Much is being written, understandably so, about “the goal”- Patrick Kane’s Cup-winner on Wednesday night against the Flyers.
There’s no question it was an odd way to end a sometimes stirring playoff spring, but it’s not the first time there was uncertainty as the winning team was celebrating -- and I’m not just referring to Brett Hull’s ‘toe in the crease goal’ for Dallas in 1999.
The particular 'odd goal' memory that comes to mind dates back to 1966.
I’ve written about Henri Richard on this site before. He was one of the great all-time Canadiens, winning an amazing 11 Stanley Cups, I think it was, in his lengthy career with Montreal.
He was small but rugged and he played the center position with a fearless edge. Those 11 Cups speak to the strength of the Montreal organization in that era, for sure, but also to Richard’s fierce desire to win. He was considered less offensively spectacular than his older brother Maurice -- the Rocket. But Henry's success enabled him to create his own unique legacy in Montreal hockey history.
All this said, one Cup that stands out for me was the one Henri and his teammates captured in the spring of 1966. Montreal was coming off a Cup season in 1965, and had polished off the Maple Leafs in four straight games in the semi-finals in the spring of 1966.
They were rested, maybe over-rested, when they took on the underdog Red Wings in the finals. The Wings had upset the powerful Chicago Black Hawks in the opening round in 6 tough games, and the series looked to be heavily slanted in Montreal’s favor.
But in the opening two games at the Forum in Montreal, Detroit goaltender Roger Crozier stood on his head. He played as good as you can possibly play, making acrobatic save after acrobatic save. In modern times we talk about athletes being “in the zone”. I remember those games well and Crozier was in some kind of zone. He stole those games. (The picture we've included above shows Crozier in action against Richard at the Olympia. The other Red Wing in the photo is Doug Barkley, who later suffered a career-ending eye injury and did not play in the playoffs that spring)
Now, to be clear, while Detroit was the underdog they still had some weapons themselves. They were built around Gordie Howe, Alex Delvechhio, Andy Bathgate (who put up big numbers in the playoffs) and Norm Ullman up front with veterans Bill Gadsby and Leo Boivin on defense. But they didn’t have Montreal’s overall depth.
(I shared a wonderful story from Andy Bathgate in an earlier post (click here to read the story) about what happened to the Red Wings between games 2 and 3 in that famous series. There were several days off between Games 2 and 3 and the Wings lost their edge, as Andy explained in that post.)
In Game 3 in Detroit, Crozier was no longer “in the zone” and then was injured, replaced by veteran back-up Hank Bassen. The Habs stole control of the series, winning twice in Detroit, though Crozier did return. Montreal won Game 5 back at the Forum to lead the series three games to two.
In Game 6 in Detroit, the Wings battled and the game went into overtime. I could not see the game on TV (the only region in Canada that couldn’t see the game) because, as I have written in the past, I lived on the Canadian side of the Detroit border and the games were blacked out because Detroit owned the territorial rights. They wanted people to go to the games, not see them for free on TV.
So keep in mind that I did not see the game live, though I have seen film highlights and still-photos many times since.
In overtime, Montreal scored the winner when Richard was apparently hauled down as he was driving to the Detroit net. I can't recall just now if it was a rebound, or a puck was that shot by a teammate (readers following the site may have the real answer) but as he was sliding along on his stomach, the puck bounced off him and into the net behind Crozier.
I’ve always claimed to my buddies who were Montreal fans that Henri obviously kicked it in as he slid by Crozier and the goal should never have counted. There was no official “replay” in those days, no ability to "go upstairs"and the referee had to make an instant decision, right or wrong.
Story has it that Montreal coach Toe Blake wondered himself what had happened, but was taking no chances. He ordered his confused players out on to the ice to celebrate the victory, thinking that the ref couldn’t very well change the call once his team was celebrating a Cup victory.
I still don’t know how that puck went in. But it did. (In a way, just like Kane's goal.) I was listening to the game on the radio and as I hated the Habs back then, it was a bitter blow to me personally.
But it was elation for the Canadiens, and another painful Cup finals loss for the Wings, who made trips to the finals in 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1966- and never won the Cup.
So as Chicago now celebrates a no doubt much-appreciated and well-earned Cup season, when we talk about odd Cup-winning goals, Kane’s marker will likely be remembered, just as some of us older guys remember Henri’s winner in 1966.