Henderson jersey coming back to Canada: buyer

Paul Henderson's legendary hockey sweater fetched well over $1 million US at auction early Wednesday following a late surge of interest in the historic cloth.

Historic '72 hockey sweater fetched over $1M at auction

It's a historic hockey jersey, now with a historic price tag.

Paul Henderson's legendary 1972 hockey sweater fetched over $1 million at an auction following a late surge of interest, and its new Canadian owner promised Wednesday to bring it back home from its U.S. location.

The final price makes the jersey Henderson wore when he scored Canada's winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets perhaps the most ever paid for a hockey sweater.

The winning bid smashes what's thought to be the record at auction — $191,200 for a Bobby Orr rookie jersey. It is also more than four times the $250,000 that a few of Wayne Gretzky's jerseys had fetched in private sales.

A flurry of bids late Tuesday culminated in a winning offer of US$1,067,538 submitted by Mitchell Goldhar, the owner of SmartCentres, a private real-estate development company based in Vaughan, Ont., north of Toronto.

"It's one of the purest pieces of modern Canadiana that I think there is," Goldhar said. "I honestly couldn't believe that it was coming up for auction. I never even hesitated."

Like many Canadians, Goldhar was forever marked by Henderson's series-clinching goal and he wants to ensure as many Canadians as possible can see the jersey.

The sweater will be sent on a national tour. Goldhar plans to make arrangements for it to be displayed at community centres, shopping malls and museums, including the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports of Fame.

'I feel like it's everybody's jersey'

"I just got very excited about it and decided that I wanted to bring it back to Canada and I wanted to make it available to the country," said Goldhar, 48, one of Canada's richest people. "I feel like it's everybody's jersey."

After the '72 series, Henderson gave the jersey to Team Canada's trainer Joe Sgro as a gift, and Sgro later sold it. It most recently belonged to an unidentified private American collector.

The sweater's previous owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a cancer survivor and apparently plans to donate some of the proceeds of the sale to charity. Henderson himself was diagnosed with cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, last fall.

Henderson said the new owner called him Wednesday to invite him to travel with the jersey as much as possible.

"One of the reasons he bought it was to make sure Canadians would be able to get to see it and enjoy it, so I think that's a touch of class," Henderson said. 

"He did not want someone to buy it just to put it away and be anonymous, he thought it should be shared with Canadians, and man, I was really impressed with that."

Final price a shock

Henderson expected the white-and-red sweater to fetch up to $600,000, but the final price was a shocker.

"I think it blew everyone away," he said of the winning bid. "Even Marc, the auctioneer, he was bewildered by it also."

Marc Juteau, president of Montreal area-based Classic Auctions, says Goldhar's bid was the 42nd entered for the 38-year-old red and white jersey.

Once the auction fees were factored in, the final price to be paid by Goldhar is actually $1.275 million.

"The attention that was given to the jersey has exceeded by far what we thought it would do," said Juteau.

Bidding opened at $10,000 and offers were soon coming fast and furious from such Canadian-based companies as Molson, The Forzani Group Ltd. and B.C. billionaire Jim Pattison.

Canadian Tire dropped out after initially bidding $200,000 with plans to use the jersey as a store-to-store attraction for customers.

Juteau said the Henderson item has generated as much interest as the personal souvenir collections of Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard when those went on sale.

"But for one given piece, [this is] the most attention we've ever gotten," he said.

Henderson, 67, who donated another Team Canada jersey and a stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame, has often said he'd like to see this one go to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Henderson was inducted into that hall in 1995.