TORONTO – Paul Henderson got to touch the puck that won Canada an Olympic gold medal in 2010 before ever cradling the one he used to win the Summit Series 38 years earlier.
The hero of the famous 1972 Canada-USSR series was the first to officially put a finger on Sidney Crosby’s golden puck after a new display was opened at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday morning.
Crosby’s puck has been at the Hall since March and will be available for the public to touch through the summer. It is being housed in a case with five open holes along the top.
Henderson never had the chance to get his hands on the piece of rubber he used to beat Vladislav Tretiak in Game 8 of the Summit Series back in September 1972.
“I don’t think I ever did,” said Henderson. “(Canadian defenceman Pat) Whitey Stapleton was on the ice and grabbed the puck … It’s a very nondescript puck. I remember it.
“I wish I’d have been smart enough to pick it up myself.”
There appears to be some hope he’ll eventually get the chance.
Ron Ellis, a member of the 1972 team and public affairs director at the Hall, says recent discussions with Stapleton have been positive. He’s optimistic that the Crosby and Henderson pucks might be under one roof “shortly.”
“We’ve been talking to Whitey and he’s indicated that this is where it should be,” said Ellis. “I think Pat would like the puck to be here. But Patty’s quite a character, you know.
“He told me `it’s in the barn somewhere’ and he hasn’t found it yet.”
Crosby’s puck travelled its own unique path to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
It arrived by way of Finnish linesman Stefan Fonselius, who retrieved it from the net after Crosby beat Ryan Miller to give Canada a 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic gold-medal game.
Henderson didn’t see the goal scored live because he was speaking at a marriage conference in Victoria. He’s watched it several times since.
“When I saw the replay of the goal, I had to watch it three times to see Crosby actually shoot the puck,” said Henderson. “The puck was off his stick and in the net before you could even realize it.”
He believes the goal has just as much meaning for a new generation of Canadian hockey fans as his did a few decades earlier.
Less than 10 minutes after Crosby’s puck had been put on display Monday, a large group of schoolchildren swarmed it—each trying to get a finger on the largely unmarked piece of rubber.
“That’s why I think it should be here,” said Henderson. “I think it can inspire kids. Here’s a kid (Crosby), who wanted to be a hockey player, dreamed about it and now he’s arguably the best hockey player in the world.
“My grandchildren, I’m looking forward to bringing them down. I know my grandchildren will want to see it.”
Ellis watched the Olympic final at home with his wife in Toronto. He was flooded with memories of ’72 after watching Crosby score the goal that set off a cross-country celebration.
He believes the puck will provide fans with a reminder of the special moment.
“It is only a puck—six ounces I believe it weighs,” said Ellis. “But it will bring back very quickly the memories of where people were when Crosby scored the goal.”