Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Game 1 of the 1993 Stanley Cup final between the Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings.
Over the next week and a half we will let you relive that series by re-publishing articles/columns that appeared in The Gazette in 1993 by Red Fisher and Michael Farber, who were covering the final.
Here’s a look back at Game 1, which the Kings won 4-1 in Montreal:
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)
Habs ‘brutal’ in loss to Kings
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 2, 1993
J.J. Daigneault was talking about ‘hurt’. Or, more precisely, the lack of it.
“It’s got to hurt more in this room,” he sighed with a trace of bitterness in the minutes after this 4-1 wipeout. “It’s got to hurt a lot more.”
What he was really saying about this Stanley Cup embarrassment is that for one reason or another too many of his associates missed the team bus.
“Brutal,” said Kirk Muller. “They beat us at our own game. They were better in their own end than we were in ours’.”
It’s an accurate assessment of whatever it was that went on in the start of this best-of-seven Stanley Cup final – all of which takes nothing away from the excellence the Kings. They were splendid as a team only three days after disposing of the Toronto Maple Leafs in their seven-game Campbell Conference final.
Put it this way: the Kings won by three on two goals by Luc Robitaille, who had nine of his team’s 38 shots, and others by Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky. They were better than their three-goal margin, which included Gretzky’s empty-net goal. Much better.
Ed Ronan was credited with the Canadiens’ goal – only because Gretzky deflected the puck beyond Kelly Hrudey. Gretzky, however, more than made up for his gaffe by assisting on the three remaining Los Angeles goals.
This wasn’t merely a matter of one team finding a little more in the tank than the opposition. The reality is that except for the first half-dozen minutes of the second period, the Canadiens weren’t in the Kings’ class.
At least 50 minutes of this wipeout belonged to the Kings, and the little the Canadiens brought to the arena was handled easily by Hrudey.
The Canadiens, it’s safe to say , were fortunate to come out of the first period with a tie, despite the 11 shots by each team. What’s also certain is that at least part of their problems were self-inflicted.
Example: teams armed with the luxury of an eight-day rest should skate miles to avoid providing the opposition with a power-play advantage fewer than three minutes into the game – particularly a team with the explosive potential of the Kings. In this case, the only skating was by Lyle Odelein – directly to the penalty box for holding.
Twenty-one seconds later, Robitaille slipped one beyond Patrick Roy with a shot from behind the goal-line. The puck struck Roy’s arm and fell several inches over the line.
Roy probably would have liked another crack at that one, but mark this down: anything less than Roy’s brilliance from that point onward would have left the Canadiens reeling en route to one of the playoffs’ strangest goals – or luckiest.
There were fewer than two minutes left in the period when Ronan, racing along the boards, tossed the puck into the slot area toward an onrushing Paul DiPietro, who’d been stopped brilliantly by Hrudey earlier. Gretzky got to the pass first – just in time to steer the puck beyond Hrudey, who had left more than enough room on his right side sliding toward DiPietro.
“Patrick did his job,” said Muller. “We didn’t do any part of ours’. He kept us in the game in the first period when we didn’t really deserve to be in it. He kept us in most of the game, but we didn’t do a damned thing with it.”
What Muller meant was that things didn’t get better as the game wore on, largely because they tried to play the Kings’ game and, as Muller had mentioned, Los Angeles was better defensively than the Canadiens.
How much did the Kings dominate in, let’s say, the second period?
Midway through the period, the Canadiens held a 20-14 margin in shots. In the final 10 minutes, the Kings outshot them, 17-1.
Roy had to perform several minor miracles to hold off the Kings before Robitaille scored his second of the night with fewer than three minutes remaining in the period. He was huge on Marty McSorley. He took one away from Gary Shuchuk. He snatched a Robitaille shot out of the air.
He was turned inside out on a couple of occasions, flopping and spinning in his crease – yet still managed to keep the puck out of the net. He was, in a few words, the only reason the Canadiens weren’t embarrassed in the period – so what’s going on here?
What was going on was that the Kings held a 2-1 lead going into the final period, yet at the time were at least three goals better on a night when the Canadiens were made to look as bad as they can get.
It doesn’t get worse, for example, than Patrice Brisebois losing the puck behind his net less than two minutes into the third period. There’s Kurri alone in front of Roy – and there’s the cushion the Kings were seeking on this night.
“The way we were playing,” muttered Daigneault, “we couldn’t even push one of their guys into a corner. What were we thinking of?
“I know it’s only the first game,” he said. “I hope it’s the last one we play that way.”
Local boy Robitaille lays some Forum spirits to rest
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 2, 1993
There is a ghost in the Forum, and he lives in section 212. Just below the whites, naturally. The apparition came out with four minutes left in the second period after Patrick Roy made a glove save, flapping his arms to summon the spirits of Canadiens’ Stanley Cups past to get a load of this.
The Los Angeles Kings shouldn’t have been able to miss any guy who was at least one sheet to the wind, but Luc Robitaille swears he did.
Of course, he had seen the real thing in the morning. During the Kings skate, he looked over into the stands and saw Henri Richard in the flesh. The Pocket is one amazing ghost. Henri Richard is the reason Montreal children learn how to count from one to 11. To stop at 10 would miss one of his Stanley Cups.
“I looked over there and saw Henri Richard and Steve Shutt,” Robitaille said last night. “I know Henri Richard. I know what he’s done. I know Henri and Shutt got where they are by working hard. I knew then that I would come out and work hard tonight because they always did, and I didn’t want to come here and not do that in front of them. I didn’t want them to think that about me. There are big legends watching those games. Maurice Richard. Those guys were big.”
That torch is thrown from failing hands in Montreal, and occasionally it lands in the lap of the other guys. Luc Robitaille, who grew up 25 minutes from the Forum in Decarie Expressway traffic, lit the lamp twice last night and the Kings eased to a 4-1 victory over the other Homeboys in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
Wayne Gretzky toyed with Montreal – it was Jacques Demers’s verb – and had two goals and three assists. Of course one of the goals was past Kelly Hrudey and into his own net; His Greatness just didn’t give the Canadiens enough offence.
But the night belonged to Robitaille. His rink. His dream. He proved you can go home again – as long as you come up with 16 tickets.
His father, Claude, who works in auto parts in Laval, was there. His mother, Madeleine, also made it to the Forum, and that certainly was a bigger upset than the Canadiens finally losing their first playoff game on the sacred pond.
Madeleine doesn’t have a particularly high tolerance for Lord Stanley. During the Game 6 overtime of Kings-Maple Leafs series, she went into the bathroom at home and turned on the water. Then she switched on the fan. Madeleine didn’t want to know as Gretzky turned into Johnny-on-the-spot that night.
But you can’t escape it. The hockey is everywhere and without an appreciation of his home and his hometown heroes, Robitaille wouldn’t be the player he is.
“I played here when I was eight years old,” said Robitaille, who was part of the youth hockey and cultural program that retiring Canadiens’ vice-president Jean Beliveau championed. “I remember looking up in the stands and thinking how huge this building is. I was thinking, this is it. I was like in heaven. Sometimes you don’t realize just how lucky you are. You have to remember how you grew up.”
Robitaille grew up with the Canadiens of Cournoyer, Lafleur, Shutt, Lemaire. He grew up with Stanley Cups. His bed time was nine o’clock, and his parents would shoo him off to bed after one period. Robitaille must have seen Ken Dryden make a lot of big saves to keep the Canadiens in early.
The Canadiens should have enforced a Robitaille curfew. He scored early, banking a shot from behind the net off Patrick Roy at 3:13 of the first period. And he scored way too late, another power-play goal with two minutes left in the second period that broke a 1-1 tie. This was demonstrably after that sappy tribute to the Maple Leafs on Coach’s Corner, and somebody should ground little Luc for a month. Gretzky said Robitaille’s goals were crucial and surely they were, not only for Los Angeles but for a local boy who has had a spotty playoff but was dying to do good.
“This is the one guy the building means the most to,” Kings coach Barry Melrose said. “The rest of us aren’t from Montreal, aren’t from Quebec. Lucky is just fired up being here. He’s not sleeping. He’s dreaming. I haven’t seen him speaking this much French all season. I didn’t know he remembered it.”
But you don’t lose your language, and the Forum lives in your genetic memory if you have seen the banners and skated on its ice as a boy. Someone asked Robitaille if he could compare himself to Henri Richard, and Robitaille shook his head and smiled.
Lucky Luc is only 11 Stanley Cups away.
“You’re not a champion until you win a Stanley Cup,” Robitaille said. He might be in Los Angeles, but his hockey values haven’t gone Hollywood.
McSorley more than a thug
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 2, 1993
The first time the Edmonton Oilers got a look at Marty McSorley almost a decade ago, Mark Messier decided to give him a little multiple choice quiz: a) left fist or, b) right fist.
McSorley cleaned the ice with him.
So they were dispatched to the penalty box where Messier chirped for two minutes as McSorley, a kid, stared at his skates. When they emerged, Messier pursued McSorley again and took another beating.
Pat Conacher, the Los Angeles Kings penalty-killer who now kills them in McSorley’s honor, was an Edmonton spare at the time. He would ride the stationary bike after games, nightly sweat, and he was witness to this (slightly edited) private conversation.
Glen Sather: “That stupid goon McSorley went after Messier. What a jerk.”
Ted Green: “Damn right.”
Sather: “He’s an idiot.”
Green: “Damn right.”
Sather: “Gotta get him.”
That is how legends are born, but this is how legends grow. Sather got his man and kept him until 1988 when he went with Wayne Gretzky to the Kings. Owner Bruce McNall says it was harder landing McSorley than Gretzky. While McNall negotiated by phone with Peter Pocklington, Gretzky – who was in McNall’s office unbeknownst to the Edmonton boss – insisted, sotto voce, the Kings stand firm, that they get McSorley. Finally McNall told Pocklington, “I’m about to pay you $15 million, and you don’t want to throw in a thug?”
Gretzky began the assault last night by the Oilers Alumni Association on the Stanley Cup. These are the old hands on a young team. Jari Kurri came back from Finland to join Gretzky in the hockey capital of the world – everybody wants to play with Wayne, to go to the beach and get overpaid by McNall in American dollars – and it is his name that will be most often linked with His Greatness. But McSorley has been the most steadfast, maybe even indispensible. He has been Gretzky’s companion and bodyguard, a 6- foot-1, 225-pound Do Not Disturb sign.
Of course, McSorley also has benefited from the relationship.
“I’ve gotten a lot of free meals, and I’ve met some of Janet’s (Janet Jones, Mme. Gretzky’s) friends,” McSorley said, rolling his bloodshot eyes.
McSorley shields Gretzky, but this is a two-way deal. When a reporter asked if McSorley thought he had come a long way since feeling out of place at the 1991 Canada Cup training camp – OK, it was me, and it was asked because in a moment of self-deprecation McSorley once hinted at it – Gretzky interjected, “I don’t believe a guy who led the league in plus-minus on a fourth-place team should have a reason to feel out of place at Canada Cup.”
Take that, dummy.
This isn’t the old Marty McSorehead. Not that his 399 penalty minutes in 1992-93 necessarily disqualify him, but he is so much more than McNall’s favorite thug. In his own way McSorley is as unique in his talent as Gretzky. He can play it rough, lead the rush from the back, work the point on power plays, play right wing, score. Bob Probert is tougher and a better scorer, but he would be lost on the blue line.
“Marty’s the best defenceman in the league right now,” said Kings coach Barry Melrose.
What do you think of that, Marty?
“Uh, I never second-guess the coach.”
He was smiling.
“I remember Marty in Baltimore,” said Melrose, who coached in the American Hockey League. “He was the toughest guy I ever saw. He also couldn’t play much. He worked at it. When I coached him this year, I realized he’s a much better player than I thought.”
Chris Nilan used to be the patron saint of goons who aspired to something more, but McSorley has gone miles beyond Knuckles. McSorley started the Toronto series by laying out Doug Gilmour with an elbow and ended it by feathering a pass on a two-on-one, a play no caveman makes.
McSorley always has seemed to understand life, but through an appetite for work and some excellent teaching, he mastered the game.
Still, there are those who yearn for the good old days.
“He’s not their scariest player,” sniffed Lyle Odelein, the Canadiens rambunctious defenceman. “I think he picks his spots. Real tough guys, like Probert, don’t. They’ll go with anyone. When we played L.A. this season I tried, but McSorley didn’t act interested. He got 400 minutes, but how many of those were 10′s (misconducts)? He’s a good player, but as a tough guy, I wouldn’t put him in the top 10 in the league.”
Odelein said he is ready to tangle with McSorley any time. He might have to go through Gretzky first.