There has been no hockey series as significant and important as the 1972 Summit Series between the then Soviet Union and Canada. In a time of high anxiety and fear of a cold and nuclear war between the Soviets and the West, this series was about more than just hockey. It was about two completely different worlds meeting for the first time with each nation’s very best going head to head. The result was eight of the most anticipated hockey games in the history of the sport; eight battles that would result in one winner, and one top hockey nation.
From the ashes of this war came unsung heroes and household names that would be remembered for generations to come. One of those names would be that of left winger, Paul Henderson, whom primarily was a household name for most Leaf fans until scoring the game winning goals in each of the final three games of the series, including the goal that declared Canada the winner and would forever earn him a spot in Canadian hockey history.
Forty years later, Henderson lives quietly at home with his wife fighting the biggest battle that’s come his way, leukemia. With his faith completely placed in the hands of God, Paul Henderson fights with confidence and grace, while continuing his contribution and assistance to the poor and less fortunate.
“It’s a responsibility we have, we are Christians and the Lord asks you to help others and when you’re blessed in certain areas you’re supposed to help others,” explained Henderson. “I just think it’s a responsibility to help them and at the end of the day you just feel good about yourself,” he added.
Paul, who has given to charity for over the last 20 years, has been involved in a project called The Legacy Foundation which was started in honour of his 28 years of ministry in hopes of supporting funds for various significant charities.
“Well we’re just getting this kicked off the ground, were hoping to raise $72 million for the Legacy Fund, then we would funnel that to charities that we feel are making an impact,” said Canada’s Summit Series hero. “When people give their money, we want to be able to show them where it went and what the results were so we’ve intentionally taken a slow process in finding all accurate sources,” he explained.
In addition to his involvement within the Ministry and The Legacy Fund, Henderson serves as a motivational speaker and has given to a number of charities geared towards feeding the hungry with the help of his wife.
“Every year we try to give a little more, we’ve been doing that for 20 plus years. We started 20 years ago and we say next year we’ll give a little more and we’ve been able to do that. We give a third to the church; we give a third to feeding the poor; and a third to Christian Ministries. We look at organizations like World Vision, Yonge Street Mission, Covenant House, and the Oakland Door. We probably give to about eight charities that help feed and take care of the poor,” elucidated Henderson.
Henderson not only gives his money, but his time and love as well. For the past 25 years, Paul and his wife have made visits to Christian camps such as Muskoka Woods Sports Camp and Teen Range. They remain highly active and involved with the activities and continue to support each camp.
A native of Kincardine, Ontario, the Canadian hero explained that life growing up wasn’t all that easy.
“I grew up being poor and I hated being poor. It’s a terrible way to live not knowing if you have enough money for this or that, not being able to get a pair of skates. I was very fortunate being able to play hockey and did fairly well at it,” Henderson said.
As for his health and his future, Paul Henderson continues to stay positive and grateful for the life he has and the opportunities that have come his way.
“Worrying and being fearful are countered productive. I take one day at a time and I wake up in the morning and say okay I got today and I’ll try to live it the best I can, and if tomorrow shows up then I’ll take a shot at tomorrow,” he mentioned.
“When I got cancer it was a shock, but I live my life the best way I can without fear or angst. I’m confident that this life is just the warm-up. I can’t think of anyone in the world that’s more fortunate than me,” he said.
Henderson’s strength and courage is much more powerful and heroic than the goal he scored for Canada 40 years ago this September. His name will forever be cemented as a great Canadian hero across the nation, as it will with the people he has given motivation and hope to.
“Get the best advice and learn about what cancer is and be pro active, but don’t let it ruin today for you,” he concluded.