Saturday, June 4, 2011

My only Stanley Cup Final; Gretzky, Desjardins and The Forum

It was 18 years exactly since Eric Desjardins completed a hat-trick in overtime in the McSorley "illegal stick game". A pretty special game to have witnessed in person, and I did from the Standing Room section of the Montreal Forum.

This was game two of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final between Montreal and Los Angeles. My buddy and I were living in Monreal at the time had camped out in front of The Forum a week earlier for these tickets. We spent a luckily pleasant night about twentieth in a line of Habs fans that eventually numbered well into the hundreds. Most of the kids in front of us were there on behalf of scalpers and being paid maybe fifty bucks to buy the maximum amount of tickets allowed. My pal and I were on much more of a budget and opted for only the standing room tickets for games Two and Seven. I think we paid 30 apiece for them.

As it turns out we also ended up going to Game One as well by pure fluke. Our apartment was about a block from The Forum and we had to walk past it to get to the Atwater Metro subway station. We were doing just that after watching the first period of Game One at our place on the way to The Peel Pub. Apparently a few of the scalper brigade still had inventory left after the first period and offered us a pair for fifty bucks each. We laughed at him and said we'd give him twenty each and walked away toward the subway. After about five seconds he yelled back at us in his French accent, "Here, take dem!"...so we did. We really hadn't missed much, after a period the score was 1-1, and the shots were tied at 11.

We actually had "seats" to "sit in", in the upper corner of the fabled rink, and I was one of the very few cheering for Gretzky. He had assisted on the first goal and would add two more helpers and a goal the rest of the way as the Kings took Game One 4-1. When the Great One scored an empty netter I was the only one standing up applauding, to a dirty look from a large "biker" guy about 10 rows in front. I quickly sat down.

So, there I was then at Game Two, two days later. We stood at about blue line depth halfway up the arena, and even better we had the front of the standing section which meant a railing to lean on. I have to admit, it was a tight fit as they must have sold every single standing ticket and we were about four deep all around the rink. We had to go individually on beer runs or washroom breaks so as to not lose our railing spot. It was on one of these forays into the concourse that I met Janet Gretzky who was there with Craig "The Walrus" Stadler who was obviously pals with Wayner.

Then, late in the third with the Habs in danger of going down 2 games to none, Jacques Demers called for a stick measurement on Marty McSorley. The coach was quoted after the game, "We were dead. We didn't want to go down 2-0. I never like to embarrass a man who has so much pride like Marty. I just do my job. We didn't have a choice." Kings coach Barry Melrose felt the move lacked class saying, "We got a lesson tonight. We're going to have to watch stuff like that throughout the series. I don't believe in wining that way." Apparently Montreal captain, Guy Carbonneau had noticed that both McSorley and Luc Robitaille used illegal sticks in Game One and said later, "With six or seven minutes left, I reminded Demers that Robitaille and McSorley had bad sticks and that we could call it. It was McSorley's fault. It was too big".

Anyway, while all this was happening on the ice we up in standing room and the rest of the crowd were trying to figure out what was going on. Once we saw referee Kerry Fraser take the stick to the penalty box, we knew. The rest was history. With Patrick Roy pulled, Desjardins scored 32 seconds later and won it 51 seconds into OT. It was one of the more incredible turn of events I'd ever seen at a sporting event and I have to admit I was high-fiving some of our French standing room neighbours when the Habs won. We really had no choice in the matter, the mass of standees jumped as one and pandemonium ensued.

Of course, we would not need our Game Seven tickets as Montreal took the Cup in five. That game, we DID manage to make it to the Peel Pub to watch, and when it was over we spilled out of the bar onto Rue Ste. Catherine and into the Stanley Cup riot. I've probably never been more scared for my well-being before or since. That's what happens when beer bottles are flying off tenth floor balconies and people are runing metal barriers into police car windshields. But, that's another tale.

As well, it's needless to say the Game Two high-fiving was the first and last time I've ever celebrated a Montreal victory.

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