Sunday, 17 November 2013

TBC: The Goal Of My Life

I spent the better part of this weekend focused on hockey as I played, I watched, and I read all about the sport. Thankfully, all three activities were fun and entertaining, but I'm here to talk about the reading part as Teebz's Book Club adds another book to its long list of reviews. There have been many memorable goals scored over the course of hockey's great history, but arguably the biggest goal of all-time was Paul Henderson's game-winning and series-winning goal in Game Eight of the 1972 Summit Series. In saying that, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review The Goal of My Life, written by Paul Henderson and Roger Lajoie, and published by Fenn/McClelland & Stewart. Everyone who was old enough to remember "the goal" certainly has a story about it, and The Goal of My Life is Paul Henderson's story of the goal, his life in hockey, and everything that came before and after one of hockey's most famous goals.

Paul Henderson's life story is contained within the covers of the book, so I won't post his biography here. Roger Lajoie, however, is the man who put Mr. Henderson's memoir to paper, and "has worked as a writer and broadcaster in Toronto sports media for more than 30 years. He is best known as a sports talk show host on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and has been the play-by-play voice of several Ontario Hockey League teams. He has also written for numerous publications, including the Toronto Sun, and co-wrote The Road to Hockeytown with Jimmy Devellano. He and his wife, Rita, live in Courtice, Ontario."

I had known long before cracking the spine on The Goal of My Life that Paul Henderson's legacy was the goal, but there is so much more that Mr. Henderson writes about in this book. His father was a demanding man when he was young, often making life difficult for the Henderson family with his old-school values. As Paul's coach, he wouldn't be satisfied with Paul's performance whether Paul scored a dozen or was the best player on the ice as the senior Henderson would always expect more. It would take some time for Paul to realize that while his father was hard, he believed in his son. There is a touching story told by Paul Henderson about his father where the two have a serious discussion about his future in hockey - something that Paul Henderson feared would never happen due to his father's view on the world!

For those that don't know, Paul Henderson broke into the league as a Detroit Red Wing, but he almost became a Boston Bruin! I won't go into detail in terms of how that almost happened as that story is Mr. Henderson's to tell, but his career could have been entirely different if not for one event in his life. Upon joining the Red Wings, though, it was apparent that Paul Henderson wasn't ready to be an NHL player, and he actually requested to be sent down to the minor leagues to improve his game! How many players do you know ask to be sent down, especially a player of Henderson's calibre?

Mr. Henderson was involved in a major trade, as he puts it, as he was dealt in a multiplayer deal to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he would play for the more memorable portion of his career. This is also where he developed into a solid two-way winger and was invited to play with Team Canada in the Summit Series. It was interesting to hear about Mr. Henderson's dealings with Harold Ballard and what led to his leaving the Leafs for the WHA's Toronto Toros. Harold Ballard was an interesting individual, and Mr. Henderson's stories about Mr. Ballard are quite provocative.

The majority of the first half of The Goal of My Life deal with Mr. Henderson's early life right through to his retirement from hockey in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. The second half of the book may put some people off, though, as Mr. Henderson discusses his spiritual awakening openly and often. Personally, I realize that this is part of who Mr. Henderson is, but I found it to be a little difficult to read as I am neither spiritual nor religious in any way. While he does speak of the health challenges he and his wife faced in parts, the talk of his Christian beliefs is very in-your-face. Again, while I realize that this is part of Mr. Henderson's life, reading about it feels like reading a testimonial to how great religion is. It may be off-putting for some readers, unfortunately.

I found some of the stories from the public that Mr. Henderson tells to be quite funny. There was one man who was a student in school when The Goal was scored, and he told Mr. Henderson the following about where he was when Mr. Henderson's most famous goal was scored.
One man from Toronto, however, never forgave his teacher for not letting him watch the game. While many schools let their students watch the game together, his teacher wasn't buying in.

"Our teacher made us stay in class and we didn't get to see the game," he told me. "I've hated that teacher ever since."

I could see while listening to his story that this man's animosity towards his teacher was genuine, even decades later!
There are a number of stories in The Goal of My Life from people who have told Mr. Henderson where they were, and this is just one instance of where someone was who didn't get to see The Goal!

Overall, The Goal of My Life is a fairly good book that documents Mr. Henderson's life thus far. Outside of the spirituality and religious chatter in the second half of the book, Mr. Henderson has led a pretty amazing life, and his wife and children have contributed to an amazing existence outside of The Goal. Of course, he will always be remembered for the biggest goal in Canadian hockey history, but he forged a pretty nice hockey career in the NHL and WHA for himself as well. The Goal of My Life is an excellent memoir of Mr. Henderson's life, and, despite the heavy religious overtones that put me off a little, I still am a fan of this book. Because of the great stories and excellent look back at Mr. Henderson's life, The Goal of My Life gets the all-important Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find The Goal of My Life at your local bookstore! It is a great gift for hockey fans in general, and especially for fans of Paul Henderson and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The paperback version would fit nicely in a Christmas stocking as well!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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