Wily Whitey has Summit puck

DAN MCCAFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

SARNIA -- What happened to the puck Paul Henderson fired into the net to win hockey's legendary '72 Summit Series between Team Canada and the Soviet Union? It has been one of the enduring mysteries of Canadian sports for 36 years.

Team Canada defenceman Pat (Whitey) Stapleton was seen making off with what may be the most valuable piece of hockey memorabilia on the planet as the buzzer sounded to end the eighth and final game in Moscow.

But for years Stapleton, who lives today in Strathroy, Ont., denied it was in his possession. When videotape surfaced showing him picking it up off the ice, he was coy about whether he still had the disc, telling reporters he thought it might be somewhere in his garage.

The riddle finally was solved last night at the rink that gave Stapleton, a three-time National Hockey League all-star, his start.

BROUGHT PUCK TO ARENA

The Point Edward, Ont., native brought the fabled puck to the Sarnia Arena and dropped it in a ceremonial faceoff prior to the start of a Jr. 'B' game between the Sarnia Legionnaires and St. Thomas Stars.

Stapleton, who played for the Legionnaires in 1958, decided to end his silence about the puck's whereabouts in order to help the team promote a banner-raising ceremony it was holding in honour of the late Tommy Norris, who was Sarnia's manager in the '50s and '60s.

Stapleton said when Henderson scored with 34 seconds left in the deciding game of the Summit Series to give Canada a 6-5 lead, he had no thoughts of retrieving the puck. In fact, the referee scooped it out of the net while the Canadians were celebrating and took it back to centre ice for the faceoff.

"I don't know that we appreciated the significance of the goal because we were right in the middle of the battle at that time," he said. "Our biggest thing was to hold on. When we went back to centre ice Bill White (his defensive partner) said, 'they're going to come at us now.'

"But I didn't think they competed hard in those last 30 seconds. I think they cashed it in."

When the horn sounded to end the game, Stapleton instinctively picked up what would become a cherished memento.


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