“Henderson has scored for Canada!”

Maple Leaf Gardens, pictured in 2018. © Jennifer A. Cousineau, Parks Canada

For the week of Monday, September 24, 2018.

On September 28, 1972, Paul Henderson scored the winning goal with only 34 seconds left on the clock, defeating the Soviet national hockey team in the last of eight games in the Summit Series. The first four games were played in Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, while the remainder took place in Moscow.

Canadian hockey teams dominated on the world stage in the early years of international competition. However, that changed by the 1950s, when they began to lose to teams from Europe, most notably the Soviet Union, which won three consecutive gold medals at the Olympics. The longstanding policy of the International Ice Hockey Federation excluded open professionals from competition. This meant that Canada’s finest players could not participate because most of them were professionals who played on National Hockey League (NHL) teams. The Summit Series was different; it was an eight-game test set up by officials from the world’s two top hockey playing nations, an agreement to compete “best against best.”

The Summit Series also held symbolic significance as a contest of East versus West within the Cold War. Spectators debated how two ideologies—capitalism and communism—influenced the playing styles of their respective teams, arguing that the Soviets displayed discipline and collective strategy, whereas the Canadians played with emotion and individual talents. The Summit Series inspired fervent nationalism among Soviets and Canadians, who rallied behind their teams.

In the first half of the series, Canada won one game, lost two, and tied the other. An estimated 15 million Canadians at home tuned into the games on television and radio, while approximately 2,700 followed the team to the Soviet Union to watch the final rounds in person. After losing Game 5 in Moscow, Team Canada won Games 6 and 7. In the final game, Canada and the Soviet Union were tied 5‑5 with less than a minute remaining when Canadian announcer Foster Hewitt proclaimed “Henderson has scored for Canada!” The buzzer sounded 34 seconds later and Canada won the Series, defeating the Soviet Union.

The 1972 Summit Series is a designated national historic event. 

Parks Canada launched This Week In History 20 years ago! Check out @ParksCanada and visit Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada website.