When Paul Henderson reminisces about the greatest goal scored in the history of Canada’s greatest game he can hardly get a word in edgewise.

Whether it’s on the street, at a speaking event or at a party, Canadians line up not so much to ask him but to tell him about Sept. 28, 1972.

That’s when Henderson tucked home the rebound to put the exclamation point on a Canada-Russia hockey summit for the ages.

It was a shared experience when millions of Canadians literally stood as one, around TVs and radios in restaurants and classrooms, to watch Team Canada come back against heavy odds to defeat the Soviets in the eight-game series.

Team Canada defenceman Gary Bergman (right) celebrates teammate Paul Henderson's winning goal in Canada's 6-5 win in Game 8 of the Canada-Russia hockey series in Moscow in this Sept. 28, 1972. (CP PHOTO)
Paul Henderson a former National Hockey League player poses for a photograph at the Vic Johnston Arena in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, March 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

“They want to tell me what they were doing, where they were, who they were with, how they felt. They remember it so vividly,” Henderson says.

“That’s why I love it. There’s no negativity.”

In the last 45 years how many of those stories has he heard?

He pauses.

“Millions,” he says. “It’s got to be millions.”

Unpack what hockey means to Canada on the country’s sesquicentennial and you are immediately shin guard-deep in cultural touchstones: A Wayne Gretzky rookie card, a Starr skate, Roch Carrier’s story “The Hockey Sweater,” Jacques Plante’s trailblazing fiberglass mask, the lucky loonie buried in centre ice at the 2002 Olympics, a hockey stick wrapped in rainbow pride tape, a sledge hockey gold medal from the 2006 Turin Paralympics.

While the origins of the game remain a hotly debated cold case, the coming out party was at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal on March 3, 1875.

Fittingly, it was also the site of hockey’s first brawl when the free skaters, demanding back their ice sheet, donnybrooked with the stick-wielding interlopers.

Timeline - Hockey's history

A brief timeline of hockey's history.

Covered skating rinks open in Halifax and Montreal
March 3, 1875
Modern hockey debuts in first indoor game. Nine-member teams play hockey at the Victoria Skating rink in Montreal. The puck is a flat, circular piece of wood.
Montreal rules on ice hockey are written, including no forward passing and seven players.
The first organized hockey team formed, the McGill University Hockey Club.
The first national hockey association, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, is formed, with representatives from Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa.
March 12, 1892
An aide to Gov. Gen. Frederick Stanley announces the donation of the Dominion Challenge Cup, later renamed the Stanley Cup.
The Coloured Hockey League is founded in Nova Scotia, a league of black hockey players. It operated for decades.
Women’s teams are formed at McGill University and in the Ottawa Valley.
The Halifax Crescents lose in their bid for Stanley Cup but leave behind their fish nets on the goalposts, creating the modern goal net.
Hockey’s first on-ice fatality. Player Alcide Laurin dies from stick blow to the head from Allan Loney. Loney is later acquitted of manslaughter.
The Ontario Professional Hockey League, Canada’s first pro circuit, begins play.
The National Hockey Association, forerunner of National Hockey League, begins play.
Hockey cards debut, distributed by Imperial Tobacco.
Dec. 4, 1914
Hockey executives meet in Ottawa to create amateur hockey’s new oversight body, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, with the Allen Cup its top prize.
Nov. 26, 1917
National Hockey Association owners meet in Montreal to fold operations and create National Hockey League. Frank Calder is named president.
Feb. 8, 1923
Foster Hewitt delivers the first hockey radio broadcast, from Toronto’s Arena Gardens.
The Western Hockey League folds, leaving the NHL as the only remaining pro league. The Stanley Cup becomes the sole domain of the NHL champion and ceases to be a challenge cup.
Elizabeth Graham, a Queen’s University goalie, becomes perhaps the first goalie to wear a mask in an organized game, donning a fencing mask.
Sept. 4, 1927
To help open up the offence, the NHL changes the rules to allow forward passes in the defensive end and neutral zone.
Feb. 20, 1929
Ottawa-born goalie Clint Benedict, while playing for Montreal Maroons, dons a crude facemask but abandons it a few games later.
Dec. 16, 1929
The NHL adopts the offside rule.
Toronto’s Don Munro invents a table hockey game.
Jan. 1, 1933
Foster Hewitt’s radio broadcasts air over a national network, creating Saturday night as “Hockey Night in Canada.”
Dec. 13, 1933
Boston Bruin Eddie Shore hits Toronto’s Ace Bailey from behind. Bailey hits head on ice and nearly dies from skull fracture. He never plays again.
March 8, 1937
Howie Morenz dies of an embolism following complications from a broken leg. His body is moved to centre ice at Montreal Forum, where 250,000 fans turn out to say goodbye to the Stratford Streak.
The Preston Rivulettes wrap up a decade of dominance in women’s hockey, with 10 Ontario and Eastern Canadian titles and six dominion championships.
Maurice Richard begins his career with the Montreal Canadiens.
March 18, 1945
Richard scores 50 goals in 50 games.
April 16, 1946
Gordie Howe begins his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings.
This 1956 file photo shows Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gordie Howe. Howe, the hockey great who set scoring records that stood for decades, has died. He was 88. Son Murray Howe confirmed the death Friday, June 10, 2016, texting to The Associated Press: "Mr Hockey left peacefully, beautifully, and with no regrets." (AP Photo/File)
March 13, 1948
Larry Kwong, son of Chinese immigrants, becomes first minority to suit up in the NHL, playing one minute of one game for the New York Rangers.
April 21, 1951
Toronto defenceman Bill Barilko scores in overtime to give Leafs a Stanley Cup win. Months later, he and a buddy disappeared after taking off in small plane headed for northern Ontario on fishing trip. The wreckage was not found for 11 years.
Feb. 1952
The Edmonton Mercurys win gold in men’s hockey at the Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. It will be 50 years before Canada wins gold again.
Fred Saskamoose, a Cree from Saskatchewan, becomes the first aboriginal player in NHL. He plays 11 games for Chicago.
March 17, 1955
Thousands of fans take to the streets and destroy property in Montreal to protest the suspension of Canadiens star Richard.
Maurice Richard (left) sits with Dr. Gordon Young club physician of the Montreal Canadiens during a hockey game at the Montreal Forum in1955 while a riot over Richard's suspension rages on outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP
Abigail Hoffman, age eight, plays in a boys’ league in Toronto until it’s revealed she’s a girl. She is forced to quit, but her fight gained widespread attention and helped inspire the creation of leagues for girls in the 1960s.
Jan. 18, 1958
Willie O’Ree, from Fredericton, N.B., suits up for the Boston Bruins, the first black player in the NHL.
25-year-old left wing Willie O'Ree, the first black player of the National Hockey League, warms up in his Boston Bruins uniform, prior to the game with the New York Rangers, at New York's Madison Square Garden, on November 23, 1960. (AP Photo)
Oct. 4, 1958
“Hockey Night in Canada” links up Canada as microwave towers allow games to be beamed all the way to British Columbia.
Nov. 1, 1959
Quebec-born goalie Jacques Plante, playing for the Montreal Canadiens, dons a fiberglass facemask. Within a decade almost all goalies in the NHL were wearing face protection.
Jacques Plante is shown in photos without a mask and with two of the masks he wore in his career. The photo at right is 1960, the other two photos are from 1969. It was Jacques Plante of the Canadiens who popularized face protection when he stood his ground against reluctant coach Toe Blake to start wearing a mask full-time in 1959. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP
Nov. 10, 1963
Howe scores his 545th goal, breaking Richard’s record.
In this Nov. 10, 1963, file photo, Gordie Howe (9), right-winger for the Detroit Red Wings, lifts his stick high in the air after scoring the 545th goal of his National Hockey League career in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens in Detroit's Olympia Stadium, Mich. Canadiens players are, goalie Charlie Hodges, Jacques Laperriere (2), Jean Beliveau (4) and Dave Balon. The Red Wings won, 3-0.(AP Photo/File)
March 24, 1965
“Hockey Night in Canada” begins broadcasting in colour.
The inaugural Dominion Ladies Hockey Tournament is held in Brampton, Ont.
Sept. 2, 1966
Bobby Orr signs a two-year deal with Boston Bruins, earning $25,000 in the first year and $30,000 in second, about double the average salary in NHL at time.
The NHL doubles in size, expanding to six U.S. markets.
The “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song, written by Vancouver’s Dolores Claman, debuts.
Jan. 15, 1968
Bill Masterton of Winnipeg, playing for the Minnesota North Stars, dies two days after landing on his head during an NHL game. It’s the first on-ice fatality in NHL history.
May 10, 1970
Orr, flying through the air, scores an iconic Stanley Cup winning goal versus the St. Louis Blues.
Boston Bruins defenceman Bobby Orr goes airborne after scoring the game-winning goal that won the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins, May 10,1970, against the St. Louis Blues at the Boston Garden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Boston Herald American, Ray Lussier
Oct. 9, 1970
The Vancouver Canucks begin play against the Los Angeles Kings.
Oct. 13, 1970
Roger Doucet begins singing the national anthem at Montreal Forum. He became famous for his bilingual version of the song.
Sept. 8, 1971
Howe retires from the NHL. He late came out of retirement in 1973 to play with sons Mark and Marty on the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association.
Detroit Red Wings' star Gordie Howe, with his arm around his wife Colleen, announced formally in Detroit that he is retiring as an active hockey player, Sept. 9, 1971. (AP Photo/Preston Stroup)
June 27, 1972
Chicago Blackhawks star Bobby Hull signs with Winnipeg of the new WHA.
Bobby Hull holds a giant cheque for $1million as his wife Joanne shows her excitement in this June 27, 1972 photo after Hull received the cheque in St. Paul for signing with the World Hockey Association. (CP ARCHIVE PHOTO/mbr-disp)
Sept. 28, 1972
Paul Henderson fires the shot heard around the world as Team Canada defeats the Soviets in the eight game Summit Series.
Team Canada defenceman Gary Bergman (right) celebrates teammate Paul Henderson's winning goal in Canada's 6-5 win in Game 8 of the Canada-Russia hokcey series in Moscow in this Sept. 28, 1972 photo. (CP PHOTO/AP)
Stompin’ Tom Connors writes “The Hockey Song.”
Stompin' Tom Connors performs in a 1974 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CBC
Feb. 21, 1974
Tim Horton, founder of the now-iconic Canadian coffee and donut chain, dies after car crash on a Toronto expressway.
Tim Horton is shown in an undated file photo as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League.THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP
Dec. 31, 1975
The Montreal Canadiens and Soviet Red Army tie 3-3 in exhibition game at Montreal Forum, leading some to call it the greatest game ever played.
Feb. 7, 1976
Toronto Maple Leafs star Darryl Sittler has a night for the ages, collecting 10 points in a game against the Boston Bruins.
Canada participates in the first sledge hockey games on an international stage.
The first of five Canada Cup tournaments begins, with Sittler scoring a memorable game-winning goal over the Czechs.
Team Canada's Darryl Sittler during the Canada Cup game against the Czechoslovakian team on Sept. 13, 1976. (CP/Chuck Stoody)
Wayne Gretzky begins his pro career, signing with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA. Soon after, the Racers folded and Gretzky’s contract was sold to the Edmonton Oilers.
Future NHL star Wayne Gretzky was a short-time member of the Indianapolis Racers in the IHL. Gretzky is shown here in a 1978 practice session. (AP Photo/Indianapolis News/Bob Doeppers)
June 22, 1979
Four WHA teams join the NHL, including the Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, and Winnipeg Jets.
Roch Carrier writes the children’s story “The Hockey Sweater” about children and their all-consuming admiration for Montreal’s Richard and his famous number 9 sweater.
An illustration from the book The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO Tundra Books-Sheldon Cohen
June 4, 1980
Howe, now with Hartford Whalers, retires from NHL for a second and final time.
Hartford Whalers' star Gordie Howe, left, and Bobby Hull, right, have a chat as Hartford Whalers practice before their NHL game with the Washington Capitals, March 8, 1980. (AP Photo/William Smith)
June 24, 1980
The Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary, to become the Calgary Flames.
Dec. 30, 1981
Gretzky sets a record with 50 goals in 39 games.
Edmonton Oilers centre Wayne Gretzky dekes out Colorado Rockies' goalie Chico Resch to score in this 1981 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Buston
April 29, 1982
Vancouver Canucks coach Roger Neilson creates a lasting image when he waves a white towel on the end of a hockey stick in Chicago to show he was “surrendering” to bad refereeing.
Fans cheer as a statue honoring former Vancouver Canucks' assistant coach Roger Neilson was unveiled in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday April 7, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Eight-year-old Justine Blainey wins a spot on a team in the boys Metro Toronto Hockey League, but is forbidden from playing. She challenges the ruling as discriminatory and a Charter violation and years later wins the case in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Dec. 30, 1986
Four players are killed when the WHL Swift Current Broncos bus, en route to Regina, loses control on black ice and crashes
Jan. 4, 1987
A Canada-Russia game is voided at the World Junior Championships in Czechoslovakia after a massive brawl that ended only after the lights were turned out.
Sept. 15, 1987
Mario Lemieux, in full flight, takes a pass from Gretzky and shoots high glove side to beat Soviet goalie Sergei Mylnikow to give Canada a 6-5 Canada Cup win. It’s one of the most memorable goals in hockey history.
Mario Lemieux raises his arms after he scored the game winner in their Canada Cup final match Tuesday night against the Soviet Union, Sept. 15, 1987. (CP PHOTO/Blaise Edwards)
Aug. 9, 1988
The Edmonton Oilers send Gretzky to Los Angeles Kings in multi-player deal.
Wayne Gretzky smiles as he tries on his new jersey after being traded to the Los Angeles Kings from the Edmonton Oilers August 10, 1988 in Los Angeles. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Reed Saxon
Oct. 15, 1989
Gretzky surpasses Howe to become NHL’s all-time leading scorer, with 1,851 points.
L.A. Kings' Wayne Gretzky holds up his record-breaking puck after breaking Gordie Howe's lifetime point record in Edmonton on Oct. 15, 1989. Gretzky's goal broke the point total of 1,850. The Canadian Press/Dave Buston
March 25, 1990
Canadian women, in bright pink jerseys, win gold at the first Women’s World Hockey Championship sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Susana Yuen is hosted up by her teammates after the Canadian women's team defeated Team U.S.A to win the women's world hockey championship in Ottawa, March 25, 1990. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Dec. 16, 1991
The NHL awards franchises to Ottawa and Tampa Bay, heralding the return of the Ottawa Senators.
June 9, 1993
Fan riots in Montreal after the team’s last Stanley Cup win causing $2.5-million in damage.
The Montreal Canadiens pose for a photograph with the Stanley Cup following their 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Montreal in this June 9, 1993 photo. Patrick Roy front left lying down. ( CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)
March 23, 1994
Gretzky scores his 802nd goal to pass Howe as NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer.
Wayne Gretzky (99) of the Los Angeles Kings, watches as his record-setting 802nd NHL goal enters the net, with an assist from Luc Robitaille and Marty McSorley (not shown) against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period Wednesday, March 23, 1994, at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
June 14, 1994
Vancouver fans riot in the city’s downtown after Canucks lose in the Stanley Cup final to the New York Rangers.
Oct. 1, 1994
An NHL lockout begins, ultimately reducing the 1994-95 season schedule to 48 games.
May 16, 1995
About 35,000 fans rally in Winnipeg to raise funds to keep Winnipeg Jets from moving to Phoenix. The move fails. Team moved to Arizona to become the Coyotes.
May 25, 1995
Quebec Nordiques relocate to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.
Jan. 2, 1997
Former junior hockey coach Graham James pleads guilty to sex assault on two players, including Sheldon Kennedy.  Years later he pleaded guilty to assaults on other players, including Theo Fleury.
Graham James is shown in a June 8, 1989 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Becker
Oct. 3, 1997
Howe comes out of retirement at at 69 to play one game for Detroit Vipers of IHL, becoming only player to compete over six decades at the pro level.
Detroit Vipers' John Gruden, left, places his stick over Gordie Howe's during the playing of the national anthem before an International Hockey League game against the Kansas City Blades in Auburn Hills, Mich., Friday, Oct. 3, 1997.(AP Photo/Tom Pidgeon)
Feb. 1998
At Nagano Olympics, Canadian women compete for first time in hockey and capture silver medal. NHL players compete for the first time. Canadian men finish out of medals after losing in semifinal to the Czechs.
Members of the Canadian women's hockey team from left, Lori Dupuis (12), France St. Louis (3), and Karen Nystrom (89) react following their loss to the U.S. in their finals match at the XVIII Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 1998. USA won 3-1 to take the gold, and Canada takes silver. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk)
April 18, 1999
Gretzky, with the New York Rangers, plays his final game in the NHL. 
Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as he skates alone at center ice after playing in his last professional game in the NHL for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York Sunday, April 18, 1999. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
May 27, 2000
Richard dies at age 78. An estimated 115,000 people file past his casket at Molson Centre.
Fans file past hockey legend and former Montreal Canadiens Maurice Richard to pay their respect during the public viewing at the Molson Centre Tuesday, May 30, 2000 in Montreal. Richard died following a two-year battle with stomach cancer. (CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
Feb. 2002
Led by Mario Lemieux, Canada defeats the U.S. to win its first gold medal in 50 years in men’s hockey, at Salt Lake City. The Canadian women also win gold, led by Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell beating the U.S. in the final.
Canada's Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya, Joe Sakic and Thereon Fleury celebrate after beating the USA 5-2 in the gold medal game at the Winter Olympics in West Valley City, Utah, Sunday, Feb.24, 2002. (CP PHOTO/Winnipeg Free Press/Joe Bryksa)
Nov. 22, 2003
Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers play Heritage Classic in front of more than 57,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium, the first ever outdoor NHL game.
Cameramen run alongside former Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretzky as he makes his way into the stadium for an outdoor practice, Friday November 21, 2003. (CP PHOTO/ Adrian Wyld)
Sept. 16, 2004
Another NHL lockout begins, ultimately forcing the league to cancel entire 2004-05 season.
This Sept. 16, 2004 file photo shows an Ottawa Senators employee walking into the player's empty dressing room with goaltender Dominik Hasek's equipment sitting on the bench, in Ottawa, on the first day of a lockout. (AP Photo/Tom Hanson, File)
The Pittsburgh Penguins draft Sidney Crosby of Cole Harbour, N.S., No. 1 overall at the NHL entry draft
The top three draft picks Bobby Ryan of Cherry Hill, N.Y., (left to right) Sidney Crosby of Dartmouth, N.S. and Jack Johnson of Indianapolis, Ind. pose for a handout photo after being drafted during the 2005 National Hockey League Draft on Saturday July 30, 2005 in Ottawa, Canada. (CP Photo/HO-NHL-Getty)
July 11, 2009
NHL enforcer Reg Fleming dies at age 73, autopsy shows he had brain wasting disease CTE.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Bruce Gamble guards the crease as teammate Bob Baun chases down The New York Rangers' Reg Fleming during playoff action in Toronto in 1966. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Feb. 28, 2010
Crosby scores golden goal in overtime for Team Canada to win gold over Americans at Vancouver Olympics.
Canada forward Sidney Crosby scores against Sweden during second period finals hockey action at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Sunday, February 23, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
July 5, 2010
NHL enforcer Bob Probert dies of heart failure and is also found to have CTE, spotlighting effects of head trauma on hockey players.
Detroit Wings Bob Probert checks the scoreboard out from the bench during a NHL hockey game with the Dallas Stars in Jan. 1994. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Detroit Free Press, Julian H. Gonzalez
October 2011
NHL hockey returns to Winnipeg after the Atlanta Thrashers relocate.
Veronica Alvarez, left, and Fernando Carrizo, both of Buenos Aires, Argentina, visit Philip's Arena, home of the Atlanta Thrashers NHL hockey team Friday, May 20, 2011 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
June 15, 2011
Vancouver Canucks lose Stanley Cup to Boston Bruins, prompting massive riot in downtown Vancouver
A Vancouver Canucks fan jumps from a police car that was overturned by rioters following the Vancouver Canucks defeat by the Boston Bruins in the NHL Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, in this June 15, 2011 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Sept. 15, 2012
Another NHL lockout, delaying the start of a shorted season until Jan. 6.
In this Dec. 6, 2012, file photo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, right, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly speak to reporters in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
June 26, 2015
Connor McDavid drafted first overall in NHL draft by Edmonton Oilers.
Connor McDavid speaks to reporters following the announcement of the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto on Saturday, April 18, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
June 10, 2016
Howe dies at 88.
A man signs a memorial wall as thousands of people line up to pay their respects to NHL hall-of-famer Gordie Howe as the casket rests in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denett

The game exploded in popularity and as the 19th century ticked over to the 20th, order, rules, leagues and hierarchies arrived.

Gov. Gen. Freddy Stanley fell in love with the game and in 1892 donated the iconic cup that now bears his surname.

By 1908, Canada began paying its players rather than watching its best and brightest flee to the first pro league that had opened four years earlier in the United States.

Rules were tweezed and tweaked over the decades, primarily to open up the offence -- more forward passing, six players instead of seven. Referees went from ringing bells to blowing whistles.

The modern pro game was born out of a back alley shiv on Nov. 26, 1917.

The owners of the National Hockey Association dissolved their business and created a new league, the National Hockey League, as a last-ditch legal end-around to expel unpopular, irascible Toronto team owner Eddie Livingstone.

Gov. Gen. Freddy Stanley, for who the Stanley Cup is named.

The NHL turns 100 this year and it has delivered to Canada the indelible images defining the game across generations: Howie Morenz’s coffin at centre ice at the Montreal Forum, the Gordie Howe hat trick, Mario Lemieux’s 1987 glove-side high Canada Cup winning goal, Gretzky’s tears over his 1988 trade, Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

There are sounds as well as sights: Roger Doucet’s sonorous bilingual version of national anthem at the Montreal Forum, broadcaster Foster Hewitt’s signature “Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland,” the ubiquitous duh-duh-ta-duh-duh opening to Dolores Claman’s “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song.

It has touched culture and politics.

The 1955 riot in Montreal over the suspension of Canadiens star Maurice Richard is viewed by some as the spark that lit the fire of Quebec’s nationalist movement.

When Maple Leaf Bill Barilko’s plane disappeared in the northern Ontario bush in 1951 it sparked the greatest search to date in Canadian history and later a hit song by the Tragically Hip.

The iconography conflates with religion.

The Stanley Cup is the Holy Grail, the Montreal Forum a shrine. Edmonton fans wear T-shirts with a bearded Connor McJesus, his head bathed in a nimbus glow.

Ken Dryden, Canada’s pre-eminent hockey player-author-scholar, wrote about watching “Hockey Night in Canada” as a child.

"Everything about it was special.
It was Saturday night.
It was staying up late.
It was the family all together."
Ken Dryden

“Everything about it was special,” Dryden wrote. “It was Saturday night. It was staying up late. It was the family all together.

“It was seeing adults get more excited than you ever saw them at other times ... saying and doing things as impolite as things you thought only you did.”

But the love of the game in Canada goes well beyond the pros.

Minor hockey eventually became organized and stratified, growing after the Second World War, spurred by the construction of more indoor arenas.

Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden and Serge Savard have Boston Bruin Bob Schmautz bottled up as they watch the puck clear the top of the net during second period Stanley Cup Playoffs in Boston Garden May 14, 1977. Hockey evokes passion from players and fans alike. From the ice, to the stands, and even into the boardroom, there have been many heated rivalries over the NHL's 100 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP

Women’s hockey followed in fits and starts, highlighted by famous teams like Hilda Ranscombe’s Preston Rivulettes of the 1930s, with trailblazers like Abigail Hoffman and Justine Blainey challenging the system to put women’s ice hockey on the level with men.

In 1990, the first Women’s Worlds Hockey Championship was held in Ottawa. Women’s hockey became a medal sport at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.

Since then, Canadian women’s teams have won four consecutive Olympic golds. Stars like Cassie Campbell, Manon Rheaume and Hayley Wickenheiser have become household names.

Hayley Wickenheiser celebrates after defeating the USA during the women's final ice hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Wickenheiser says the sport endures because, at its core, it’s still as much art as craft.

“I loved the fact that it was never the same thing twice,” Wickenheiser says. “Every time you step out on the ice you have the opportunity to do something different. There’s a lot of repetition but a lot of creativity within the game and that’s what appealed to me.”

The game grew as Canada grew.

Today, it’s a sophisticated big money year-round machine wrapped in a maple leaf, promising big dreams, but also broken hearts, mythologizing its roots to carnival bark for pick-up trucks, banks and beer.

Canadians still play in great numbers -- 640,000 by International Ice Hockey Federation estimates. Girls continue to flock to the game, but overall minor hockey participation has been flatlining in recent years.

Money makes this world go round, with parents sacrificing to pay for year-round camps, composite sticks, Kevlar pads, development leagues, skills coaches and high-end tournaments swarmed by scouts.

How much does it cost to outfit a child for hockey?

Playing hockey is not an inexpensive endeavour. How much does it cost to outfit one child to play? Use our paper doll to find out.

Choose either a boy or girl to get started. Drag and drop the gear onto the child and watch the costs add up. If you put the gear in the right place, it will snap on. There are two sets of gear: the less expensive on the left, the more expensive on the right. All gear and prices provided by ML Pro Sports in Mississauga, Ont.

Item: Choose some gear

Total cost: $0.00

It funds the dream of their child making it to the NHL, a feat akin to winning the lottery and decided primarily by the player’s natural talent.

Henderson says he sees it with starry-eyed parents urging him to see their child play and validate their fever.

“There are a lot of unrealistic expectations,” says Henderson.

And with those comes a new Canadian term, rink rage, denoting parents who abuse and berate coaches, players and referees.

In many minor hockey leagues parents have to take an online tutorial and pledge to be respectful before being allowed to sign up their child.

Wickenheiser says focus is critical, but so is perspective. She saw it playing in men’s leagues in Finland and Sweden.

“There’s a difference culturally,” she says. “Hockey is something that they do. It’s not who they are.

“We have to keep present that the reason why kids like and continue to play the game is that the game is fun for them.”

The disconnect between the love and the business of the game is sharpest at its pointiest peak -- the NHL, now a U.S-based entertainment conglomerate that Canada loves, but which has not always loved Canada back.

The league has shuttered teams in hockey-mad markets such as Quebec City and Hamilton, denied one in Saskatoon, and begrudgingly resurrected one in Winnipeg. In its never-ending quest for U.S. TV deals, it continually expands to palm tree outposts and desert locales where fans in the stands often resemble lonely archipelagos, thin strings of families and friends in a sea of empty seats.

Canada has not won the Stanley Cup since Montreal did in 1993.

The Montreal Canadiens pose for a photograph with the Stanley Cup following their 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Montreal in this June 9, 1993 photo. Patrick Roy front left lying down.(CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)
Timeline - Innovation

As hockey moved from ponds to indoor rinks, rules and equipment innovations followed.

Montreal Maroons goalie Clint Benedict wears a leather mask on ice while recuperating from injury, but soon abandons it because it obscures his vision.
Boston coach Art Ross inaugurates the tactic of pulling the goalie for an extra attacker. 
AP Photo
The NHL adopts the formal definition of an assist.
The NHL changes the officiating from one referee and one linesman to two referees. The league mandates that a time clock be fully visible in every arena.
The NHL modifies the penalty shot to its modern form, allowing the skater to move in and shoot. The referee system returns from two referees to one referee and one linesman.
Art Ross improves the NHL puck, adding beveled edges to it for better control.
Flooding the ice between periods is made mandatory in NHL.
The NHL changes officiating to one referee and two linesmen. Face off circles are added, 20 feet in diameter.
The centre red line is introduced, the brainchild of New York Rangers coach Frank Boucher. Forward passing from the defending zone across the blue-line up to centre ice now allowed.
NHL adopts having the game announcer call “Last minute of play in the period.”
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Emile Francis appears in a game wearing a baseball mitt, launching the invention of the catching glove. Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto becomes first NHL rink to install glass around the rink atop the boards.
Nov. 1, 1952
The first TV broadcast of CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.
March 10, 1955
The Zamboni ice resurfacing machine is introduced at Montreal Forum. 
NHL on-ice officials begin wearing black and white vertical stripes.
Nov. 1, 1959
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante revolutionizes goalie protection for good, donning a fibreglass mask. 
Early 1960s
Stan Mikita of Chicago Blackhawks is credited with creating the curved stick, a discovery made by accident when he cracked his blade and then noticed the curvature made the puck angle and swerve. Other players claimed they had discovered the curve much earlier.
Maple Leaf Gardens becomes the first rink to create two separate penalty boxes.
August 1970
The NHL passes a resolution allowing home teams to have players’ names on the back of their sweaters. Visiting teams can, as well, if they have the permission of the home team.
The NHL makes it mandatory for all players to have their names on the back of their jerseys.
Helmets made mandatory for new NHL players, optional for those already in the league.
AP Photo/Mona
December 1981
The NHL allows players to use hockey sticks with aluminum shafts.
The NHL goal crease is enlarged. Delayed offside introduced.
Goal lines, blue-lines and all defensive zone face off circles moved one foot farther out from end boards.
The NHL goal crease is painted light blue. Video review introduced to help referees determine goals.
Goal lines, blue lines, defensive zone face off circles moved another two feet out from the end boards. The size of the goal crease is reduced by chopping off the ends of the semi-circle.
AP Photo/Bob Jordan
A big change in hockey sticks is marked when Easton sells its composite Synergy stick, weighing 30 per cent less.
The birth of the NHL loser point for a team that is tied in the game after regulation, but loses in overtime.  Two referees officiate in most games. The regular season overtime format is altered, mandating four skaters and goalie per side.
July 22, 2005
Goalies are only allowed play the puck behind the goal in a trapezoid area. Dimensions of goalie equipment are reduced by about 11 per cent. Shootouts are brought in to follow a scoreless overtime. Teams that ice the puck are not allowed to change lines. The two-line pass is eliminated.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
June 24, 2015
The NHL changes overtime from four-on-four to three on three-on-three.  

Globally, hockey initially embodied how we saw ourselves, then became a barometer of how we wished others to perceive us on the global stage: Canada the Good, but gap-toothed Visigoths if you try to split the defence.

When the Soviets blitzed Canada’s representative, the East York Lyndhurst, 7-2 to win the 1954 World Hockey Championship, it opened a wound on the national pride sutured only after the Penticton Vees tamed the Soviet bear at the same tournament a year later.

The 1972 Summit was designed as a best-on-best affair to settle once and for all who was No. 1. While Canada triumphed, the free-flowing Russian attack was applauded as their beautiful game compared with Canada’s brand of stay-in-your-lane, dump, chase and slobber-knock.

Today’s international game reflects Canada’s maturity as one of many hockey nations. But Canada is still the team to beat and when the country’s best lose at the Olympics, questions are still asked. Wickenheiser says the long running joke has been “Hockey Canada has a motto: We’re with you win or tie.”

As it evolves in a new century, the Canadian game is now coming to grips with the impacts of the violence that has been the yin to its yang from the time in 1905 when Alcide Laurin was clubbed over the head by Alvin Loney in a game in Maxville, Ont., and died.

Goonery evolved -- or devolved -- from an element of the game to a deliberate strategy in the crazy 1970s, when the Philadelphia Flyers high-elbowed and line-brawled their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups, making the popular 1977 movie “Slap Shot” resemble a documentary.

The Wild West fisticuffs have since disappeared with rule changes underwritten by increasing awareness of the medical consequences. Minor hockey is reviewing rules on hitting and concussion protocols are in place right up to the NHL.

Still, the tragic reality of brain trauma is only now being understood. In recent years a number of former NHL scrappers have died after bouts of depression. Autopsies on some revealed they had a degenerative brain wasting disease called CTE.

Culturally, hockey remains king, especially in advertising. Watch any game on TV, and you’ll see misty depictions of kids playing road hockey, bleary-eyed parents toting coffee cups, rims ready to be rolled up, as they shuttle young ones to early-morning practice, or devil-may-care 20-somethings toasting cold Rocky Mountain brewskis while cheering the game in a bar.

Mark Norman, who lectures at Ryerson University on the sociology of sport, says hockey remains a connector and keystone of Canadian identity. But he says its true popularity in an age of cultural and leisure diversity has been distorted.

“Whereas in the 1950s or ‘60s the rink was the community hub and hockey had this central place, there is now a broader array of leisure practices that young people can engage with,” says Norman, who also edits the website hockeyinsociety.com.

The game is changing from a fan participation standpoint, he adds.

Canadians are increasingly blogging about hockey, crunching numbers, drafting players for fantasy teams or shooting and scoring on video games.

“It’s changed the way people consume and engage in the game,” he says.

In popular culture, though, hockey players remain Canada’s heroes, their stories woven into the fabric of the nation: Young Bobby Orr learning to love the game on the frozen Seguin River, Gretzky practising in his family’s backyard, the percussive whump, whump of Crosby firing pucks at an open dryer.

And now it’s Connor McDavid, the newest Next One. The kid from Newmarket, Ont., growing up with a single-minded devotion to the game, hour after hour, on roller blades in the driveway, teaching himself how to stickhandle in traffic, deke and toe drag.

He is now the face of the game, bred for the glare of publicity and social media saturation it in the post-modern era where pro hockey is all about brand management.

Ask McDavid what hockey means to him and the swiftest skater in the game is caught flat-footed.

Edmonton Oilers Forward Connor McDavid (97) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. The starring attraction at NHL all-star weekend in Hollywood will be Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and a whole bunch of other first-time all-stars. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jeffrey T. Barnes

“I don’t even know how to explain what it means to me because it IS my life,” says McDavid, tucking a skate into an orange and blue team bag at his stall post-practice in Edmonton’s Rogers Centre.

“You just grow up and you’re loving the game. Most Canadian families, that’s how they grow up. They grow up watching hockey, playing hockey. Their lives revolve around hockey.

“You can’t explain it. It’s something that you want to do.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re working.

“You’re playing.”

Around McDavid, team attendants scurry about, hauling bags of equipment onto a truck bound for the airport for a trip to Tennessee and a game against the Predators.

It’s getaway day and for Canada’s game the beat goes on, even if it is Hockey Night in Nashville.