Paul Henderson - Biography

Paul Henderson was born on January 28th, 1943 near Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. His mother gave birth to him during a snowstorm, while crossing Lake Huron on a horse-drawn sleigh on its way to the hospital. The community called the birth "a miracle". Paul was the eldest in a family of 5 children who moved frequently, before settling in Lucknow, Ontario.

Henderson first experienced hockey in the basement of a Lucknow Chinese restaurant, using old catalogues as shin pads. The family who operated the restaurant bought Paul his first set of hockey equipment. With his father coaching, Paul excelled on his youth teams, once scoring seven goals in a single game. Henderson had the gift of speed, with an accurate shot.

At the age of 15 Paul attracted attention from NHL scouts while playing for the Lucknow Sepoys. During a minor hockey playoff game, he scored 18 goals and had 2 assists in a 21-6 victory. He started dating his future wife Eleanor the same year, who he met while working at a local grocery store. Paul Henderson signed with the Detroit Red Wings junior team of Hamilton, who was coached by Eddie Bush. In 1962 the team won the Memorial Cup series capturing the national championship. The next season Paul lead the league in scoring with 49 goals. Eleanor became his wife that year and then gave birth to their first daughter Heather.

Paul Henderson made his NHL debut in 1962 playing for the Detroit Red Wings, a team which included hockey greats such as: Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Norm Ullman and goalie Terry Sawchuk. The team was able to make two Stanley Cup Finals. Paul was having a positive impact on the league and making a name for himself.

The Henderson family welcomed a new addition to the home with daughter Jennifer. On March 3rd, 1968 Paul was traded along with Norm Ullman and Floyd Smith to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Frank Mahovlich, Garry Unger and Pete Stemkowski. He had an NHL career best in 1970 scoring 30 goals and 60 points, the following year he scored a personal best of 38 goals. Their third daughter Jill was born, to complete the Henderson family.

In 1972, Canada and the Soviet Union arranged an eight games Summit Series featuring the best players of each nation. Paul was chosen to play for Team Canada because of the success he was having in the NHL. He would be placed on the same line as Toronto Maple Leafs team mate Ron Ellis and Philadelphia Flyers forward Bobby Clarke.

Henderson scored early in the first game giving Canada a 2-0 lead. Russia then surprised everyone by scoring 4 consecutive goals to win the game. The Canadians were victorious in the second game and the Russians came back from a 4-2 lead set up by Henderson to tie the third. At the fourth game in Vancouver, Team Canada was ridiculed by fans for a 5-3 loss. Paul helped the team to a 4-1 lead in game five, but was tripped into the boards and suffered a concussion. The Soviets were then able to come back and beat Canada 5-4.

A winning goal scored by Henderson in game six relieved the team, who felt victimized by the officiating. Team Canada had received 9 penalties and the Soviets only 2. In game 7, with only 2 minutes left and the score tied 3-3, Paul scored another winning goal in spectacular fashion to take game seven. There were thousands of telegrams and postcards from back home posted all over the Team Canada dressing room, to encourage the team. The series was tied at three games won a piece. At this point, the series had become more than just hockey, it was a battle between two different ways of life, western freedom and Soviet communism.

All over the country 12 million Canadians were watching game 8 during the daytime. The team threatened to boycott after Josef Kompalla, who penalized the team so greatly in game 6 was scheduled to referee the game. Team Canada was given three penalties in just over a minute and one of their players, J.P. Parise was ejected. Russia achieved a 2 goal lead with one period left to play. The game came down to the last 34 seconds, when with the game tied 5-5, Henderson scored a goal that won the series. The team returned home and was greeted by 80,000 fans, Paul Henderson had become a national hero.

Henderson had difficulty adjusting to the fame. He felt an emotional low, after experiencing such a high. After the '72 series, he went back to playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and later the Toros. Paul gained a new outlook on life after meeting Mel Stevens, the director of a Christian youth camp. After learning more about the religion, Paul decided to become a Christian. Adapting this way of life gave him a new found sense of freedom.

When the Toros moved to Birmingham and became the Bulls, Henderson relocated with his family. After the Bulls joined the CHL, Paul signed with the NHL's Atlanta Flames where he appeared in four playoff games. His last NHL game took place in Toronto, where he won 5-1 and was named First Star.

Henderson discovered that he could relate to businessmen who were driven to succeed. He began conducting seminars on how to become a better husband and father. One group of participants quickly became 100 and The Leadership Group was born. Paul has also worked alongside his wife Eleanor to advise couples on how to maintain a successful marriage.

In 1997, the Canadian Mint launched a commemorative coin depicting Paul scoring the winning goal in game 8 of the Summit Series. It was the first time in Canadian history that a living person other than a king or queen had been immortalized on a coin. At the same time Canada Post released a limited edition Paul Henderson commemorative stamp. A year later Paul received the Ontario Special Achievement Award for his contribution to minor hockey. The Queen's Jubilee Award was awarded to Henderson in 2002 for distinguished community service.

Paul Henderson was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and has made significant progress with it's remission after undergoing an experimental treatment in 2012. In 2010 Henderson's game-worn Team Canada '72 jersey was auctioned off for a record-breaking 1.275 million dollars. Paul has been inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on two occasions, once individually in 1995 and again with Team Canada '72 in 2005.

Team Canada '72 was given a star on Canada's Walk of Fame on September 22nd, 2012. The Diamond Jubilee metal was awarded to Henderson along with the team on September 28, 2012. On April 7th, 2013 Paul Henderson was inducted into The Order of Hockey in Canada. The Order of Canada was awarded to Paul on May 3rd, 2013 for his social and charity involvement, as well as for his accomplishments in hockey. Soon after on May 19th, Henderson was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in Sweden for his tremendous contribution to Team Canada.

In early 2014, Paul Henderson was awarded the Order of Ontario by Lieutenant Governor David Onley at the provincial legislature.