Refueling Memories with @4Refuel

Paul Henderson meets Voyageur
On September 28th, 1972, I - along with the rest of my grade 5 classmates at Ranchdale P.S. - was pulled out of class and summoned to the library area where the biggest TV they had was set up for us all to watch game 8 - the tie-breaking finale of the Canada-Russia Summit Series that had the whole country on edge.

The tension continued to build with goals answering goals and tempers flaring among players and officials and supporters. With the game tied at 5-5 as the clock ticked down the third period, it looked like the Soviets would win the series on goal differential counted from the start of the series. But with 34 seconds remaining in the game, Paul Henderson got two stabs at a rebound off of Vladimir Tretiak from a shot by Phil Esposito. The second one made it into the net and thousands of miles away from the Luzhniki Palace of Sports in Moscow, most of an entire country went berserk. That moment was fused in my brain as it fused in the minds of a generation - captured in an iconic photo by Frank Lennon that was on the front page of every newspaper the following morning and has since been immortalized in a postage stamp and a million and one other manifestations and tributes.

Naturally, I wanted to include something of that moment that was both personal and national into the Six String Nation project. My efforts to get something from the Hockey Hall of Fame weren't yielding the results I needed but fate intervened at a 2005 birthday party for rock-it promotions founder Deb Goldblatt. I didn't know Deb well, myself, but she'd been working with my friend Andy Stochansky and I found myself at a table at The Drake Hotel seated next to Deb's father, Marv Goldblatt. Marv and I got to talking and I discovered that he was a retired hockey agent and accountant so I told him what I was trying to accomplish. He said: "Well, I know Paul Henderson - I'll give him a call for you". It was a lovely thing to offer but I don't suppose I imagined it would actually pan out.

So imagine my surprise when - a few days later - my phone rang one morning around 8:30 and the voice on the other end said, "Hi Jowi - it's Paul Henderson calling. I just cut off the top of my stick from '72. What do you want me to do with it?" With a mixture of shock and gratitude, I asked him to send it to me and I sent it along to George to include in the construction. Now, it's important to note that it's not the stick that scored "The Goal" but it was used in that game. Part of that stick fragment now forms part of the stem of the maple leaf motif on Voyageur's pick guard.

While I did thank Mr. Henderson at the time, I never had the chance to do so in person - until last night. Paul was a guest of his friend Larry Rodo, CEO of 4Refuel at their annual national company awards gala. Last year, Paul had been the guest speaker but this year that was my role and we were seated at the CEO's table and Paul watched my presentation with the rest of the audience. What a thrill it was for me to see him just a few feet away as I told the story. Afterwards, he let me know that he saw Marv just last week and I asked him to convey my thanks and regards.

The other point it was nice to be able to make with a genuine Canadian hockey icon in the room is that a major focus of the Six String Nation project is that we need to make room for all kinds of stories from all kinds of communities and perspectives in the ongoing creation of our national story. And there is never a better way to illustrate that by having the extraordinary David Leask on hand to perform a few of the songs he's written inspired by the stories embedded in Voyageur. We were fortunate that Larry Rodo had seen David bring the guitar to life in the "performance pocket" segment of my presentation at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts last fall. Larry was especially taken with David's "The Legend of Joe Labobe" about the Mi'kmaq shucking champion from Lennox Island so he got to hear that again along with the beautiful "Spirit Wrestlers" about the Doukhobour community of Veregin SK and "Against the Grain" about the legendary Golden Spruce of Haida Gwaii. Having done three of these shows now with David, I feel like we could really take it on the road!

And I should take a moment here to talk about the rest of the people in that room at the Waterside Inn in Port Credit. Larry struck me, when I met him following my presentation at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts last fall, as an extraordinarily open and curious person - not what I tend to think of as your basic hard-nosed CEO-type. He was full of questions and enthusiasm and immediately asked if I did corporate presentations. Both in the conversations we had at the dinner before the presentation and his remarks he made in advance of the awards presentation that followed, he exhibited that same quality of wonder and gratitude. As much as the gathering was about the success of the business, it was just as much about people, highlighting the values of dignity and respect and creating a supportive environment. I confess I don't know much about the world of business but certainly the books and movies and articles about that world tend to showcase the prioritization of profits above all else and the pitfalls of making ambition the single driving force of a business means that people like me get a very particular picture of the kinds of values that motivate business. Not only did this company present a very different kind of impression - lead by Larry - but it seemed to be an attitude widely shared among everyone I met there. I had some great conversations with some lovely people who seemed also be full of wonder and curiosity and whose support of each other was inspiring.

Thanks again to Paul Henderson for his warmth and humour and for that amazing thing he did in '72 (7 goals over the course of the series too!). Thanks to Larry and his whole team at 4Refuel with a special thanks to Aurelia Alcaine-Hrubecky and all those organizing the event. Thanks also to the sound crew and staff at the Waterside Inn in beautiful Port Credit!

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