There's a historic artifact from a Canadian hockey legend that recently went up for bid via Classic Auctions; one that has the memorabilia and puck worlds abuzz. And no, we're not talking about Toronto Maple Leafs Hall of Famer Teeder Kennedy's dental plate consisting of five fake teeth ...
The jersey worn by Paul Henderson when he scored the decisive goal in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union is currently on auction until June 22, with bidding already over $140,000 (USD).
(UPDATE: From FAN 590 in Toronto, "Canadian Tire have put together quite the bid. Canadian Tire has posted an opening bid of $200,000, in hopes of winning the auction and taking the jersey to different locations around the country.")
This is the first time that the jersey has been publicly advertised as available for bid or sale. The Canadian Press reported that the jersey's owner is a cancer survivor who is donating a portion of the proceeds to charity. Henderson himself was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia last November.
Marc Juteau, president of the Montreal-based company, is hoping that the final price beats that of the game-worn Bobby Orr rookie-year jersey that sold last month for $191,200, saying that he believes the Henderson jersey is the "most significant piece of hockey memorabilia ever sold in history."
Moments like the Henderson goal resonate in the sporting fabric of a country. We recently saw the interest in the stick and gloves that Sidney Crosby(notes) used when he scored the gold medal-winning goal in the Vancouver Olympics, and how it took a public plea from Reebok to help get the items returned and eventually into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Same with the puck that beat Team USA goaltender Ryan Miller(notes). Artifacts like those are a source of pride among citizens.
That's why hockey historian Joe Pelletier expressed his concern about the Henderson jersey falling into the wrong hands — like a trading card company.
For years, trading card companies have been purchasing game-worn jerseys and equipment used by athletes to insert into special cards for collectors. After collectors got tired of getting tiny jersey swatches of third-tier players in their $6 packs, the trading card companies stepped things up a notch by acquiring historical pieces to raise interest in their products and also the price of individual packs.
Most memorably, in 2003, Donruss cut up a 1925 Babe Ruth New York Yankees jersey into 2,100 pieces after purchasing it at auction for $264,210. Many were outraged at the desecration of such a historical piece, but collectors gobbled up packs in hopes of finding the special inserts that now sell for thousands of dollars.
As Pelletier pointed out in his post, the hockey card world is no stranger to this kind of controversy. In 2000, In The Game bought the only authenticated pads of Hall of Fame goaltender Georges Vezina and cut them into 300 pieces to be inserted into packs.
The trading card company PR-spin is that cutting up these artifacts allows for sharing the pieces with fans from all over the world ... because there's nothing like having a small, square swatch as a memento stuck inside of a top loader to compare to the real thing.
Those who are on the side of preserving history want to see these items not destroyed but put on display in the various halls of fame and other museums for future generations to see.
Juteau told us Wednesday morning that Classic Auctions has an approval process for all bidders in this auction, to help ensure that the jersey does not wind up cut up into pieces.
That issue is something that has perked the ears of the Canadian government. Recently, Heritage Minister James Moore revealed that there is a program that aids in acquiring Canadian artifacts that can provide up to half of the final price.
Certainly the Henderson jersey would fall under the category of historical significance for the program.
Canwest reported this week that the Sports Hall of Fame — soon to be in Calgary — is gathering up possible benefactors for the jersey.
Henderson's red jersey and equipment from the first four games of the series were donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he believes this one should be on display in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He told the Canadian Press that he attempted to buy back the white jersey years ago for $25,000, but the owner at the time wanted $35,000.
With 20 days remaining in the auction, the sense of urgency — and price tag — will only rise to keep the Henderson jersey in Canada.