As told to: Steve MatthesWe had a really good start to the 1992-93 season, even though we were missing Gretzky for the first three months. He had that terrible back and we didn’t know if he was going to make it back or if it was even going to be a career-ending injury.
I got off to a great start but around December, and for a full two months after, I went into the worst slump of my career. I was terrible. I went from being okay to the worst goalie in the NHL without question. So finally, with the help of my coach Barry Melrose, he introduced me to Anthony Robbins. I was able to work with Anthony personally and right my career and find the mental toughness that somehow I had lost. And Wayne rejoined us in January. We started playing really well again in February and March.
I know our record wasn’t great but there were signs we were coming on. We got through a really tough first round playoff series against the Calgary Flames. Luckily for us, Mike Vernon sprained his ankle in one of the early games and he missed, I think, the last two or three games. So with that benefit we were able to move on.
Then we ended up playing a really good Vancouver Canucks team in the second round. I mentioned to Wayne that I thought that this series was the best hockey our team ever played. We were able to get through them in six games. I wasn’t surprised the following year when Vancouver went to the Cup, I thought so highly of them.
But Wayne didn’t agree. He said that he thought the best hockey we played was the next series versus the Leafs. It was a little bit more defensive but maybe that’s why I think the Vancouver series was so unique and special and must have been amazing for the fans to watch. It was two outrageously powerful, highly skilled teams exchanging chance after chance. It was really thrilling hockey to be a part of.
So after the Leafs it was on to the Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens. We got off to a great start and won the first game 4-1 in Montreal. That was a really cool experience going back to one of the iconic buildings — the Montreal Forum. We had a 2-1 lead with a minute-something to go in the third period of game two in Montreal.
My first thought was, “Great, it’s going to be on me. They’re going to measure my goalie stick.”
We could tell in their eyes, every athlete knows this feeling, when you look in your opponent’s eyes and you can see that they’ve lost hope.
Unfortunately for us a penalty was called against (Marty McSorley) for an illegal stick. They ended up tying the game and won in overtime.
My first thought was, “Great, it’s going to be on me. They’re going to measure my goalie stick.” Because every single practice, especially on the road, after our morning skate was over I would leave a broken goalie stick that had an illegal blade around the bench for the other team to find. I usually used an illegal stick the first two periods of every game. In the third period I’d switch to a legal stick that I had marked differently so only I knew which was legal and which ones weren’t. None of my teammates knew in case they were traded they would of course know which would be a legal or illegal stick.
I heard all these theories on how the Canadiens knew Marty’s stick wasn’t legal but I just know from a goaltender’s standpoint my job was to stop the puck on the power play and I didn’t.
We ended up losing in five games, three of them in overtime. But we really had a great team. Still to this day, and I can’t speak for all of my teammates, but that is my worst hockey memory of all. Losing in the Final is just a horrible feeling and one that I just haven’t gotten over yet.
This is an excerpt from the Pulp Hockey Podcast. Head on over to http://www.pulphockey.com/ to listen to the whole thing or subscribe to the show on iTunes/Stitcher
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