FENELON FALLS, Ont. - A freezer bag in a safe in the picturesque Kawartha Lakes region holds a puck that may or not have won hockey's 1972 Summit Series for Canada.
Ken Vivian thinks it might be the real thing. Ron Ellis, who played in the Summit Series, calls the story far-fetched.
Decide for yourself.
It has long been believed that defenceman Pat Stapleton picked the puck up after Vladislav Tretiak swept it out of his net following Paul Henderson's goal in Moscow and that it remains in the possession of the Strathroy, Ont., resident.
Stapleton, now 68, has always been coy when asked about the puck, although he recently told The Canadian Press for a story on the 35th anniversary of the Summit Series that he doesn't know where it might be.
Ken and Bev Vivian read the story and e-mailed a note to say that they might have the most precious chunk of rubber outside of the Hockey Hall of Fame. That has been their belief for many years now.
It is an incredible tale that begins at a campground in Minden, Ont., that Ken Vivian used to operate. Foley - that's his first name and Vivian is unsure of the spelling of his last name - was one of his campers.
"He was a laidback fellow, salt of the earth," Vivian recalls. "He reminded me of Jed Clampett."
Clampett was the character played by the late Buddy Ebsen on the old sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies." Foley was a welder who travelled extensively.
"He loved hockey," recalls Vivian. "He used to come to the Quonset (hut) where we'd repair the tables and tractor and we'd talk hockey.
"One day I was working away at something and Foley comes up and plunks a puck in my hand. He says, 'That's the puck,' and went on to explain that it was the actual puck with which Henderson scored the winning goal in Game 8 in Luzhniki Arena in 1972.
"I said, 'You're putting me on."'
Foley told Vivian he bought the puck at a market in Europe.
"He said the vendor told him it was bought from someone who was at the game and got his hands on it after Tretiak or one of the other players shot it over the boards in frustration," Vivian recalls.
Vivian says Foley told him that he paid the vendor more than US$50 for the puck after accepting the story of where the puck came from to be true.
"He wasn't the kind of guy to exaggerate things," says Vivian. "I was in awe.
"I couldn't believe I was actually holding this thing. He was convinced it was the real thing. I told him it should be locked up somewhere, maybe the Hockey Hall of Fame. I handed it back to him and he said, 'You keep it. I won't need it much longer. I'm dying of cancer."'
Foley died soon afterwards. That was about 15 years ago.
The pucks used during the Summit Series games in Moscow had no logos on them. The puck Vivian got from Foley has no logos on it. It has "Czechoslovakia" stamped on its rim. Most pucks used in Europe at the time, including what was then the Soviet Union, were made in the former Czechoslovakia.
"It's hardly scarred up at all," says Vivian. "I put it in a freezer bag to protect it."
A reporter asks to see the puck and, sure enough, it comes out of Vivian's safe in a freezer bag. He puts the puck on his big kitchen table, unzips the bag and hands the puck over. It is in excellent condition - as if it has barely seen ice and with only slight friction marks on one side.
He's shown it to friends and grandkids, who all reacted in awe at the prospect they might be holding the puck that Henderson put past Tretiak at 19:26 of the third period to give Canada a 6-5 victory in Game 8.
Vivian would like to pass the puck on.
"I'm concerned one of the grandkids will use it for street hockey or somebody will throw it in the garbage," he explained.
There is no way to prove it is or is not the puck that was lifted past Tretiak on Sept. 28, 1972 - unless Stapleton produces a puck of his own.
"I can't tell you it is the puck but, if it is, I'd like to see it in the Hockey Hall of Fame," Vivian says of his puck.
Ellis, who skated on a line with Henderson during that Game 8 in Luzhniki, says nobody to his recollection shot the puck into the crowd after the last goal.
"That didn't happen," he says. "I saw Whitey Stapleton in a film clip reach down and pick the puck up.
"He was the closest guy to the puck and he picked it up."
Ellis suggested that it is possible that a Russian player might have shot a puck into the crowd after Canada's winning goal in a previous game. Henderson also scored the winners in Games 6 and 7.
As for the tale of Foley's puck, it is strictly "far-fetched" to suggest it is the actual puck with which Henderson decided the series, says Ellis.
The DVD collection marketed by the agency that represents the players on the 1972 team ends with Tretiak sweeping the puck after Henderson's late goal into the faceoff circle to his left as the Canadian players celebrate in the corner.
Vivian isn't insisting he's got the real thing. He only came forward after reading a story in a newspaper. He's not seeking attention. He's merely repeating a story that was told to him long ago and wondering, if he does have the actual puck, what he should do with it.
If the Hockey Hall of Fame doesn't want it, perhaps it can be used in fundraising efforts to refurbish a small-town arena in the district, he says.
There is a rectangle of adhesive tape on one side of the puck with "Vladislav Tretiak" written on it. Foley told Vivian the vendor told him that whoever had the puck in Moscow got Tretiak to autograph it. A Google search for Tretiak's autograph reveals that the manner in which Tretiak has signed his name on photos and other memorabilia doesn't remotely resemble what is on the puck in Vivian's possession.
The leaves fall from the birch trees outside the sliding glass kitchen doors of Ken and Bev Vivian's home, water cascades down the falls a few kilometres away, and life goes on for the couple that has a puck in a freezer bag in a safe.
Vivian remembers watching the games when they were played and will always hold in reverence the efforts of Canada's players - the capitalist pros against perceived communist robots in a sporting clash of two wildly diverse ways of life at the time.
"These guys should have a monument built for them," says Vivian. "What they went through to bring the world's championship back to this country to make us all proud . . . there should be a monument in Ottawa or somewhere for these guys."