Paul Henderson and teammate Yvan Cournoyer celebrate the winning goal in Game 8 of the Summit Series on Sept. 28, 1972. ((Frank Lennon/Canadian Press))

The hockey sweater worn during one of Canada's greatest sporting moments is up for auction, and it could score the biggest haul of any relic in the game's history.

Paul Henderson wore the battle-scarred, stick-marked sweater when he buried the winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series against the former Soviet Union.

It was a goal that brought an entire country to its feet.

Classrooms and boardrooms across Canada were frozen while people watched the dying moments of the Cold War showdown.

"We think it's probably the most important and most significant piece of hockey memorabilia ever sold in history," said Marc Juteau, president of Classic Auctions, the Montreal-area company in charge of selling the sweater.

"We're already getting a lot of action on it."

Juteau hopes the heavy-knit artifact, which Henderson donned for the final four games of the series, will fetch more than a Bobby Orr rookie sweater that was auctioned off last month.

The Orr sweater sold for $191,200, thought to be the highest price ever paid for a hockey item through an auction.

Juteau said a few Wayne Gretzky sweaters have sold privately for around $250,000 a pop, the most he believes any piece of hockey history has ever brought in.

In the last seven years, Juteau's company has auctioned off sweaters worn by Gretzky and Orr for about $150,000 each.

But this relic is different, he says.

"Paul Henderson never came close to achieving what Gretzky did during his career, but that one specific moment, and that one series, is in many people's eyes probably the most important moment in the history of the game," he said Wednesday from his office on Montreal's South Shore.

On Wednesday, two days after the online auction began, interested buyers had made 12 bids, the highest of which had reached $67,000.

The auction closes on June 22.

'Somebody that really cares'

Juteau said the early surge in activity is unusual for such an expensive item.

The sweater's owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a cancer survivor who plans to donate some of the proceeds from the sale to charity, Juteau said.

Henderson was also diagnosed with cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, last fall.

"It's somebody that really cares about what's going on with Mr. Henderson, somebody who's been there," Juteau said.

Henderson gave the sweater away as a gift to Team Canada trainer Joe Sgro, who later sold it.

Years later, Henderson tried — but failed — to buy it back with the hope of donating it to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

"I was trying to buy it for 25,000 bucks, but the person who had it wanted 35 [grand]," he told The Canadian Press in an interview Wednesday.

'Put it on display'

Henderson donated his stick and the red sweater he wore during the first four games of the Summit Series — the games played in Canada — to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He thinks the other sweater — the white one worn in Moscow — belongs in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Henderson has never been named to the Hockey Hall of Fame but has been inducted into the Canadian sports hall.

"That's where I would love to see it," Henderson said from his office in Mississauga, Ont. "To stick it in somebody's closet somewhere, that makes no sense to me whatsoever. You might as well put it on display."

Henderson, who works as a motivational speaker, says he's never been much of a collector.

Over the years, he gave many of his hockey items away and donated other pieces to charity auctions.

Henderson said he "sure" knew the sweater would be worth something when he gave it away. He suggests, however, that it might be difficult to authenticate today.

"If I had it I wouldn't know if that was the original sweater or not. So that's the only thing that I would be concerned of."

'A wonderful item'

Henderson became a national hero after scoring the winning goal in the eight-game series against the Soviets, a showdown against an unknown foe every Canadian mistakenly predicted would be a cake walk.

Canada won the final three games of the Summit after posting a 1-3-1 record in the first five matches.

But the importance of Henderson's sweater also resonates outside Canada.

"Wow, it's going to be pretty significant," said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for the Dallas-based auction house that sold the Orr jersey last month.

"That's one that I'd actually like to ask a few questions on.... That's a wonderful item."

Still, Ivy thinks the price tag on the Orr rookie sweater will retain the title.

"This one, could it surpass it? I suppose it could," he said. "I'd be surprised if it did. I mean, Orr's got a broader appeal."