‘Whitey’ takes mys­tery of Sum­mit Se­ries puck with him to the grave

For­mer Black­hawks star grabbed sou­venir af­ter Hen­der­son scored the win­ner in 1972

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - STEVE SIM­MONS Toronto ssim­mons@post­media.com twit­ter.com/sim­mon­ssteve

Paul Hen­der­son scored the most fa­mous goal in Cana­dian hockey his­tory, and in the crazy cel­e­bra­tion that en­sued, never thought once about pick­ing up the puck.

There was too much hug­ging and jump­ing and scream­ing and hys­te­ria to do that in the wherewere-you in-’72? mo­ment.

In­stead, Pat (Whitey) Sta­ple­ton bent over — it’s on cam­era, so there’s proof — and grabbed the puck. From there, the mys­tery sur­round­ing the game-win­ning puck on the goal of all Cana­dian goals will now go with Sta­ple­ton to his grave.

Sta­ple­ton, who played for the Chicago Black­hawks, played and coached the Chicago Cougars of the WHA, and starred for Team Canada ’72, died at the age of 79 the other night. And with his fi­nal words, he was prob­a­bly telling an­other ver­sion of what he did with the puck — and where it is now.

He told many. Al­most ev­ery time he was asked about the puck — and over the years that was many times — he would switch the de­tails just a lit­tle and al­ways with a laugh of some kind. It be­came his call­ing card. He found it funny and loved play­ing the mys­tery game.

“Ev­ery time I asked him where it was, you got a lit­tle dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the story,” said Ron El­lis, the Toronto Maple Leafs winger who played such a sig­nif­i­cant role in the fa­mous Canada-ussr se­ries that changed hockey for­ever.

“That was Patty. He would tell you some­thing, then he’d have a laugh, then he’d tell you some­thing else.

“It’s al­ways been a mys­tery of some kind. I would ask Patty, ‘Where’s the puck?’ He was liv­ing on a farm at the time. He’d an­swer some­thing like, ‘It’s in the barn some­where.’ Then he’d have a good laugh.”

Hen­der­son never asked for the puck per­son­ally, but he did want it to be dis­played in the Cana­dian Sports Hall of Fame, which in­ducted Team Canada ’72 as a group years ago. Hen­der­son fig­ured, the team is in, why shouldn’t the puck be there with them.

“It’s not like there was any­thing fancy to it. There were no mark­ings or any­thing to make it spe­cial,” said Hen­der­son. “I prob­a­bly asked him 100 times to give it to the Hall of Fame and he didn’t want to give it up. Maybe we’ll get it now. You know, look­ing back, I never thought once about pick­ing it up. That was the last thing on my mind. And I guess in a way, it was Patty’s no­to­ri­ety of sorts.”

Sta­ple­ton is the lat­est from Team Canada ’72 to pass away. Gone from that group in­cludes Sta­ple­ton’s part­ner from both the Black­hawks and Team Canada, Bill White.

“They were a ter­rific pair in the NHL, and played great for us in the se­ries,” said Hen­der­son. “They were a rock back there. One of the things I al­ways did in hockey was look back to see who was play­ing be­hind you on de­fence. I al­ways felt good when they were there be­hind us.”

Also gone from that team: Stan Mikita, Gary Bergman, J.P. Parise, Bill Goldswor­thy, Rick Martin.

“Too many,” said El­lis. “Too many.”

Sta­ple­ton is gone now, months be­fore his 80th birth­day, two years be­fore the planned 50th an­niver­sary of the famed Canada-ussr Sum­mit Se­ries.

“We fig­ure this is prob­a­bly the last time we would ever do this. You can’t do much af­ter 50, can you?

“And Patty was head­ing up our com­mit­tee that was plan­ning ev­ery­thing. He was do­ing a great job with this. Hope­fully, some­body will pick up where he left off.”

Ask any­body who played with or against Sta­ple­ton and they will talk about his skat­ing, his of­fen­sive prow­ess at a time when de­fence­men not named Bobby Orr weren’t known to be of­fen­sive, his lack of size, his sense of hu­mour.

In Moscow in ’72, Team Canada didn’t ex­actly plan well for the food it was pack­ing for the trip. Af­ter two games in the Soviet Union, they were ba­si­cally out of North Amer­i­can food. Af­ter a prac­tice, Sta­ple­ton proudly an­nounced to the team that he had found a Chi­nese food restau­rant and ev­ery­one was to meet in the lobby at 6 p.m. to head out for din­ner.

Need­less to say, the play­ers and their wives couldn’t have been more ex­cited. They didn’t want Rus­sian food. The whole team met in the lobby on time.

“It was so des­per­ate, I would have paid $100 for a cheese­burger,” said Hen­der­son. “That’s how hun­gry we were for our kind of food.”

Hid­ing be­hind the pil­lars in the lobby were Sta­ple­ton and Bill White.

“Laugh­ing like crazy,” said Hen­der­son. “There was no Chi­nese food restau­rant.”

Hockey hu­mour, the kind that sur­vives 48 years later.

“He just wanted to bring some laughs to a sit­u­a­tion that needed it,” said El­lis. “I had to­tal re­spect for him as a per­son and a player.”

Ex­cept for maybe that puck thing.

“When Scotty Mor­ri­son was chair­man of the board of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he would ask me ev­ery so of­ten, ‘Why don’t you give Pat a call and see where the puck is?’ And I’d call and I’d get a story and a laugh.”

Al­ways a story and a laugh with Pat Sta­ple­ton, who made the Cana­dian Sports Hall of Fame. The puck is still wait­ing for its place on the wall.

GLENN OGILVIE

Pat (Whitey) Sta­ple­ton liked to keep peo­ple guess­ing as to the where­abouts of the puck he picked off the ice af­ter Paul Hen­der­son scored to win hockey’s leg­endary 1972 Sum­mit Se­ries be­tween Team Canada and the Soviet Union.

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