For those born in last few decades, the greatest goal in hockey that they ever witnessed was the “Golden Goal” of Sydney Crosby, the overtime goal which captured the Gold Medal for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
For others, sandwiched between the baby boomers and the millennials, the greatest goal ever scored, that they saw, came in 1987, as Wayne Gretzky passed the puck to Mario Lemieux, who scored to give Canada a 6-5 victory over the Soviet Union in the third and deciding game of the Canada Cup.
The case can be made for other great goals as well. However, hockey fans in their 50’s or older were witnesses to “The Goal,” what most hockey observers, experts and fans alike, consider to be the greatest goal in hockey history.
In 1972 the Summit Series featured the stars of the NHL, Team Canada, against the Soviet Union. The series was about more than just hockey. It was the height of the cold war, and for many people, this was an extension of that conflict between Soviets, representing communism and totalitarianism, and the democratic, capitalist, “free” countries of the “West.”
1972 was the first time that the best players in professional hockey would be assembled to take on the Soviets, the powerhouse that had dominated international and Olympic hockey since the 1950’s. Canadians were confident that this time it would be different, as hockey was our game, and now we finally had a chance to prove it, “best on best.” For the first time we would send our best players, our NHL stars, to teach the Soviets about hockey.
It didn’t start out that way. The Canadian stars were used to using September to get in shape for the NHL season. They weren’t ready to play and it showed, as Canada only won one game out of the first four games at home, and then dropped the first game in Russia. Down 3 games to 1, with one tie, the Canadians needed to win the final three games in Russia to win the series. They would win the next two to even the series and make the 8th and final game the decider.
What had already been a dramatic series was about to achieve legendary status. Down by two goals going into the 3rd period, Canada clawed their way back to tie the game with about 7 minutes left. In the final minute, Paul Henderson scored to give Canada the lead and the victory in the series.
Canadians had been watching on their television sets, all over the country and around the world. Many Canadians can still tell you where they were when Henderson scored “The Goal.”
Find out more: