Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Game 1 of the 1993 Stanley Cup final between the Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings.
The Canadiens won the series in five games, but haven’t won another Cup since.
Over the next 10 days, we’ll let you relive that series on HIO by re-publishing some of the articles and columns by Red Fisher and Michael Farber, who covered the series for The Gazette.
Below are three articles/columns that were written on the eve of Game 1 in 1993:
(Photo by John Mahoney/The Gazette)
Demers plays it cool before start of final
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON MAY 31, 1993
BY RED FISHER
It’s don’t-rock-the-boat time for coach Jacques Demers and his Canadiens awaiting the start of the Stanley Cup final with the Los Angeles Kings.
Peace, it’s wonderful.
Demers, for example, says he likes the Kings – all of ‘em.
He likes their coach, Barry Melrose. He loves Wayne Gretzky. He even likes tough guy Marty McSorley.
“McSorley is an impact player,” Demers said yesterday. “After Gretzky, McSorley may be their leader. We’re not going to intimidate Marty McSorley.”
Kirk Muller agrees.
“Marty and I were on opposite sides for our first junior games,” recalled Muller yesterday. “I was with Kingston, he was with Belleville. I’ve got to give that guy credit. He’s worked his tail off to become a player. He’s come a long way.”
Demers spent almost all of his time with the media yesterday saying the right things about the Kings, who are in the Stanley Cup final for the first time.
“Anybody who says this series is going to be easy simply doesn’t know what’s going on,” said Demers. “They’ve got guys on the team who’ve won the Stanley Cup. They’ve been there.
“There’s no question they have lots of players capable of putting the puck in the net. They’re capable of playing defence. They’ve got (Jari) Kurri. They’ve got (Tomas) Sandstrom and (Tony) Granato. They’ve got defencemen with an offensive jump. They’ve got some great young players on defence. Charlie Huddy is always there. (Kelly) Hrudey has played very well. The team is well-coached.
“Gretzky is alive,” he said, “and when he’s alive …”
The Great One was alive and extremely well on Saturday when his three goals and an assist led his associates to a 5-4 victory which eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the Campbell conference final.
“There’s only one team that has a Gretzky,” said Demers. “In the clutch, he’s maybe the greatest ever. This guy who was supposed to be out won two games for them against the Leafs. The Great One is still there for them. He came through when they needed him.”
Demers made it plain that one thing he wants to avoid during the series are off-ice distractions. That, he said, includes getting involved in screaming dialogues with Los Angeles coach Barry Melrose.
“I respect Barry,” he said. “I coached him for one year in Cincinnati. He wasn’t a great player, but he always defended his teammates. He was in Adirondack when I coached in Detroit. Every time a player would come up from there, he’d be well prepared. I know what he stands for. He’s a blue-collar, honest, sincere guy. He doesn’t think he’s more than that.
“Hockey is an emotional game,” said Demers, “so I can’t predict what can happen three games from now. But when you have mutual respect, there’s no problems. I’d like to continue that way.”
The Kings-Maple Leafs series wasn’t without its off-ice sideshows. Near the end of Game 1, for example, Toronto coach Pat Burns stormed toward Melrose in a threatening manner. A Toronto-Montreal final almost surely would have provided similar distractions.
“I’m not sure that Los Angeles will be less of a circus than Toronto would have been,” said Guy Carbonneau yesterday. “It’s the first time they’ve been in the Stanley Cup final. They’re used to baseball and football finals, but I’m sure (Kings owner) Bruce McNall will do his best to make sure everyone knows there’s hockey in L.A.
“Against Toronto, there would have been all that other stuff. Toronto and Montreal, the English city against the French city. And I’m sure Burns would have been stirring things up.”
The Canadiens put on their playoff face yesterday, and what that means is a late-afternoon practice. Then, it’s moving into a hotel, followed by a team dinner.
Hats off to hockey: Wayne’s World at forum
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 1, 1993
There were no red-white-blue faces in the streets yesterday. No Go Habs Go signs in downtown office windows. No cheap T-shirts with catchy slogans like Three-Peat or We Are Family. No team video on the TV. No Terrible Towels or even Demers Doilies.
Not for hockey.
If Jean Dore offers to bet two dozen platters of smoked meat against a barrel of tofu or whatever it is the mayor of Los Angeles thinks the locals eat, he might be kicked out of city hall even before the election.
There are almost no visual clues here, nothing screaming THIS IS IT. If you didn’t know better, you could hardly guess the Canadiens and the Kings start the Stanley Cup final tonight.
Of course, you do know better. That’s the point. There will be a few CHs painted on cheeks and the normal complement of Canadiens sweaters in the Forum seats tonight, which is fun and increases the chances of getting on camera. It’s OK. You can do it if you want, but it never has been necessary in Montreal.
You don’t have to wear on your cheek what you already carry in your heart.
“When I played in the (1991) final in Minnesota, it was like a city had been captivated,” Brian Bellows said. “It was like Oscar night. There was a big party atmosphere. Two radio stations had set up in the (Met Centre) parking lot and people were out there before the game, barbecueing, partying. You saw all the painted faces.
“Here the people are glad we’re making a good run at it, and they’re excited of course, but it’s like ‘Let’s see how it all turns out.’ There it was ‘Wow, we won the first round.’ `Wow, we won the second round.’ `Wow, we’re in the finals.’ ”
Montreal is behaving like it’s been here before. After 23 Cups and 32 appearances in the finals by the Canadiens, it knows the protocol. Los Angeles swallows Olympics and Super Bowls whole, but Kings owner Bruce McNall swears there is Stanley Cup fever – hockey a go-go. If there is, it will be a phenomenon. Here it is part of the fabric. The Stanley Cup final is always a welcome visitor – especially in a regular season that ended with doubts – but it never is treated as a surprise guest.
Of course, it takes a little pretense. There are two ways to look at this: 1) Montreal has won just one Cup since 1979; or 2) the Canadiens have been in the final three times in the past eight years and never gone more than seven seasons since the Second World War without winning.
The city has adopted the second point of view. After dynasties on Long Island, Edmonton and an aborted one in Pittsburgh, the Stanley Cup no longer is a birthrite. Mayor Jean Drapeau’s famous press release – (“The Stanley Cup parade will take place on its usual route”) – is treasured because it is from an old family album, capturing an era long past.
The Canadiens still have good teams, but now they are like the dowager who has seen her glory fade but insists on dressing for dinner and setting the table with fresh linen. No matter how unlikely Kings-Canadiens seemed six weeks ago, it’s nice to keep up appearances.
Montreal surrendered its divine right to a parade, but it always has retained its hockey sophistication. Savvy fans. Smart Stanley Cup looters. When all hell broke loose on St. Catherine St. after the Canadiens won the 1986 Cup on a Saturday night in Calgary – the infamous Gucci Riot – the mob whipped right past the Mom-and-Pop stores and headed straight for the classy boutiques.
On the ice or on the rampage, Montreal can spot quality.
The Stanley Cup final is Montreal at its best. Often this is an insecure city, sensitive to being seen through a looking glass by outsiders, racked by mistrust when viewed from inside through the language prism that distorts everything. A Cup final gives Montreal back its confidence because this is what the city does better than any place in the world. The Canadiens-Kings series deadens all those frayed nerves, provides something everyone can agree on.
“I haven’t seen this much interest in a final,” said Canadiens president Ronald Corey. “It’s certainly bigger than 1986. Maybe it’s because we were supposed to lose to Quebec (in the first round) and we showed people that this is a better hockey team than they thought. Or maybe it’s because the economy is so bad and everyone can see it free on TV, and it makes them happy because they love the game.
“We stick to hockey, and people appreciate that. I don’t blame other teams because you have to promote to your market, but there are no gimmicks. We are going to have a ceremony introducing the players before Game 1 and there will be something to note the Cup centennial, but basically they’re fans. Like me. They just want the puck to be dropped.”
There are no shark fins for the power play, no rolling tires at the net between periods, no grocery giveaways. If Elvis wants to leave this building, he won’t get back into the Forum without a stub.
But there have been concessions. The organ is gone, and da-da-da- Da-Da-da-Charge! has been replaced by electronic noise. Suddenly O Canada is being cheered raucously – can we make up our minds on this one, people? – the way the Star-Spangled Banner is in Chicago Stadium.
“For me, it’s the people who have played who made the building,” said Pierre Bouchard, the former defenceman and Radio Canada analyst whose father, Butch, was the Canadiens captain. This is a Stanley Cup family. They have nine between them. “When I think of the Forum, I think of painted bricks – they’re white now – downstairs along de Maisonneuve and Closse. That’s where I waited for my father after games. I’d see Maurice Richard’s father there.
“You hear people talk about ghosts and the temple, but for me it’s those bricks. This was between 1955 and 1960 when I was going as a kid, and the Canadiens were winning every year. I think that explains how people in Montreal are now. There is a mentality of winning many of them grew up with, an expectation the team would put their shoulders to the wheel and get the job done.”
So it is now. No Muller Maniacs or Damphousse’s Doughboys. This is the Stanley Cup with just the basic options package. Montreal will not mock Los Angeles for being a hockey dilettante. (We will, however, offer to swap weather and celebrities and throw in a second-round draft pick.) The Kings, like any Forum guest (other than Hartford) will be treated with respect and maybe even some reverence because this is where Wayne Gretzky plays. He is hockey royalty. Montreal is honored to have him.
But none of that affects the feeling the Canadiens will win the series in five, six at the outside. Montreal has developed an arrogance about this Canadiens team and like having the Cup final, it just feels right.
The Stanley Cup final will become life and death for a lot of very demonstrative people in Los Angeles. It could never be that here. In Montreal, the Stanley Cup is just life.
Who’ll stop Great One?
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON MAY 31, 1993
The Canadians are seeking their 24th Stanley Cup title as they go against Wayne Gretzky and the L.A. Kings tomorrow.
What’s to be done with The Great One?
Kirk Muller, who inherits the job of trying to lock up Wayne Gretzky in the Canadiens-Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup final starting tomorrow night at the Forum, says it probably can’t be done by one player.
“I went against (Joe) Sakic in the Quebec series,” said Muller yesterday. “I got (Pat) LaFontaine in the Buffalo series. (Pierre) Turgeon was my guy against the Islanders.
“They’re all flashier than I am,” Muller said. “They’ve probably got better skills. I made up my mind that the only way to handle them was to be an all-round better player. I think I managed to do that,” he said.
“It’s altogether different now,” Muller said. “Sakic, LaFontaine and Turgeon are great players but Wayne … he’s one step higher. What I’m saying is that I don’t think one guy can do it. It may have to be a line.”
“Well, he’s Wayne,” Muller said.
Gretzky was all Wayne and roses on Saturday when his three goals and an assist provided the Kings with a 5-4 victory in the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup semi-final against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Until Gretzky came through with what he described as “the sweetest moment of my career,” all of Canada had been looking forward to what was certain to be a highly emotional Stanley Cup final involving the Canadiens and Maple Leafs for the first time since 1967.
Gretzky, who had struggled now and then in the playoffs, spoiled the party with his offensive outburst.
He and the Kings arrived in Montreal yesterday afternoon awaiting tomorrow’s start of the best-of-seven showdown for hockey’s highest prize.
This is the first time the Kings have reached the Stanley Cup final since entering the National Hockey League for a $2-million fee in 1967. The Canadiens are in pursuit of their 24th Stanley Cup. They won their 23rd in 1986.
The Canadiens and Kings go into the series with contrasting styles. After an 84-game regular season during which the Canadiens were dedicated to offence, they’ve now gone back to their strongest suit – defence. They needed only 15 games in three best-of-seven series with Quebec, Buffalo and the New York Islanders to get to the final. The explosive Kings, on the other hand, needed 19 games to get beyond Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.
Muller doesn’t expect any surprises in tomorrow night’s opener – from Gretzky or from the Kings, as a team.
“They’re a team that just goes for it,” he said. “They like shootout hockey. They take more chances than most teams. Obviously, that’s not the way we want to play our game.
“I know the Kings are gonna go for it,” Muller said. “They’re gonna make things happen, and it doesn’t matter if they have to gamble to do it. That’s been their style all season,” he said. “It’s been their style during the playoffs, and they’re not going to change it now. They can’t, even though they’ve shown us some good defence when they needed it.”
“They’re not afraid,” Muller continued. “They’re confident – and why wouldn’t they be after winning the deciding game of the series away from home? They’ve shown a tremendous amount of character getting here, up to and including the game on Saturday.
“Look what they’ve had to do in the last few days. They’ve been flying back and forth from Los Angeles to Toronto and still got the job done. I’m impressed.”
The Kings were trailing the series 3-2 then evened it with a 5-4 victory in overtime (Gretzky scored) in Los Angeles on Thursday. The teams returned to Toronto for Saturday’s finale, where Gretzky demonstrated how winners do things in Wayne’s world.
“Like I said, he’s Wayne,” Muller said. “We … all of us, are going to have to watch him all the time. We’ve got to keep him away from the puck as much as possible. Give him room, and well … look what he did against the Leafs on Saturday.”
While Muller and, as he suggests, others have to be concerned with Gretzky, the Canadiens’ centreman makes it plain that the Kings can’t be allowed to dictate the style of the games.
“No matter what Gretzky and the Kings do, we pretty much have to wait for our chances,” Muller said.
“We’ve been playing well defensively all through the playoffs,” he said. “Everyone on the team is pretty well aware of how to play defensively, even though we spent a lot of time on offence during the regular season. This is different. It’s the playoffs. If we hadn’t played so well defensively, we wouldn’t be here.”