If you, like me, knew exactly where you were 40 years ago today then we have another common denominator - we are getting old. While I have trouble remembering what I ate, watched or said just a day ago, some images and memories stand crystal clear through the decades.
Forty years ago the mid-morning sky in North Delta was just like it was this week in Coquitlam - a bright blue. I don't recall if the air tasted sweeter then, or whether laundry detergent got the whites whiter.
All that mattered then was The Goal. First, we had to wait, build up to it, and nearly surrender our hopes for it.
That first month of Grade 5 had the usual challenges - a brand new school, a new teacher, new classmates - enveloped in the starchy new set of school clothes picked out by a well-meaning mother. Corduroy pants and paisley shirts will remain permanently a part of the early '70s.
Despite my lack of fashion sense, I found a new friend who shared an obsession with hockey. We talked hockey, we wrote hockey, we drew hockey; we even sang hockey. He liked the Toronto Maple Leafs - no doubt a recessive gene handed down, like male pattern baldness - while I was crazy for Bobby Orr and the big, bad Bruins.
We teamed up after school and clogged the culdesac with makeshift street hockey games, re-enacting the upcoming heroics of Canada's all-star team that was playing a 'friendly' series against some unknown U.S.S.R. cossacks. My friend would pretend to be Ron Ellis, Rod Seiling or ex-Leaf Frank Mahovlich, while I imagined myself gliding down the pavement like Bobby Orr, setting myself a perfect pass to finish it ala Phil Esposito.
There would be no Orr in the Summit Series due to a bum knee. No Bobby Hull or Gordie Howe either. It wasn't like we needed them to sweep the series, adults annouced loudly. Hockey was Canada's game, afterall. Games 1, 2 and 3 opened our eyes. After Game 4 in Vancouver, those eyes were filled with tears and disappointment if not shock.
When the series resumed two weeks later, expectations were diminished, while adults sulked like dejected car salesmen. My friend and I, along with a growing swarm of neighbourhood kids, just kept playing and praying.
I recall rushing home on game days to watch the tape-delayed TV broadcast from Moscow, a scramble of snowy images and flickering highlights. With the time difference, the games were played out early in the school day - and there was no such things as Twitter, PVR or cell phones in which to relay instantaneous results.
Patience was a different skill those days. Besides word of mouth, newspapers, six TV channels and the radio, we only knew what we could see. We would create our own reality, like bouncing on the moon's surface until Neil Armstrong demonstrated how it was really done.
Our obsession tested the patience of our teacher, Mrs. Ellis, who on more than a few occasions had to set the record straight that she was not Ron Ellis' mother. Later, she would make up for that unfortunate fact by taking me to see my first NHL hockey game - where the Bobby Orr-led Bruins beat the Canucks 7-6.
But first, the Russians made like tanks over our naive aspirations. In Game 5, Canada lost by a goal and appeared to be licked, trailing the series 3-1-1. In Game 6, the Canadians pulled out a slim win, followed by a dramatic victory in Game 7 when a slight winger - who made the roster based on the NHL brass' ban of WHA-bound Hull - scored what would have been a career-best goal by any other measure.
On Sept. 28, Paul Henderson topped it. That morning, 40 years ago, I hoped against hope that classes would be cancelled or postponed until after Game 8 had been played out. Nothing taught that day stuck to any brain matter - it could have been just another Monday, except it was a Thursday and Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister.
With about 10 minutes left, the principal put the radio broadcast over the intercom. Magically, we hushed to hear the tinny play-by-play. Canada had scored two times to tie it. Then, with just 34 seconds left in the series and after eight games of churning emotions, Henderson united us in one smooth shot, poking in a rebound that unlocked the school's doors and sent us kids jumping and shouting through the hallways and onto the field outside.
That night I shovelled down my supper to get in front of the TV and witness the goal with my own eyes, with the crinkly classic call by Foster Hewitt cementing the memory forever. Even today, a bolt of electric sentiment seems to shoot down my spine when I hear the call of that most timely tally.
The Goal remains embedded in my memory, 40 years strong. Thank you, Paul Henderson.
Dan Olson is the sports editor of the Coquitlam NOW. He still craves Count Chocula in the mornings.