"The following is a complete, unedited, unverified interview, portions of which were utilized in the Red Files PBS broadcast. Statements therein are the sole opinion of the interviewee, and do not reflect the views of PBS, DDE or Series and Web Site producer Abamedia, which are not Responsible for the interview content."
Interview: What was your impression of Russian hockey, Soviet hockey, before this? When you playing in New York in the NHL, What did you think of the Soviets?
Paul Henderson: Well, I knew they were good hockey players. Obviously they'd been beating our amateur teams, but I mean. But they'd never really played the big boys, and I mean, I really felt that we would overwhelm them with our speed and talent, shots, and I thought we'd intimidate the juice out of them.
Interview: They were winning Olympic victory after Olympic victory. What did those Olympic victories mean?
Paul Henderson: Didn't mean anything to me, because they were playing a bunch of amateurs, and I, you know, I figured if we played the amateurs, I mean, there'd be no contest. And I felt the same way against the Russians. And we played them, and we put our best out there. I mean there was no way they could compete on our level.
Interviewer: What did you think of their Olympic victories?
Paul Henderson: Well, their Olympic victories I guess were impressive to a degree, but they weren't playing the best. I mean, they were playing amateurs. And so, I obviously felt that, you know, you play the big boys; I'd say you're in big time trouble.
Interviewer: Did you consider them professionals or amateurs?
Paul Henderson: Well, I, afterwards, I mean, they're a big professional -- a lot more professional than we were. But at that time I, I just, you know indifference, I guess, sort of, may be even contempt for the whole system.
Interviewer: Contempt for their, system or contempt for their --
Paul Henderson: Well, the the propaganda. That they were using sport as a propaganda issue, and they were, they were the world's best, and I, ah -- give me a break you know? You -- you won't allow us to play the pros which you know come over here, you know, play us, and we'll show you what's going on.
Interview: So you were eager to play?
Paul Henderson:Oh, yeah. Very eager. I did. I was, you know, I wanted to humiliate them. I -- I mean I just. I wanted to beat by eight goals, all eight games, send them back, and they would never return.
Interviewer: How familiar were you with some of their names who didn't play in the series?
Paul Henderson: Well, you know it's obviously you would read it in the paper but, you know, they really didn't mean anything to me.
Interviewer: So when they come up over here, you know we'd heard that, you know, their equipment didn't look as brand new. What was your impression of the team when they arrived?
Paul Henderson: Well, it was a curiosity. In terms of, you know, how good are they. But you -- you would look at their equipment and you'd look at their things and, I mean, it really, you know. And even when we watched them practice I mean. But I think there was. They -- they were masters of deception. I think that whole Communist system was, and, I mean, they sucked us in hook line and sinker in -- including yours truly.
Interviewer: And what? Terassov, you know their legendary coach, what wasn't the coach. Did you. What was the reason that you were given as to why he wasn't coaching them.
Paul Henderson: Well, we didn't really. I really was sort of indifferent to it. Who cares? Who cares who the coach is? You know it doesn't matter if Terassofi. I mean Terassov -- I'd heard that name. But it was Buberhof, Piersof. I mean, they were a few of the names that we'd heard of obviously. I mean the in international scheme but. But I really didn't think it would be who cares, who cares, what their system is? I don't care. I mean they're gonna have to worry about us.
Interviewer: What was the atmosphere in the, you know, in the arena in Montreal?
Paul Henderson: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: Amongst the teams?
Paul Henderson: Oh, I remember. Like caged lions. I mean, we just like -- we were just so anticipative. I mean, it was just, I mean, we just wanted to do it at this point. I was sick and tired of this whole Communist propaganda nonsense, and Canadians. I mean hockey. This is what we're the best at. And you know, and I was going to be one of the guys to establish that and so I wanted to go out there and just do it to them and -- and really do it big time.
Interviewer: Did the Cold War, you know intensify -?
Paul Henderson: Oh sure did. Oh sure did. They were taken in with the big bad Communist wheel, and we were spending all this money, and we were worried about world domination, and they were. It was a major league concern back in -- in the seventies. So the implications were paramount.
Interviewer: And in game one, you know, you started off really well. What happens?
Paul Henderson: Well, even five minutes into the game, I mean, I scored the second goal to put us up two nothing, but I distinctly remember turning to my two line mates, Ronnie Ellis and Bobby Clark, and saying, "Gentleman this is gonna be a long series." I mean they were just -- they were so impressive, right off the bat. I mean, they were just unflappable. I mean, their -- their composure even being down two nothing, their skill level. I mean, the first minutes of the game and -- and their conditioning was just absolutely unnerving. And, I mean ,you just -- you just knew it. I mean, the game was on. And at the -- I mean, it was just a sickening feeling, because, I mean, after the first period I -- I mean we were just. We weren't ready. I mean we were just -- our, tanks were empty, and they're sitting over there just be-bopping along. And so, it was not a good feeling. One of the most embarrassing times of my life after that game. I mean, I was devastated -- just devastated.
Interviewer: How about their style of play?
Paul Henderson: Oh, they broke all the rules. I mean, they just -- they come up; they didn't like what they saw, they turned and went back and -- and I mean, if we ever did that in the NHL, I mean, you -- you just never turn back. I mean, you just -- you kept a puck in front of you, and you moved it in. Now you never go back and -- I mean, they just -- They could. They didn't like what they look, they just came back. You know, I mean, they were breaking all the rules. And when you expected them to shoot, they didn't. When you expect to them to pass, then they shot the puck in. You know, I mean, it was just a -- we were. I was really discombobulated, just very unnerved by the boys. But obviously, very, very impressed. Their skill level was just phrew! Their -- their conditioning. The stamina, and their strength was just -- to see the things that really really surprised me, big time.
Interviewer: Were they fast?
Paul Henderson: Oh, fast. I mean the, you know I hate to say it, but they were. They were more skillful than we were. They were -- they were faster in a lot of areas. The thing that differentiated in the end was we wanted it. You know, we wanted it more than they did, and I think that's the one thing about Canadians. I think that we were able to reach down and get it. And I think that's -- comes from our system. You'll put it on the line, where Socialist or Communists, they don't do that. That system that they played under. I mean they did it, because they had to. We did it because we wanted to. We loved it.
Interviewer: At the end of the game one, you all leave the ice, and they're out there, you know what happened there?
Paul Henderson: Well, you see, we didn't know. I mean we don't. We don't shake hands in the NHL, and so noone had told us, or, if they did, we didn't think about it, and we probably wouldn't have anyway. (laughs). I would have. If I -- if I'd have known. I mean that -- that's one thing about it. I definitely would have. I felt bad about that afterwards that. I mean, that was no class whatsoever. But in defence, we just didn't know. We weren't used to that, and, obviously, after the first game, then we did. But it, that was sort of embarrassing. But, I mean we were just -- we were looking, licking our wounds so badly, we just wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the covers over our head and not show up for a week.
Interviewer: What did the Canadian public think of your performance?
Paul Henderson: Well, they were certainly -- I mean, they were devastated as we were. I think, yeah, the Canadian people were as devastated as we were. I mean, they were unnerved by this. They saw what happened. This -- this was just not supposed to happen. But it was happening.
Interviewer: Could these guys have played in NHL?
Paul Henderson: Oh, unequivocally. No problem. Any team.
Interviewer: As the series goes on -- um, did the Soviets -- did the Soviets get a bit more, you know, cocky?
Paul Henderson: Oh, I'm not sure cocky would be the word. They brought in three, some young guys, into the game, and just really played well. Three new faces, young guys, like twenty years-of-age. And I mean, I thought this was a little aggressive on this, you know tonight, we're gonna get them. I mean they just -- you can't make those kind of changes in the line up. I mean we, made some changes, but it didn't seem to matter. Whoever they put out there and really were highly -- highly skilled and very impressive.
Interviewer: So when you get to Moscow what was your impression?
Paul Henderson: I'd never been there and obviously didn't know what to expect. I realised then that the -- you know this Socialistic system just doesn't work. I mean, it was incredible. We were driving in from the airport, and you would see apartment buildings and, and you would see a light hanging from the ceiling with just a plain bulb. I mean, whoa, what is this? I never saw a house. And it was just gosh this is not for me. Very cold. Very austere.
Interviewer: Were you afraid?
Paul Henderson: No, I wasn't afraid. No, I wasn't afraid. I just had -- that at one point, I never felt fearful over there. I felt that, you know, we would be protected by the Regime and everything like that. It would be an international incident if anything happened to us, and so I -- I felt very, very secure. In fact, I've gone back recently. I don't feel new, you know; I'm very apprehensive. I would be very apprehensive in Moscow today. Oh, they are great people. Great sense of humour. That little Mikilov, I mean, I am really glad that I got to know them. I have much respect for Versiliev. We went over to Finland, the World Championships, and they invited five Fins, five Czechs, five Swedes, five Canadians, and I was one of the Canadians they invited, and five Russians. And Molzev was there and Versilev and Muldiseros, and like that. I mean, he speaks five languages, his wife seven. I mean, you wanna feel like a dolt. (laughing in background). Helmut Bolderos, he didn't play in '72, but he was one of the other ones that -- but I mean very, very young and, and of course I've gotten into a Tratcheack, I've done a lot of things with Tratcheack, but that little Mikilov, you know, I mean just a great little sense of humour. And Petrov, I mean, a great big guy. He sounds like a women: he's got the highest pitched voice I've ever heard in my life, you know, but they're just really decent people. You see I hated their guts in 72(laughing by lady), but I should have hated the system, not them. Even though I hated them, I just had so much respect for their ability, geez.
But their their -- their system that they, you know, had to work under was just horrific in terms of -- you could never get away with that. I mean, you know we're gonna practice stick handling for the next four hours. Try that over here, kids take your puck, and, over there, you do it. I mean Bub, I mean those coaches, they were just -- they were ruthless. Tikonov was just -- I mean those guys were just -- they were sadistic. I mean, we would have -- I mean, we would have hung the sucker over here.
Interviewer: What was their training system like, and could we have gotten away with that in NHL?
Paul Henderson: No, we could never have gotten away with the training regime that they went through in terms of their coaches -- were totally totalitarian in terms of -- they had no say. I mean they took them away from their families, and and, I mean, they were just -- they were ruthless. That would be a good word for, I mean we just would never have put up with kind of nonsense in our society. But they had no choice in the matter. I mean, either do this, or you wanna go to Siberia. The men had no choice. Thank goodness we got to see that afterwards. But as individuals, I had much respect for what they put up with. Oh, it was incredible.
Interviewer: So in the Moscow series you've got a lot of Canadian fans?
Paul Henderson: Without them we would not have won. The Canadian fans absolutely got behind us. I mean, they knew that we were hurting Philas Pazito's impassioned speech in Vancouver, I think, woke up our whole country and said, hey, these are our boys, this is our team, and they need encouragement. And so, the Canadians went over there and absolutely drowned out the, Russians. I mean, but you were not supposed to act up like that in Russia. I mean, you start doing that, they'd throw you out. The army is up there. And they just -- they just could not believe these Canadian fans. I mean, what are they doing? I mean and they expressed themselves, and so, I think the, the Russian fans they looked around, and, you know -- you know why is the army not taking them out of here? This is. We can't do this. We didn't understand that at the time. We looked at their fans as being proud. I found out afterwards you couldn't be. I mean you don't complain. You sit there. And so it was really interesting. And you see in hindsight that you learn all these things and filled in a lot of cracks for us.
Interviewer: So the fans, the Russian fans, for you were pretty mute, muted?
Paul Henderson: Well they were, but they would show displeasure. They would whistle. You know, displeasure would be, you know, this whistling nonsense. But our people, I mean, you know, yeah, you know, just go crazy. Just even when we lost the first game off, one of the distinct memories I have is we lost the first game. We came off that ice and those three thousand Canadians gave us a standing ovation -- like you just can't let these people down.
Interviewer: Did you see Brezhnev?
Paul Henderson: I didn't pay any attention to him. No, I was so focused.
Interviewer: We had a serious reputation of being pretty physical, and violent. What was that like?
Paul Henderson: Oh, it was physical. It was violent. Our whole reputation was on the line, and there was an intensity there that a lot of us found ourselves thinking and doing things that we'd never in our hundreds, wildest dreams that we would have ever imagined. The intensity of the moment was absolutely -- I mean it just. It was just. I, I can't even describe it to this day. I mean, I came down. Cornway and myself were having a cup of tea, before the last game and there was actually white caps in my tea. I mean I was that uptight about it. We were at war. I mean it was a whole -- our reputation was on the line. And I felt, I mean, I think all of us felt that this, that, you know, the Canadian our -- our reputation is on our shoulders. I was petrified to come to Canada for not winning this series. I cannot live the rest of my life. They said we were the guys that were gonna put the Russians in the place, and now they beat the pros. I mean I felt tremendous pressure.
Interviewer: It's a hell of a responsibility.
Paul Henderson: But that's why we won, I think. Well, two reasons. We were cocky, and -- and to start with we could not lose. And then you see, when the Russians won the first game in Moscow, you see, they -- they couldn't lose either. It was on our ice. I mean this series is ours now, and then they just let up enough to let a bunch of cornered rats back into it, and now it took us till thirty four seconds left in the game to get ahead of them. But we were ahead when it was all over.
Interviewer: And what was that like that last minute?
Paul Henderson: It was believable. I mean, I thought I'd scored the winning goal in the sixth game. The best goal I ever scored in my life was about two-and-a-half minutes left in the seventh game. It went through the whole team and I think. You know, I have reached the pinnacle of my whole career. I mean, I'm, I'm satisfied. Now, I can die a happy man. I mean I'm just. And no one ever remembers the goal I scored in the sixth game or the seventh game. I mean! And actually, I scored seven goals; six of them were nice goals. The only garbage goal I got was the last one, and that's all anybody ever sees so. Maybe my ego couldn't handle anything else. We did it!
Interviewer: In that last minute you know when you -- did you feel all this pressure you'd been describing? Was that in your mind in that last minute?
Paul Henderson: Well, I was on the bench, and I, you know, I'd gotta get on the ice. Ha, and I had never done it before, and I never did it afterwards. I stood up and actually started yelling at a player, who was a left winger to come off the ice. I just had something inside me. I have got to get on the ice. We have got to win this game. And I don't know, maybe because I'd scored the winning goal in the two previous games, but there was something in me just said that I'd gotta get out there, and I really felt that I could score a goal. And jumped over the boards, and, you know, probably ten, twelve seconds later it's in the history books, and I've been riding that baby for twenty-six years. (laughs)
Interviewer: What did it mean to you though?
Paul Henderson: Well, it changed my life. I mean, I was a good hockey player, or I wouldn't have been there. But I was not a superstar. I was not, never, was on the first or the second All Star Team. But, probably in this country I'm more recognizable today than I ever was. I mean, I will be that guy that scored the goal, and that's a reality, and so you can either run for it and remember, or embrace it, and I have embraced it. And I have enjoyed immensely.
Interviewer: And, what do you think? Do you think that that the Soviets really lost the series or that they had a win in their own way as well?
Paul Henderson: Well, it was, well, they lost the series, because we won the series. I mean we won more games than they did, but they had the respect of the world. They had the respect of every player, every coach, everybody on team Canada. They won tremendous respect for their ability and talent.
Interviewer: How has Soviet hockey changed in your heart?
Paul Henderson:Well, I think that the Europeans style certainly has, in terms of the training methods, the ability, the skill level I think is something that we have difficulty competing with over here. I think that's the one thing about European hockey. I think they let the youngsters play the game. They go out there and have fun. With Canada it's win, win, win. And I think that's one of the things that really disturbs me about Canadian hockey. The other thing that disturbs me is we've lost respect for one another. It's become so much money driven and oriented. It's sad. I mean they're hitting from behind. If you have to do that to win, then, you know get out of the game. I mean, but, you know, it's the money now. And it's, and -- and there is a sickness there that I think -- the pendulum swings and hopefully it swings this way, and hopefully there will be some things to draw it back to where when you need. If you can't beat a guy straight up as a sportsman then, you know, I don't um -- you know the game of hockey. There's more to life than that, and I think respect and integrity are two things that I would like to see more of.
Interviewer: And how did the series change your own perceptions of the Soviet Union?
Paul Henderson: Well, it certainly gave me the tremendous appreciation for Canada, for the freedoms that we do enjoy. I would come back, and I would fight for it. I mean, I'm so thankful for the freedom that I do have. And so exposure to that regime is just -- it's worth -- freedom is worth dying for. It definitely is.
Interviewer: What do you think the series meant to the Canadian people?
Paul Henderson: Oh, I think it meant every bit to the Canadian people as it did to me. A whole, you know, we're not the -- the greatest in too many things, but hockey, that's our game, and this is the one thing that we are number one. I think that September 28, 1972 was a defining moment in Canadian culture. I mean, I have people come up to me every day of my life. One of the earliest memories I ever had. And this is twenty-six years later, and it still happens every day, and so I'm aware of the significance of that series today in the -- in the mind of Canadians.
Interviewer: Did you see them as individuals or the enemy?
Paul Henderson: Oh, we saw them -- they were definitely the enemy. Oh, definitely the enemy. There is no two-ways about it. I thank goodness I lived long enough that I see them as individuals today, and just as -- as really neat guys. I mean, try and raise a family, love their wife, you know, and trying to get by. And the worst of it is, I feel so sorry for them in that system today. I mean under that Communist system, when you made your mark, I mean, you were set for life. And now these poor fellows I mean they're just thrown to the wolves, and now they look at the money some of these young guys are making, and they were the pay centres, paid the price, and unfortunately are really paying the price today.