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The Goal of My Life

by Paul Henderson with Roger Lajoie

If you’re under the age of 45, chances are you’ve heard of the Canada–Soviet Union Summit Series only in the hushed tones reserved for great and important events. Paul Henderson, a hard-working kid from Lucknow, Ontario, scored the Goal of the Century in Moscow on Sept. 28, 1972, winning the series for Canada at the end of an epic eight-game battle. For many Canadians, Henderson’s achievement was tantamount to the moon landing. It was world-changing.

Henderson’s memoir, timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the series, gives plenty of details about his early days with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, the so-called “Cold War on Ice” in ’72, and the lesser-known ’74 series between all-stars from the upstart World Hockey Association and the Soviets. There’s also a great appendix that tracks what all the members of Team Canada ’72 accomplished in the series and what they are doing now.

Although the goal changed Henderson’s life forever, it wasn’t until he became a Christian, in 1975, that he found his true calling. When he retired from hockey, Henderson tried to become a securities broker but encountered too much bureaucracy trying to get a green card to work in the U.S. Cantankerous Leafs owner Harold Ballard later sabotaged Henderson’s attempts to become a radio broadcaster for Leafs’ games. “I needed a challenge,” Henderson writes, “… so I surrendered to God and decided that I would pursue the calling that was tugging and get some training in theology.” He enlisted the help of spiritual mentor Mel Stevens, founder of Teen Ranch, a Christian sports camp near the Southern Ontario town of Orangeville.

The second half of the book contains a lot of proselytizing, and that’s where Henderson may lose some readers. While his dedication is clear, and it is obvious he has improved the lives of many men, not all of us want to be shown the path to righteousness. Moreover, an entire chapter devoted to 25 letters testifying to Henderson’s life-changing ministry seems at odds with the Christian notion of humbling oneself before the Lord.

The line between glorifying God and glorifying oneself can often be as thin as the mark left on the ice by the blade of a skate.