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Paul Henderson

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I was actually going to do a book review today, not having anyone in mind for the LotD.  Having seen Skinnyfish's FTB post, though, there's really only one thing I can do here.

Paul Henderson played the series of his life in 1972.  As the left winger on what was ostensibly Canada's checking line with Bobby Clarke and Ron Ellis (pretty sound linemates, I'd say), Paul tied for the tournament lead with seven goals in eight games - including the game winner in each of the last three.  Though the goal in Game 8 is obviously the most famous, the goal in Game 7 is probably the nicest:

The other irony of the whole thing (besides the checking line winger being the scoring hero) is that if not for the high-profile defections to the WHA, I'm not even certain he'd have been on the team.

That's not a slight to Paul's ability.  It's just that there was a fellow named Bobby Hull who played the same position and would have been a lock had he not signed a big-money contract with Winnipeg of the WHA - making him ineligible to play. 

For all that the team was called Team Canada, it was really Team Canada (NHL).  The presence of any of Gerry Cheevers, Bernie Parent, Derek Sanderson or J.C. Tremblay could have had an impact, but other than Bobby Orr (rehabbing knee surgery at the time), Hull was the biggest absence from the lineup.

For those eight games, though, it's hard to imagine Hull doing anything Henderson didn't.  Henderson was at another level altogether.

In 1972, Paul was coming off a 38-goal season for Toronto, his best in the NHL.  He'd come to town in 1968 as part of the Mahovlich deal and quickly established himself as a very sound two-way performer.  He could skate and had a nose for the net.  He had 27 goals in his first season as a Leaf, hit 30 for the first time in '70-71 and then had the big year in '71-72.  I find it interesting that although he played for some Leaf teams that left a little to be desired, he was never a minus player in Toronto.  I liken him a bit to Steve Thomas, but then again, I liken every solid winger to Steve Thomas....

Being the hero of that series ended up taking a toll on him.  He was emotionally spent and his '72-73 season was frustrating.  Harold Ballard was kind of frustrating as well, and after '73-74 he would join the great Leaf exodus and head to the WHA.  He didn't go far from home, though, joining Frank Mahovlich on the Toronto Toros.  he even got to keep playing his home games at MLG.  The WHA had no shortage of ups and downs, but it didn't have Ballard, and this helped a lot of ex-Leafs retain some sort of sanity.

Paul also turned to his faith after 1972, helping him re-ground himself a bit.  In later years, Ballard had no use for religious hockey players (Laurie Boschman comes to mind), feeling they lacked a certain edge.  I don't know whether this was in evidence in the early '70s, but I wouldn't be surprised if this had some role in his exit.  Paul has an autobiography out there that I should read.  Maybe it would shed some light.

In recent days, Paul was in the news because he was diagnosed with leukemia.  He's facing the challenge head on, just as he did 38 years ago.  Thoughts and prayers to you, Paul.




Tangling with Cheevers and Green - via


Eyes on the puck with Ellis (I think) and Magnuson - via


Up against Tretiak - via


Paul also had the game-winner in Game 6:


And just because Skinnyfish had Game 8 doesn't mean I can't, too:

Paul's stats:

 1960-61  Goderich Jets  OHA-B
 1960-61  Hamilton Red Wings  OHA-Jr.  30   1   3   4   9   12   1   1   2   4 
 1961-62  Hamilton Red Wings  OHA-Jr.  50   24   19   43   68   10   4   6   10   13 
 1961-62  Hamilton Red Wings  M-Cup  14   7   7   14   22 
 1962-63  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  2   0   0   0   9 
 1962-63  Hamilton Red Wings  OHA-Jr.  48   49   27   76   53   3   2   0   2   0 
 1963-64  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  32   3   3   6   14   14   2   3   5   6 
 1963-64  Pittsburgh Hornets  AHL  38   10   14   24   18 
 1964-65  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  70   8   13   21   30   7   0   2   2   0 
 1965-66  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  69   22   24   46   34   12   3   3   6   10 
 1966-67  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  46   21   19   40   10 
 1967-68  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  50   13   20   33   35   0 
 1967-68  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  13   5   6   11   8   +13 
 1968-69  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  74   27   32   59   16   +18   4   0   1   1   0 
 1969-70  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  67   20   22   42   18   +14 
 1970-71  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  72   30   30   60   34   +14   6   5   1   6   4 
 1971-72  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  73   38   19   57   32   14   5   1   2   3   6 
 1972-73  Canada  Summit-72  8   7   3   10   4 
 1972-73  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  40   18   16   34   18   +2 
 1973-74  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  69   24   31   55   40   +9   4   0   2   2   2 
 1974-75  Canada  Summit-74  7   2   1   3   0 
 1974-75  Toronto Toros  WHA  58   30   33   63   18 
 1975-76  Toronto Toros  WHA  65   26   29   55   22 
 1976-77  Birmingham Bulls  WHA  81   23   25   48   30 
 1977-78  Birmingham Bulls  WHA  80   37   29   66   22   5   1   1   2   0 
 1978-79  Birmingham Bulls  WHA  76   24   27   51   20 
 1979-80  Atlanta Flames  NHL  30   7   6   13   6   +5   4   0   0   0   0 
 1979-80  Birmingham Bulls  CHL  47   17   18   35   10 
 1980-81  Birmingham Bulls  CHL  35   6   11   17   38 
 Leaf Totals  408   162   156   318   166   +84   19   6   6   12   12 
 NHL Totals  707   236   241   477   304   56   11   14   25   28 
 WHA Totals  360   140   143   283   112   5   1   1   2   0 

Played in NHL All-Star Game (1972, 1973)

- Traded to Toronto by Detroit with Norm Ullman, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie for Frank Mahovlich, Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski and the rights to Carl Brewer, March 3, 1968.
- Selected by Quebec (WHA) in 1972 WHA General Player Draft, February 12, 1972.
- WHA rights traded to Toronto (WHA) by Quebec (WHA) for cash, June, 1974.
- Transferred to Birmingham (WHA) after Toronto (WHA) franchise reloctated, June 30, 1976.
- Signed as a free agent by Atlanta, September 17, 1979.

the HHOF take on Paul:

"A skilled right-winger, Paul Henderson used his speed and a willingness to gamble on offense to great effect during his pro tenure. He scored at least 20 goals seven times in the NHL and was a top performer in the World Hockey Association. Despite an exemplary career as a professional, Henderson carved his permanent place in hockey history with his scoring heroics for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series versus the Soviets.

Born in Kincardine, Ontario, Henderson was signed as a teenager by the Detroit Red Wings' organization. He was a standout with the parent club's top junior affiliate, the Hamilton Red Wings, where he scored an OHA best of 49 goals in 48 games during the 1962-63 season. That impressive year also featured a two-game call-up to the Wings. The next year he split his playing time between the Motor City and the Pittsburgh Hornets of the American Hockey League.

Henderson developed into a consistent, full-time NHL winger in 1964-65, playing on a line with Pit Martin and Larry Jeffrey. The following season he recorded his first 20-goal season and helped Detroit reach the Stanley Cup final, where they succumbed to the Montreal Canadiens in six games. Henderson lost 24 games to injury in 1966-67 but still managed to score 21 goals.

Late in the 1967-68 season, Henderson was involved in a multi-player deal that brought him to the defending Stanley Cup-champion Toronto Maple Leafs. Norm Ullman was the key player joining Henderson in Hogtown while the Wings' prize catch was Frank Mahovlich.

Henderson scored a personal best of 27 goals during his first full year in Toronto in 1968-69. He formed an effective partnership with former Red Wings teammate Norm Ullman and emerging star Ron Ellis. Between this season and 1971-72, the Ullman-Henderson-Ellis line established a host of Maple Leafs single-season scoring records for a forward line. In 1970-71 Henderson scored a career high of 60 points then registered a personal best of 38 goals the following season.

What was lacking from this period of individual success for Henderson was any sort of post-season achievement by Toronto. After being in 33 playoff games in three seasons from 1963-64 to 1965-66 with Detroit, Henderson took part in only 19 post-season matches in seven seasons with the Maple Leafs.

The triumph that stands out in Henderson's career is from the early 1970s. Coming off his 38-goal performance in 1971-72, the speedy winger was deemed a potential asset on the Canadian squad being that was assembled for the upcoming Summit Series against the Soviets. Team Canada coaches Harry Sinden and John Ferguson believed that Henderson would add depth and stability to their squad. Nobody on either team could have anticipated what would transpire during the series.

During Canada's disappointing 1-2-1 showing in the first four games of that series in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, Henderson performed admirably on what was essentially a checking line. He and linemates Ron Ellis and Bobby Clarke were the most cohesive unit from the first day of training camp and they were arguably three of the most consistent players among the Canadian contingent in the first half of the series.

After a heartbreaking loss in the first game in Moscow?game five of eight?Canada stormed back to win the last three games, each by a goal. Remarkably, Henderson scored the winner in each of these one-goal decisions. The most spectacular was the winner with two minutes to go in game seven, which gave Canada a 4-3 win.

Late in the eighth game, with the score tied 5-5, Henderson called for Pete Mahovlich to come off the ice. He immediately headed for the net and narrowly missed his first chance before jumping on the rebound of a Phil Esposito shot. Henderson took two swipes at the puck before slipping the series-winner past Vladislav Tretiak with 34 seconds left in the game. This historic moment earned Henderson a special place in Canadian history. Nearly every Canadian who is old enough is able to recall where they were when "the goal" was scored.

Exhausted and distracted 1972-73, Henderson managed to play only 40 games for Toronto. The team was seriously weakened by defections to the World Hockey Association and finished well back of playoff contention. Improvements came the following season and Henderson scored 24 goals in 69 games. During this period, Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard feuded with many of his players. After experiencing the euphoria of the Summit Series, Henderson felt the environment around the Toronto team seemed stale. This contributed to the famous winger's yearning for a change of scenery.

Henderson stayed in Toronto but joined the Toros franchise of the World Hockey Association prior to the 1974-75 season. Before suiting up for his new club, he took part in the 1974 Summit Series, which matched most of the Soviets from the previous series against a Team Canada squad made up of the top stars from the WHA. Skating with the likes of Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and '72 series-veteran Frank Mahovlich, Henderson was expected to come up with some pretty good offense and leadership. He played well but the Soviets were out for revenge and posted a 4-1-3 series win.

In five seasons with the Toronto Toros/Birmingham Bulls franchise, Henderson scored 140 goals but took part in only five playoff games. On September 17, 1979, he was signed by the Atlanta Flames and split the season between that NHL team and the Birmingham Bulls of the Central Hockey League. Henderson scored his last 13 NHL points in Dixie before retiring from the league. One night in March, he gained a measure of revenge against Ballard by scoring two goals in a 5-1 Atlanta win at Maple Leaf Gardens, which earned him selection as the game's first star.

Henderson played his last pro season in 1980-81 and then retired. His NHL total is 236 goals, but it was his unforgettable moments on the ice at the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow that ensured his immortality in hockey history. "