Million-dollar sweater

Henderson’s Summit Series #19 sets world record

23.06.2010
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Canadian hockey legend Paul Henderson holds his Team Canada jersey, which he wore when he scored Canada's winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets. Photo: Nathan Denette / Canadian Press

Mitchell Goldhar has purchased the white, number 19 sweater worn by Paul Henderson when he scored the most famous goal in the history of international hockey. Goldhar outbid all comers late Tuesday night at an online auction, setting a world record for a sweater. The final price was $1,067,538 USD, and with commission it ends at $1.275 million, or enough to sign a fourth-liner to a one-year contract.

The record price was more than quadruple paid for several Wayne Gretzky sweaters in private sales and more than five times the $191,200 paid at auction for Bobby Orr’s rookie sweater with the Boston Bruins.

Goldhar lives in Vaughan, just north of Toronto, and has made his fortune in real estate. He now owns perhaps the most important piece of hockey history. Henderson’s goal was listed as the number 2 story all-time on the IIHF’s Top 100 list published two years ago to celebrate its centennial.

The 1972 Summit Series was historic for many reasons. It was the first best-on-best series between hockey’s two greatest powers, and the political significance of Canada’s democratic team playing the Soviet Union’s Communist team was almost as important as the hockey itself. The Soviets won the first game, 7-3, on September 2, 1972, at the Forum in Montreal, a shocking result given everyone in NHL circles expected a Canadian sweep of the eight-game series.

The Soviets had a 2-1-1 record in the four games in Canada and headed home to play four more games at Luzhniki Arena in Moscow. They won game five and seemed poised to win a series that would change the hockey world. And then Henderson stepped in.

Paul Henderson played for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the early 1970s. He was a perfectly respectable forward, good skater, decent scorer, gentlemanly player, but no superstar like his Summit teammates Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer, or Jean Ratelle.

Yet Henderson scored the game-winning goal in game six. In game seven, he scored the most beautiful goal of the series, splitting the Soviet defence and flipping the puck over Tretyak while falling to the ice. And then, with 34 seconds left in game eight in a 5-5 game, Henderson scored “The Goal,” giving Canada a win in the game and series.

Not a day has gone by since that Henderson hasn’t talked about the series or his heroics. He donated his stick and gloves to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he gave the sweater to Joe Sgro, the Leafs’ trainer. Sgro later sold it to an American collector who recently wanted to turn a profit off his prized possession.

Henderson wanted the sweater to go to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, which is opening a new museum in Calgary next year, but so far there is no word on what Goldhar intends to do with his valuable – and important – purchase.

Henderson might have been #19 in your program, but he’s now #1 in sweater value.

ANDREW PODNIEKS


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