Hockey history on display at Canadian Museum of History

The jersey Paul Henderson was wearing when he scored his historic goal to win the 1972 Summit Series is part of a new hockey-themed exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History that opens today.

6-month-long 'Hockey' exhibition to feature nearly 300 artifacts

A jersey worn by 'Fearless' Frank Finnigan, 1935, and a Winnipeg Falcons pendant, the team that represented Canada at the 1920 Winter Olympics, are on display at a hockey exhibit at the the Museum of History in Gatineau. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

The sweater Paul Henderson was wearing when he scored his historic goal to win the 1972 Summit Series is part of a major hockey-themed exhibition that opens today at the Canadian Museum of History.

Last month, museum officials unveiled the details of the new six-month-long special exhibition — simply titled "Hockey" — scheduled to run from March 10 to Oct. 9, 2017, at the Gatineau, Que., museum.

"It's huge. I think it's the most iconic jersey in Canadian sports, Canadian hockey history," said Jenny Ellison, the museum's curator for sports and leisure.

"And so it's a really big deal and really special for us to have it here."

Artifacts from Maurice (Rocket) Richard's career, including his 1949 all-star jersey, are on display. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)
The earliest hockey stick, handmade in Canada sometime between 1835 and 1838, belonged to a boy named William Moffatt from Cape Breton, N.S. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

On loan from owner

Henderson's No. 19 was loaned to the museum by its owner Mitchell Goldhar, who bought it in 2010 for $1.28 million.

The sweater is the focus of the exhibition, occupying a prominent space alongside nearly 300 other artifacts paying homage to key moments in the history of Canadian hockey.

For example, museum-goers can see the sweater Sidney Crosby was wearing when he scored the gold medal-winning goal in 2010 on home ice at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, as well as Hayley Wickenheiser's sweater from the very same games.

The jersey that Paul Henderson wore when he scored his famous goal during the Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union will soon be on display at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. (Kim Vallière/CBC)

Jacques Plante's so-called "pretzel" goalie mask — a low-tech precursor to the carefully-crafted goaltender helmets of today — is on display, along with memorabilia from the Africville Seasides, a Halifax-based team that played in the Coloured Hockey League in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The exhibition also includes many other artifacts from the Summit Series, including one of the cameras believed to have been used to capture Henderson's goal and a ticket to the final game

That eight-game series in September 1972 took on a "symbolic dimension" for many Canadians, said Ellison, because the tense political atmosphere of the Cold War was hanging over it.

"It becomes about democracy versus communism. It becomes about nation versus nation. And so the stakes were really high," Ellison said. "And Canadians, I think, were really surprised about the challenge the Soviets posed."

Jenny Ellison is one of two curators for the hockey-themed exhibition, which runs from March 10 until Oct. 9, 2017. (CBC)

Not exactly mint condition

Henderson told CBC's Radio-Canada that museum visitors shouldn't expect the sweater to be in mint condition, however.

The 74-year-old said he would get so drenched during games that — in a bout of frustration — he grabbed a pair of scissors and, in an attempt to keep sweat from dripping into his gloves, hacked the bottom of the sleeves right off.

This ticket to Game 8 of the September 1972 Summit Series between the Soviet Union and Canada will be part of a forthcoming hockey-themed exhibition taking place at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. (CBC)

"It was a terrible sweater to play hockey in," he recalled. "It would just absorb the moisture like crazy, and got as heavy as all get-out. But the design, I loved — and still do."

Even today, Henderson said, people come up and tell him where they were and what they were doing when he slid the puck past Soviet netminder Vladislav Tretiak with only 34 seconds left on the clock.

Canada would hang on to win 6-5, and the players — Henderson in particular — would return home national heroes.

"There was no downside. We won as a country. And that was [during] the Cold War. There [was] never a negative about this whole series — that's the thing I love about it."

With files from Kim Vallière