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Paul Henderson's 1972 Summit jersey nears auction date

Paul Henderson's 1972 Summit jersey nears auction date

The Canadian Press
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Date: Monday Jun. 7, 2010

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Canada's most revered hockey jersey was face down on a non-descript boardroom table in the fourth floor of a non-descript suburban office building. It still had Paul Henderson's sweat stains on the collar, but even as he lifted it gently off the table, he knew it did not belong to him.

It is owned by an unidentified American who is putting it up for auction later this month. The company in charge of the process reunited it with Henderson on Monday, asking him to vouch for its authenticity while allowing him to wear it for the first time since he scored the winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviet Union.

Henderson, who is 67 years old and seven months into a battle with cancer, wore it like he had never taken it off. He presented it as a gift to Team Canada trainer Joe Sgro not long after the deciding game 38 years ago, a decision which has ultimately left it on the auction block.

"I probably didn't understand the significance of it in 1972, I don't think anybody did," he said. "And there wasn't the market for things like there is today. So it is what it is, and it's free market, so it's going to be interesting to see how high it does go."

There have been 25 bids submitted for the auction, which closes June 22. The highest bid is US$211,000, and Marc Juteau, president of the company in charge of the sale, said there has been speculation the winner could end up paying as much as US$500,000.

The jersey is white and heavy-knit, with "Canada" spelled out in block letters between the shoulders, just above his No. 19. Henderson cut it at the sleeves because it was too long, and pointed to a mark near the waist as an impact point from when he was rubbed out along the boards against the Soviets.

He donated a stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with his red Team Canada jersey. Henderson tried to buy his white jersey back for $25,000 more than a decade ago, but the owner at the time refused to sell it for less than $40,000.

There have been reports Canadian-based companies such as Molson, The Forzani Group Ltd. and Canadian Tire have been working to generate enough support to win the auction.

"We need to get this back in Canada," Henderson said. "And, obviously, my first choice would be Canada's Sports Hall of Fame."

Henderson was inducted into the Canadian hall in 1995, and has long since parted with every piece of Summit Series memorabilia he once owned. Most of the souvenirs have been donated to charity, but many have simply been given away to friends.

"I mean, that's what life's about -- giving things away," Henderson said. "And I've never been one for hanging stuff in my closest and keeping it, anyway."

And it is not like the memories are ever very far away, with nine out of every 10 people he meets over the age of 40 stopping him to say where they were when he scored that September. Henderson said he was cutting his lawn earlier this spring when his neighbour of 20 years mentioned for the first time he had gotten in trouble for skipping school the day of the deciding game.

Those memories have, undoubtedly, been stirred across Canada with word of the auction.

"Seven months ago, I get cancer, and that was a big deal, and now this has come up," Henderson said with a smile Monday. "I'm like a bad smell. I just refuse to go away."

He said the cancer was detected during a routine checkup in November. Henderson said he has cut out all beer, sugar and bread from his diet, and that he has not yet begun chemotherapy because the type of cancer he has does not respond to early treatment.

"It's all in there -- it's in my stomach, chest, my lymph nodes, and I have leukemia, also," Henderson said. "So, I mean, there's a day of reckoning coming. But I'm doing everything I can do to push it back."

In the meantime, he would like to do everything he can to push his jersey back into Canadian hands.

The auction is being held at www.classicauctions.net.

"It's going to be interesting to find out what the Canadian people think it's worth," Juteau said. "Because, obviously, they're going to be the ones deciding."

Henderson is not monitoring the bidding.

"If I owned it today and it was worth $400-$500,000, I still wouldn't sell it," he said. "I'd still give it to the sports hall of fame ... it's a part of Canadian history."

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