JIGGENS: The goal that sent the Canadiens into a frenzy

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As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canada’s dramatic victory over the Soviets in the 1972 Summit Series, that age-old question is asked for the umpteenth time: where were you when Paul Henderson scored the winning goal in the eighth match ?

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Seems like a rather silly question in hindsight. My answer – and I’m sure it’s shared by most Canadians – is, “I was sitting in my living room watching the game on TV.

Technically, the answer is half correct. I watched most of the first period in my 8th grade geography class at Waasis Road Junior High School in Oromocto, New Brunswick. My teacher, Mr. Chisholm, brought a portable black and white television so we could see history being made.

From there, it was the English class to end the day. Unfortunately, my teacher was not a hockey fan and could not grasp the importance of this series. Anticipating this in advance, I smuggled a transistor radio into school that afternoon and hid the headphone wire in my sleeve. (I made sure to wear a long sleeve shirt that day). I simply rested my head in my left hand with my elbow resting on my desk. It was a challenge not to get emotional when Canada scored. Fortunately, I was not taken.

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Once the bell rang to end classes for the day, my normal five-minute walk home became a minute-and-a-half sprint so I could sit in front of the TV and not miss a second more. On my way home from school, I turned up the volume on my radio (without the need for headphones) and cheered when Bill White scored for Canada to tie the game.

Then came the biting conclusion. Canada lost two goals to start the third period. After we clawed our way back to level the score with just over seven minutes remaining, I barely remember being able to sit still as the minutes and seconds ticked away. With just 34 seconds left to play, arguably the most famous goal ever scored in hockey sent an entire country into a frenzy.

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The CBC aired an excellent retrospective series on this hockey showdown on Wednesday nights. I have watched several documentaries and read many books on this series over the years, but this latest documentary contains information that has never been shown before. Unfortunately, several members of Team Canada 1972 have since passed away, and their thoughts are not included in this updated chapter. Even after 50 years, Peter Mahovlich is still overwhelmed with emotion as he reflects on the impact the 3,000 Canadian fans who attended the games in Moscow had on the players.

Phil Esposito, de facto leader of Team Canada in 1972, features prominently in this new documentary series. His televised rant against the multitude of unsupportive Canadian fans – especially those in Vancouver – and the media remains a classic and helped inspire Team Canada towards its playoff return. Esposito has always been a pleasure to listen to, and his thoughts on the Summit series at the age of 80 are still worth hearing.

The four-part documentary series can be viewed on demand on CBC’s Gem platform. The series was an important chapter in Canadian history, and the documentary gives younger generations the chance to see what their parents and grandparents experienced firsthand.

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