CALGARY - Forty years after his legendary goal inspired a generation, Paul Henderson is taking his place among the Canada's hockey elite.
Henderson, along with longtime coach Dave King and NHL Hall of Famer Mark Messier, were named to the Order of Hockey in Canada on Wednesday. The program, run by Hockey Canada, annually honours a select number of individuals whose "role or service in the game is recognized as extraordinary" in this country.
The three join the star-studded inaugural class of 2012 inducted last spring. Honourees a year ago included Jean Beliveau, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Gordon Renwick.
Henderson, 69, is best known for scoring the winning goal in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series to give Canada the victory over the Soviet Union. The goal is still celebrated in Canadian hockey circles today and has become part of the nation's identity.
"When I scored that goal, they interviewed me after the game and I specifically remember saying I've never been more proud to be Canadian at that minute," Henderson said on a conference call.
Shortly after being informed about the honour, Henderson said that he was still "about six inches off the floor."
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson told Henderson that goal was a watershed moment for Canadian hockey.
"When you scored that goal, that changed a lot of dreams in this country and that was to put on the Canadian jersey," Nicholson said. "Everyone still remembers where they were when you scored that goal. It has had such a huge impact on Canadians."
Henderson also recorded 477 points (236 goals, 241 assists) in 707 career NHL games with Detroit, Toronto and Atlanta and had 283 points (140 goals, 143 assists) in 360 career WHA games with Toronto and Birmingham.
Henderson, who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2009, said that he's pleased to be recognized for his efforts during his playing career.
"I've been battling cancer for three years and thank you for doing this while I'm still alive," he said jokingly. "I'd have really been ticked if you had waited until after I died."
King, 64, has a vast coaching resume, which includes guiding Canadian teams at the Winter Olympics, world hockey championships and world junior championships.
"It's a great pleasure to be inducted into the Order of Hockey in Canada," said King, who also has North American coaching experience at the NHL, WHL and university levels and international coaching experience in Germany, Sweden and Russia. "It's a great honour and certainly something that I'll always cherish."
King added that he still believes that he has more to give back to the game.
"I fell in love with the game when I was a little guy, four or five years old," he said. "Now I'm in my mid-60s and still in love with the game. I enjoy it."
Nicholson personally called King to inform him of the honour.
"We had a couple good chuckles Dave and myself when I gave him a call today," Nicholson said. "He continues to have an impact with all the materials that he has put together. He still does coaching clinics in Canada and throughout the world. His legacy will be here for a long, long time."
Messier, 51, is a six-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Hart Trophy winner and 15-time all-star. He is second on the NHL’s all-time list with 1,887 points (694-1,193) in 1,756 games over 25 seasons.
His former coach Glen Sather, who sits on the Order of Hockey of Canada selection committee, referred to Messier as an extraordinary guy.
"Mark was the captain for three different teams in the National Hockey League," Sather said. "I've been with him through thick and thin. He certainly deserves this honour. He’s a great candidate."
Messier, who also played for Canada at the world hockey championship, World Cup of Hockey and at three Canada Cups, said Henderson’s goal in 1972 ignited his passion and desire to go on to compete at the international level.
"That was when I got my first taste of international hockey and what it meant to represent your country in a game that you loved to play as a kid," Messier said.
He added that he's extremely pleased to be one of just eight honourees of the Order of Hockey in Canada so far.
"I'm certainly proud to follow the guys and the girl that came in last year and I look forward to seeing who gets in next year," he said.