Saturday, March 6, 2010

Roy, Melrose and Blake on '93 Finals

It was perhaps the highpoint in franchise history. The Kings had made the Stanley Cup Finals.

What a season - Gretzky had been out hurt for much of the first half, Luc Robitaille was called upon to wear the 'C', an eccentric rookie coach was leading the team from behind the bench...and low and behold, fan favorite Jimmy Carson returned to the team. He arrived back in LA via a trade with the Red Wings that sent #99's good friend Paul Coffey to Detroit - causing a several week rift between the Great One and then Kings owner Bruce McNall.

The success, the fun, the excitement of 1993 will forever be marred by the incident. Call it StickGate or whatever you want. Nearly everybody finds it impossible to talk about the Finals that year without mentioning Marty McSorley's illegal stick in the second game.

With the Kings already up in the series 1-0, they were leading game 2 late in the third period. Jacques Demers, the desperate Canadiens coach at that point, called for a stick measurement with less than two minutes to play.

In a recent interview I asked former Kings defenseman Rob Blake if that was the turning point in the in the series:

"I think it's the most publicized turning point of that series. I don't know if it was the real turning point. I mean if you look, we were still up by a goal when that happened. We should have been able to put the game away. We should have been able to kill that off. They scored it overtime. They won three games in a row in overtime. I think Desjardins, LeClair and LeClair. wasn't just that we lost that game. The next two games were very close too. The series ended up 4-1 and in the fifth game they kinda took it to us. There were a lot of different key points, but I think the stick incident will always be the most talked about just because it gave them that power play late, late in the game."

Kings netminder for the series, Kelly Hrudey, had a few interesting takes on things when he spoke at the Kings HockeyFest back in August. He claimed, according to rumors he heard, Montreal was planning to have the ref check his stick for possibly being illegal. However, a scout watching the Conference Finals noted the curve on Marty's stick. So, late in game two, it was Marty that Montreal went after. Hrudey said he remembers feeling the team was emotionally spent when they were in the locker room prior to overtime. He wasn't conceding the series, just thought they'd be going home 1-1...which the did. (click here to read the entire HockeyFest recap)

Former Kings coach Barry Melrose told the NY Times in a post game press conference that he didn't "believe in winning that way." The Times article said Melrose wouldn't have done such a thing to an opponent, that he would have tried to win with players only, not by appealing for equipment violations.

Perhaps lost in all of the drama surrounding the stick situation were some of the antics of Hall of Fame (to be) goalie Patrick Roy. One of the most intriguing was his wink at Kings forward Tomas Sandstrom.

Roy had this to say to Sports Illustrated regarding the infamous wink:

"Always Sandstrom is in my crease, bothering me, hitting at me when I have the puck. When I made the save on Robitaille, Sandstrom hit me. So I winked. I wanted to show him I'd be tough. That I was in control."

More than 15 years have passed. Although the '93 Finals will probably forever be mentioned when these two teams play in the future, the reality is that game and that time frame are well in the past.

The Kings organization has new leadership, new players...and the fans have new hope. All involved are hoping the future of the Kings will forever trump their troubled past.

The Mayor


Exclusive interviews with:
Luc Robitaille
Rob Blake
Kelly Hrudey

Interview with Robb Stauber - the man who battled Hrudey in net during the Kings '92-93 season
Interview with Gary Shuchuk - Kings playoff hero in 1993

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