Book Review: “The Goal of My Life”

Forty years after recording the final marker in the 1972 Super Series for Canada against the Soviet Union, Paul Henderson’s autobiography, produced with the assistance of Roger Lajoie, examines his life from the cradle to the present. Written in a clear, direct style, The Goal of My Life declares that the title of the volume does not refer to any on-ice exploits or ambitions but to his desire to be a Godly world change agent, a path on which he has traveled since his decision to devote his life to Christ.

The book covers his childhood in rural Lucknow, Ontario, and follows Henderson as he develops as both a player and a person. Along the way we hear how half the NHL, three teams at the time, courted him with the Red Wings ending up the winners. He recounts his first NHL game, against Toronto late in the 1962-63 season.

Called up from the junior Hamilton Red Wings he sat on the bench before taking his first turn on the ice in the second. Following the advice proffered by his father, who suggested that the best way to get noticed was to go out and nail an opponent at his first opportunity, he chose to tangle with Dick Duff, elbowing the Leaf forward eight seconds into his NHL career, the resulting tussle landing both in the box.

Told to stay on the ice and shadow Frank Mahovlich upon his release, the youngster undertook the task but ten seconds into the assignment had to use less than honourable tactics, administering a two-hander that landed him back in the sin bin.

The narrative follows Henderson’s career path with the Red Wings to the Leafs and spends a lot of time revisiting the events of September, 1972.  It also deals with his decision to take a chance in the WHA, where his time with the Birmingham Bulls brought him into contact with the strain of Christianity that changed his life and outlook in the late 1970s.

After a first half that covers his on-ice years Henderson, presently battling lymphoma, concludes the volume exposing and explaining his spiritual beliefs and the positive effects he is convinced they have had, crediting his faith in Christ with giving him the strength and peace of mind to deal with both health and human issues.

The book concludes with a series of appendices. Sandwiched between a timeline of Henderson’s life and sections that provide short biographical notes on the 1972 Series participants and a few quotes on the Canada-USSR matches are a mention of a website that promotes his candidacy for the Hockey Hall of Fame and one devoted to an organization involved in the fight against cancer that sells t-shirts with a depiction of “The Goal of the Century” to raise funds to fight against the disease.

The Goal of My Life
by Paul Henderson with Roger Lajoie
Fenn/M&S
304 pages
$32.99 (CDN)
Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

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