Does Paul Henderson Belong In The Hockey Hall of Fame?
The man who gave up the "greatest goal in hockey history" is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, so why isn't the man who scored that goal also in the Hall?
When Paul Henderson slipped an errant puck past a fallen Vladislav Tretiak with just 34 seconds left he became a hockey immortal. His name is more synonymous with hockey and greatness than 85% of players who are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Yet he isn't in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The always controversial question is should he be?
Henderson's heroics in the 1972 Summit Series will be talked about as long as hockey is played in Canada - in other words forever. His goal is considered by many to be one of the top 5 moments in Canadian history - not just sporting history but ALL history. His hockey heroics had far reaching effects on not only hockey but on an entire nation. So few sports stories can rival that level of achievement, and no other in hockey.
Because of his great performance against the Russians and in particular because of his dying-seconds winning goal, Paul Henderson's hockey legacy outdistances nearly everybody else's. For the rest of time he will be a hockey legend right up there with Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and precious few others. He will be forever remembered because of the great series against the Soviets and becoming the ultimate Canadian hero by scoring the winning goal in such dramatic fashion.
And therein lies the problem as far as the Hockey Hall of Fame is concerned.
Outside of 8 games in September 1972 Paul Henderson was an average to good player. He did great things in those 8 games, but he was not a "great" player - at least not by what Hockey Hall of Fame standards are or at least should be.
He may be held on the same lofty regard as Gretzky or Richard, but he was nowhere near their level of player. He was a solid winger who went up and down his wing in workmanlike fashion for over 1000 major league games, over 700 of which were in the National Hockey League. Unlike most Hall of Famers he never won a single post-season award or was named to an all star team. His best season was a 38 goal explosion in 1971-72 but his highest NHL single season point production was just 60 points. And he never won a Stanley Cup.
When electing players to the Hockey Hall of Fame, we must look at each players' career as a whole. We can not look at a small sampling of his career. When we do that it becomes obvious that Paul Henderson does not belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That's alright. He doesn't need to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His status as a hockey immortal far exceeds most of the Hall of Famers. And he will forever be remembered in hockey folklore.