Summit Series memorabilia 'will never go down in value'

Paul Henderson with the jersey he wore when he scored the Summit Series-clinching goal in 1972. The...

Paul Henderson with the jersey he wore when he scored the Summit Series-clinching goal in 1972. The jersey was sold for more than $1 million in 2010. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency file photo)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:10 AM ET

TORONTO - Team Canada players are turning gray, but still generating seven-figure gold in the hockey collectables’ market.

“They’re a driving force, particularly in this (40th) anniversary year,” said Hersh Borenstein, owner of Toronto-based Frozen Pond hockey memorabilia.

“There’s nothing wrong investing in the greatest moments in Canadian hockey. This isn’t like 2002 or 2010 (one-game Olympic gold medal wins for Canada) or a single rock concert ticket. These were eight historic games in two very different countries. Items from ’72 will never go down in value.”

Borenstein need only look at the lineup outside when a ’72 vet or a Russian special guest from the era signs autographs.

“Every collector will have a ’72 team picture he wants to complete signing. If (Team Canada defenceman) Don Awrey were to stop by, we’d probably get quadruple the usual number of people. But as time goes on, it gets harder to get all the signatures. Some players have passed away (Gary Bergman, Bill Goldsworthy, Rick Martin and coach John Ferguson) and Ken Dryden doesn’t sign anymore.”

Pictures of Henderson’s Game 8 goal, one with Vladislav Tretiak in focus, the other not, are among the best sellers, up to $99 if signed by both scorer and goalie. New or rare items are always coming to Frozen Pond and other collection houses, many from the Russian portion of the series.

“We’re told 3,000 Canadians were there in ’72, but it seems like 200,000 with all the stuff that shows up,” Borenstein chuckled. “There are tickets, travel itineraries, programs, coins, mini-sticks and other documents. When I was a teenager, I bought a ticket off someone from the seventh game in Moscow. It cost $50 and I sold it a few years later for $500.”

Henderson’s Game 8 jersey fetched $1.3 million in a 2010 auction, the most for any such hockey item. Trainer Joe Sgro had been given the sweater by Henderson, but sold it and it eventually surfaced on the market. Toronto real estate developer Mitchell Goldhar outbid a competitive field for the prize, including Canadian Tire Corp. He and Henderson worked out a cross-country tour, with the ailing Henderson wanting to raise funds for cancer awareness after discovering he had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Though initially uneasy with the fame he earned in Moscow, Henderson re-embraced Christianity and sought a way to make his ’72 legacy a positive force. Enter Toronto’s Ed Gryschuk of Ficel Marketing and heritagehockey.com. A chance meeting with Henderson prior to the 25th anniversary of his goal resulted in Ficel getting the licensing deal for 120,000 T-shirts that sold between $7.50 and $14.99. That success spawned a collective effort by all ’72 players, even those who didn’t play or quit the team in Moscow, to coordinate their reunions, business matters and future projects through Ficel.

“They asked only one thing: Bring us together,” Gryschuk said. “Now we have events such as a golf tournament every year. They come in the night before, do some signing, some hockey clinics and tell some stories. It’s incredible to hang around these guys and hear about playing the Russians. Maybe the best golf tournament we had was the year it rained all day. We just stayed in the clubhouse and watched a replay of Game 8. There were tears in the eyes of the guests.”

Ficel was also behind a portion of this month’s successful return to Moscow, where Phil Esposito was accorded rock-star treatment. Up next is the 40th reunion dinner in Toronto on Sept. 28, the anniversary of Game 8. When the players first struck their deal, Gryschuk’s company took all the risks. Now he says more than $1 million in business has been done with items such as watches, prints, plates, steins, DVDs, signature wine and a wide range of clothing. Players get an equal share of net profits, Henderson the same as benchwarmer Brian Glennie. Gryschuk helped beat the drum to get Team Canada in the Hockey Hall of Fame and although many like-minded efforts have failed thus far, the team was accorded a monument outside the Hall and was named the country’s Team of the 20th Century.

“I was 17 at Central Commerce high school in Toronto when the series was on,” Gryschuk recalled. “I watched Game 8 with my girlfriend who later became my wife. There are a lot of people with romantic stories like mine. When they played, the whole country stopped to watch.

“These guys did so much for hockey and national unity, yet never got an award, never got in the Hall, never got championship rings.”

But the public continues to lavish them with the royal treatment — and the royalties.

FERGUSON’S STICK-Y SITUATION

John Ferguson knew it would be the most prized souvenir he could bring back to his family from the ’72 Summit Series.

As the memorable days in Moscow ended with Paul Henderson’s goal, the assistant coach and retired enforcer carefully collected signatures of every team player on a hockey stick and fiercely guarded it like he would Jean Beliveau or Henri Richard for the arduous trip from Russia, through Czechoslovakia and home.

“That was when the Iron Curtain was up and Soviet countries were checking everything for confiscation,” says John Ferguson Jr. “They were even ripping out the lining of suitcases.”

Ferguson Sr. also had to protect the stick from jealous teammates and accidental damage during the flight. What a relief it must have been to land in Montreal, where Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau came out to greet the national heroes. Clutching the stick, Ferguson was in the home stretch. Until mischievous Habs’ teammate Serge Savard pulled a stunt that still leaves John Jr. in stitches.

“Serge was just ahead of Dad in the receiving line, he shakes the P.M.’s hand and says, ‘Oh Mr. Trudeau, Fergy has a special stick for you’. Trudeau gratefully took the stick and moved on. Dad was left standing there, absolutely speechless. Serge and my dad had some great back-and-forth pranks in their day, but Dad never topped that one.”

The value of that legends’ stick today is about $2,000 and rising. Ferguson Sr. has passed on, as have three players, while Ken Dryden now shies away from autographs. But the Fergusons were eventually reunited with the stick years later after Savard told the story to a Montreal newspaper Trudeau saw the clipping and shipped the stick back to Ferguson Sr. with a humorous apologetic note.

“Dad kept the stick for us a while and eventually donated it for a fundraiser auction,” Ferguson Jr. said. “It was for Ken Nicholson, the original voice of the Winnipeg Jets, who was having medical problems (before passing in 1992) and it was a good cause.”

The younger Ferguson was just five at the time of the series and did retain some meaningful keepsakes from his father.

“I have his team jacket, his red and white gloves from practice, his Lange skates, pins, medals, a set of those Russian dolls and lots of flags. He was invited to play in ’72, but had just retired and thought it wouldn’t be right. He’d be playing the Russians, but not coming back next season in Montreal where they’d offered him the captaincy ... So Harry Sinden asked him to help coach, a sign of respect when you consider the Boston-Montreal rivalry ... Dad had a great NHL career, but he was part of Team Canada and that means a lot to me.”

HANDLE WITH CARE

Brad Park has a fragile memory of the only souvenir he brought back from Russia in 1972.

“They gave me a beautiful vase for being the top defenceman in the series,” Park recalled. “Russian crystal, very beautiful, very expensive. I’m not a guy who kept any of my hockey stuff around the house. You move on and keep memories in your head. I had five kids and believe it’s hard enough for them to grow up in the first place without having to grow up in a shrine. But this vase, I really cherished it and put it on the mantle.”

But with that many children running around the house, Park and wife Gerry knew the vase was on borrowed time when they put it in the line of fire. “The kids weren’t playing hockey indoors that day, but they were wrestling and down it came,” Park said ruefully.

Park received one more unique souvenir from the tourney, though it came eight years late. Around 1980, a postcard arrived at his Boston home dated September of 1972. It had been mailed from a residence in Ottawa to Park at Team Canada’s hotel in Moscow, where it would have gone on the dressing room wall with hundreds of other good luck messages from Canada for Games 5 through 8.

“The card was covered in stamps from all the places it had been in between,” laughed Park. “I don’t know if it was the Russian postal system (at fault) or Canada’s or what. On the back it said, ‘We love you, we support you, now go kick their ass.’ ”


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