Canada 1972


I live in the USA.  When I talk to people here about big goals, important moments in the world of hockey, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team’s win over the Soviet Union comes immediately to mind.  And it should.  It was a great moment for US hockey and Al Michael’s “Do you believe in miracles?” call is one of the most well known in sports.  But growing up in Canada, that moment pales in comparison to another one that occurred almost 8 years earlier.

It was the final game of an epic 8 game series between Canada’s best (plus 1 American and 1 Czechoslovakian) against the best in the USSR.  USSR started off well, finishing the first 4 games of the series (all played in Canada) with 2 wins and a tie.  Canada had to go to Moscow and win 3 of the 4 games to win the series.  Then they lost the first game in Moscow.  That meant they needed to win all 3 remaining games to win the series.

Let me introduce to you Paul Henderson.  I heard him speak at my church years ago, but being too young to have experienced the Summit Series, I didn’t really know the whole Henderson story.  A talented winger, Henderson had spent a decade in the NHL.  He had scored 20 or more goals in a season 6 times and gone over 30 twice.  He joined Team Canada for the Summit series and as it would turn out, would become a house hold name from coast to coast with what would transpire.

In game 6, Canada scored 3 goals in less than 90 seconds.  The third, scored by Henderson, turned out to be the winning goal.  Game 7 came and Henderson scored with just over 2 minutes left in the game to break the tie and send Canada to a 4-3 win.  That set the stage for the 8th and final game.  Each team had won 3 and there was 1 tie.  The winner of game 8 would win the series.   The first period ended 2-2,  the USSR scored 3 times with Canada only managing 1 so with 20 minutes left, USSR led 5-3.

Canada got an early goal in the 3rd period, and tied it up with just over 7 minutes to play.  The stage was set for a dramatic finish and it was delivered, again, by Paul Henderson.  Here is the final scene, as it was called by Foster Hewitt.

For those of you keeping score at home,  that is 3 game winning goals in a row in the games that decide the series.  If anyone in hockey-crazy Canada didn’t know who Paul Henderson was before this series – the knew him now.

But something that I have really come to understand from looking into the stories of pro athletes.  The success that they have never fulfills them.  As you can read in this post on Heaven4sure.com, Henderson, despite the success and fame he had as a result of the Summit Series, still felt empty, angry and bitter.  Life was still hard, and his best coping strategy was drinking and partying.

Then came the knock on his door.  It was Mel Stevens, a friend and mentor of Henderson’s that wanted to invite him to help out at a Christian Hockey camp.  That started 2 years of Bible reading, question asking, soul searching time for Henderson that led him, on March 12, 1975 to choose to live his life to honor God.  To this day, Henderson calls that day the most memorable and best day of his life!

Henderson’s hockey career ended in 1981, and from that point on, he has been active in sharing his faith as a motivational speaker, hockey instructor and minister.  You can read his testimony in his own words in this article from Power to Change.  And while he is now battling for his life with cancer, he has peace, in knowing that he is heaven-bound when this life is over.  And as you can read from most articles you can find about him, he wants as many people to be there with him as can be.  Check out his reflection on life and on “the goal” in this article by sportsnet.ca

How many times do we need to hear how the things of this world are unsatisfying and that God is the ONLY thing that satisfies.  May our hearts beat only to attain that which God calls us to.  Let’s not to be distracted by the temptations of this world.  Let’s boldly follow Him, and invite others to do so too.

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