"The Goal" was only one moment of many that made up a hockey career that lasted twenty years -- and a life that has gone far beyond.
Paul grew up in the small town of Lucknow, Ontario, and played hockey from a young age. He started his professional career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1962, where he played with future Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, and Ted Lindsay. He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the end of the decade, and it was there that his career took off, culminating with an invitation to the Summit Series.
In the years following, the most famous hockey player in Canada left the NHL for the rebel WHA, playing with the Birmingham Bulls in the United States. It was in Birmingham that Paul developed and deepened his spirituality -- a quest that had begun in Toronto and would define his life after hockey. He founded The Leadership Group, where he serves as a mentor to other men trying to maintain a spiritual life in and out of sports.
In The Goal of My Life, Henderson shares a story that cannot be defined by one goal, but by the many goals that he has set for himself throughout his life, both in hockey and beyond.
That’s a question nobody ever asks me because they all think they know the answer when it comes to Paul Henderson. They all just assume that the “goal” of my life was the one I scored on September 28, 1972.
I slid a puck past Vladislav Tretiak that day to give Canada the Summit Series win over the Russians in Moscow, and that goal certainly changed my life forever. No doubt it was the biggest goal I ever scored in a hockey game, and because of it, a lot more people know who Paul Henderson is than would have if I hadn’t scored it. It’s been called the Goal of the Century, after all, and being the player who scored it certainly gives me some instant recognition in our wonderful and hockey-mad country.
Before that epic series in 1972, you had to be a fairly dedicated hockey fan to know the name Paul Henderson. I had a good, solid career, don’t get me wrong, but that goal gave me a stature in this country that would not have been possible unless I’d converted that rebound in game eight.
It certainly was the goal of my life on the ice. When something you did is recognized as the Canadian sports moment of the century, well, it’s very satisfying. When that happens, you can do two things – run away and hide from it or embrace it. I made a conscious decision to embrace it, and I have done just that all of my life. So yes, The Goal certainly was the goal of my life from that standpoint.
And I will talk about it later on in this book, as I have talked about it for many years. I never get tired of hearing somebody’s story of where they were when the goal was scored and what the goal meant to them, or being asked yet again what happened leading up to it. I love talking about all aspects of it. Like I said, I embrace it.
But if you ask me the question, “What is the goal of your life?” then you might be surprised to hear my answer. That goal was my on-ice highlight, without question – how can it not be? – but I read that question differently. The goal of a person’s life has nothing to do with the kind of goals a hockey player scores on the ice; the goal of a person’s life is their purpose, their personal answer as to why they are on this planet and what they want to do with their life.
It took me a long time to answer that question for myself, and a lot of soul-searching. But the goal of my life has nothing to do with any hockey game.
Excerpted from The Goal of My Life: A Memoir. Copyright © 2012 Ficel Marketing. Published by Fenn/McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher, Heritage Hockey and Paul Henderson. All rights reserved