Friday, 04.23.2010 / 11:02 AM / Features
By Todd Smith and Glen Andresen
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are one of the sporting world’s greatest spectacles. An epic test of skill and grit, the playoffs are a season unto themselves. They are a time when men grow beards for good luck; fourth line grinders become heroes with herculean efforts (Ladies and Gentlemen, please say hello to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Maxime Talbot), and stars blossom into legends with overtime game-winners. But this story is not about all that…greatness.
We’d like to take a moment to discuss some of the more dubious moments in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the postseason is a truly awesome event, there is a whole lotta Cup Crazy mixed in as well. Here are a few lowlights, or depending on your perspective, highlights from past decades in Stanley Cup history.
Claude Lemieux is a four time Stanley Cup winner and ninth all-time in Stanley Cup playoff goals. But that is not what he will be remembered for. When Lemieux stapled Detroit Red Wings forward Kris Draper’s face to the sideboards with a blind side hit in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals in 1996, he recorded the dirtiest hit during play. The mauling left Draper with a severe concussion and a broken nose, jaw and cheekbone. After the game, Draper’s face looked like a ghoulish Halloween mask as he mumbled, “I know this is hockey and all…but look at my face.”
You’ll notice the word during in the previous moment, because at least Lemieux’s vicious hit took place while play was going on. But what was Dale Hunter’s excuse during the first round of the 1993 playoffs? After he coughed up the puck in his own zone and watched Pierre Turgeon steal it and score to bury the Capitals’ season, Hunter skated directly after a celebrating Turgeon and destroyed him with a hit along the boards. Any later, and Turgeon would have been laying face down during his postgame shower. Hunter’s excuse was that he didn’t realize the play was over, which is understandable. There is a gray area as to whether or not a play is over after the puck crosses the line, the red light goes on and thousands of people start screaming in jubilation. We'll let you be the judge.
On a lighter note, following a 1988 playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils, an irate Devils coach Jim Shoenfeld yelled what fans have always wanted the chance to say to a ref. In the tunnel leading to the locker rooms, Shoenfeld went nose to nose with referee Don Koharski and described his dismay with some of the calls by eloquently saying, “You fat pig! Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!” It's worth a look, isn't it?
Speaking of irate coaches…During Game Five of the 2009 playoffs between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals, Rangers head coach John Tortorella blew a gasket when a Capitals fan allegedly poured a beer on him. Tortorella grabbed a stick and nearly climbed the glass to get after him. The Rangers assistant coach that restrained him was, you guessed it… Jim Shoenfeld!
During their parade after they won the Cup in 1974, a few Philadelphia Flyers drank a few too many fermented beverages and had to relieve themselves in several fans’ homes that were along the parade route.
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Steve Smith has the dubious distinction of being the only player in Stanley Cup history to score a goal on his own net in a Game Seven. In the Cup Final in 1986, Smith banked a breakout pass off of his own goalie’s skate for the deciding goal. Rest easy, Dan Boyle.
Talking about bad goals? Say hello to Brett Hull, a Hall of Famer with a big shot, big mouth, and apparently some big skates. As if the Buffalo Bills hadn’t already given the city of Buffalo enough heartache, in the triple overtime 1999 Cup Final between the Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres, Hull “scored” the winning goal with a giant skate in the crease, a clear violation of the rules at the time.
Let’s throw in a Wild playoff memory here. After the Wild finally came alive in Game Four of its 2007 first round playoff series against Anaheim, hell broke loose when Brad May sucker punched Kim Johnsson. That led to the “magic bullet”…or puck during warmups in Game Five. Teemu Selanne was hit in the face with an errant puck that some thought came from the Wild end. Even more shocking was that some Duck players alleged that Derek Boogaard was the culprit. If the Boogeyman had that kind of accuracy, he’d probably have more than zilch goals in his past 222 games.
Ron Hextall Goes Bonkers, Part One: In the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers, combative Flyers goalie Ron Hextall chopped impish Oiler forward Kent Nilsson down to the ice with his goalie stick as Nilsson skated near Hextall’s crease. Nilsson wasn’t in the crease, mind you, but just simply near it. Hextall was given an eight-game suspension.
Engraving of the Cup didn’t start until 1907. According to Floyd Conner’s book, “Hockey’s Most Wanted,” one of the oddest names etched into an early version of the Cup was Thomas Westwick, the toddler son of a player named “Rat” Westwick.
And speaking of rats, it was cute while it lasted, but let’s be thankful that the 1996 ritual of Florida Panthers fans littering the ice with thousands of rubber rats after the home team scored its first goal is a thing of the past. While it is Florida (pretty sure rats are the state bird in Florida), and it was good to see that part of the world get Cup Crazy, the thought of a playoff game being delayed for 15 minutes while goaltenders take shelter in their own cages nowadays is enough to make us shudder.
Ron Hextall Goes Bonkers Part Two: During the 1989 Cup Playoffs, Hextall went above and beyond his Bunyonesque chop on the unsuspecting Nilsson. With the Flyers down 3-2 in the series against the Montreal Canadians and 4-2 in the game, Hextall charged out of his crease with minutes left in the third period and attacked Chris Chelios, pummeling him with his blocker. The Flyers announcer jokingly said on air, “Hextall has kissed the season goodbye.” He was suspended for 12 games.
After the Montreal Wanderers won the Cup in 1907, a young kid stole the greatest trophy in all of sports. But nobody seemed to care. The Cup was found some time later with geraniums planted in it.
In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens left a trail of road kill in every series. In the Eastern Conference Finals between the Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers, he obliterated Flyers forward Eric Lindros with a crushing open ice hit (it would be the last game Lindros would ever play for the Flyers). In the Cup Finals, he demolished Paul Kariya with another open ice hit that left Kariya limp and unconscious for several minutes. Although these hits are legendary, we still get a little queasy when we see them.
The biggest coaching screw up in Cup history was in 1979. The Boston Bruins were leading 4-3 in the third period with two minutes left. Bruins coach Don Cherry sent too many men on the ice and got called for a penalty. The Montreal Canadiens tied the game on the ensuing power play and then won the Cup in overtime. Rest easy Brad Childress.
Members of the New York Islanders sported the first Playoff Beard in the 1980’s, and it started a follicle epidemic that has lasted for over thirty years. Much to the chagrin of their family members and employers, men all across the world now grow beards, mustaches, or sideburns if they have to partake in any sustained test of their manhood. And worse still was the escalation of the Playoff Beard into the Playoff Mullet, a form used if a man can’t grow a full beard.
And that leads to the 2009 Playoff Mullet worn by Chicago Blackhawk’s Patrick Kane. Rest easy Billy Ray Cyrus.