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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)

Top 10 Embarrassing Moments (cont.)

Hockey so full of humiliation, it's hard to stop at 10

5. The cancellation of the 2004-05 season

The lockout of 1994-95 merely squashed all the momentum the NHL had gained from the Rangers' fabulous playoff run that ended their Stanley Cup drought of 54 years, a buzz-kill of the highest order. This lockout, a decade later, wiped out an entire season, marking the first time the Stanley Cup was not presented since 1919, when the worldwide Spanish influenza cut short the final between the Seattle Metropolitans and the Canadiens. The inability of labor and management to divvy up what was then a $2.1 billion business, an intransigence that cost jobs within the NHL and associated industries, was shameful, although it did open a door to the "new NHL" -- shootouts, more penalties, a less constipated style of play.

The resultant salary cap produced an exciting seven-game series between Carolina and Edmonton in 2006, a nontraditional market in the southeast and an Alberta team. Of course, if you didn't ponder it too hard, you could have been watching an "old NHL" final between Tampa Bay and Calgary, who came from the same places and had similar-style teams. (Other than the glut of five-on-threes, was the 2006 final really radically different from 2004's?)

The NHL argues that without a dark year, it wouldn't have had a chance to tweak the rules, set the new officiating standards, introduce something as unorthodox and pleasing as the shootout and reinvent itself. Maybe yes. Maybe no. Our guess is that the league could have done it by fiat. (Or, judging by what the players' parking lots look like, by Escalade.)

In any case, the NHL exceeded the revenue projections of $1.8 billion in 2005-06 to the point that it raised its salary cap from $39 million to $44 million and the salary floor from $21.5 million to $28 million for 2006-07, growth we assume is based on something more solid than those record attendance figures the NHL public-relations department trumpets every month. The league bases attendance not on fans in the seats or even tickets sold, but on something as mushy as tickets distributed. Isn't that embarrassing?

6. Patrick Roy's Statue of Liberty: May 29, 2002

Give us your tired, your poor, your cheapest of cheap goals. In Game 6 of the 2002 semifinals between Roy's Colorado Avalanche and the archrival Detroit Red Wings, Roy made a nifty glove save on Steve Yzerman early in the match. Then, as was his wont, Roy added a grace note, brandishing his glove like it was Lady Liberty's torch. The problem: When the most winning goaltender in the history of the NHL raised his trapper to show the Wings and the world his swell save, the puck tumbled out and trickled into his own net.

Fill in your own French's mustard joke here.

The Avalanche would go on to lose 2-0, then capitulated 7-0 in Game 7 as the Wings went on to defeat Carolina handily in the final.

7. The Boston Garden blackout: May 24, 1988

During the second period of Game 4 of the 1988 final between Edmonton and the Bruins, the power failed in decrepit Boston Garden. Why? Maybe the hamsters operating the generator got tired of running around their wheels. In any event, with the Oilers having won the first three games of the series -- the score in Game 4 was 3-3 when the building went dark -- NHL president John Ziegler aborted the game and said it would be replayed in Edmonton.

So to continue this foregone conclusion of a series, everyone had to troop two time zones west, including the sportswriters, many of whom had to pay to ride the Edmonton team charter. (Oilers boss Glen Sather knew the value of a buck.) It was during that ride that Wayne Gretzky, talking to a scrum of writers somewhere over the Midwest, offered the immortal line: "Is this Game 4A ... or Game 4, eh?" Edmonton would win the next match, whatever it was called. It would be Gretzky's last as an Oiler.

Of course, the blackout was not the NHL's fault. The power in that Causeway Street crypt could have blown during a Celtics playoff game or the circus or a concert. At any time, really.

The fact is, it didn't.

8. Ottawa apologizes: June 18, 1992

Now, as a national capital, Ottawa often has a lot to apologize for -- Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's six-and-five plan to whip inflation in the 1980s, the Sponsorship Scandal that wound up toppling a Liberal government -- but at the 1992 expansion draft, it was a franchised, embryonic Senators who felt obliged to apologize. Twice.

The man offering the apologies in a Montreal hotel ballroom was general manager Mel Bridgman, an ex-NHL player who was a graduate of Penn's renowned Wharton School. The man could crunch a number. Alas, he could also take a pratfall.

Now the details of the debacle have been obscured, and there are several versions of what went wrong that fateful day. The Senators' laptop wasn't functioning properly -- there was no outlet nearby and the battery was too weak -- and, at least according to legend, Bridgman's advisor, John Ferguson, had misplaced a hard copy of the team's draft list. (At this point, is it irony or piling on to mention that Ottawa is the high-tech capital of the country?) Bridgman, flying blind, twice tried to draft players who were ineligible, forcing him to utter words that have haunted the star-crossed franchise ever since: "Ottawa apologizes."

9. "Have another doughnut": May 1988

Caught on videotape and later paid homage in the form of cruller-crunching Officer Koharski in Wayne's World, the Jim Schoenfeld-Don Koharski contretemps in the 1988 playoffs was the China Syndrome of lows during John Ziegler's tenure.

Ah, the inhumanity. On May 6, 1988, after a Bruins-New Jersey playoff game, an incensed Schoenfeld, the coach of the losing Devils, confronted Koharski, the ref, in the runway that leads to the dressing rooms in the Meadowlands arena. His famous utterance, without the expletive, was: "Have another doughnut, you fat pig." (For five bonus points, next time you see the video, see if you can spot Larry Brooks, the estimable New York Post columnist, who was working for the Devils at the time.)

The NHL decided to suspend Schoenfeld for one game, a ruling that sent the Devils scurrying to court to seek relief. The court indeed issued an injunction that allowed Schoenfeld to coach, and the infuriated officials decided to stage a one-game strike.

But that was hardly the end of the story. Facing his biggest on-ice crisis -- as you might recall, the 1980s were a heady time of goals and glory -- Ziegler was nowhere to be found. He was AWOL for three days before finally resurfacing in Boston, holding a press conference in a Boston hotel in which he left no clues to his whereabouts while looking and sounding utterly -- to borrow a Schoenfeld reference -- glazed.

10. Too many men: May 11, 1979

Hockey is a game of fundamentals: skating, passing, shooting, counting. No matter how hard they tried in the dying moments of Game 7 of the 1979 Wales Conference final in the Montreal Forum, the Bruins just couldn't get to five skaters.

In a scene that resembled a Mack Sennett comedy, the hard-luck Bruins, holding a one-goal lead over the three-time Stanley Cup champions, kept jumping over the boards. The charade went on for at least five seconds, until the bench-minor penalty was assessed. To his credit, Bruins coach Don Cherry never complained about it, taking his medicine in the form of a power-play goal, Guy Lafleur's slap shot from the right wing (after a pass back from Jacques Lemaire) that tied the score in regulation. The Canadiens would win the game on Yvon Lambert's overtime goal.

Montreal, of course, extended its dynasty because of the too-many-men penalty, beating the Rangers for the Cup and, in the process, avoiding a major embarrassment that had occurred in Game 2. After New York won the first game, Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman planned to yank star goalie Ken Dryden in favor of Bunny Larocque. But during warmups before the second game, Doug Risebrough, now the Minnesota general manager, rang a shot off Larocque's mask -- a hockey solecism -- that knocked out the unfortunate backup goalie. Bowman had no choice but to reinsert Dryden, who won four straight.

25,851 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Top 10 Embarrassing Moments

Top 10 Embarrassing Moments

Hockey so full of humiliation, it's hard to stop at 10

The NHL's 10 most embarrassing moments since the 1967 expansion? You're kidding, right? The NHL doesn't usually do embarrassing, unless it's merely a quick stop to pick up a latte en route to full-blown humiliating.

This is an old-school league, if only because in its inappropriate moments it most resembles Frank the Tank. There is no professional sports league -- so endearing, so goofy (and we'll get back to that word later) -- that finds itself in so many Jeff Van Gundy-wrapped-around-a-leg situations, on and off the ice.

Because of the parameters of the discussion, we are arbitrarily excluding a) any shenanigans of the late, lamented World Hockey Association, a veritable laugh riot between 1972 and 1979, and b) any incidents that occurred in international hockey, which gets Olympic goalie Tommy Salo off the hook for ducking at the Belarus shot from outside the blue line that clanked off him and wound up in his net, derailing the powerful Swedes in the 2002 Olympics.

Nor was it easy whittling the list to the prescribed 10. Pending some kind of legal resolution and the NHL investigation, we have omitted the recent bookmaking scandal that ensnared Phoenix assistant coach Rick Tocchet and unceremoniously dragged Janet Gretzky's name into the headlines. Alan Eagleson's house union, more of a crime than an embarrassment, is just too diffuse for this kind of exercise.

On a lighter note, we also have left off former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard's request that Roger Neilson stroll out to the bench with a paper bag over his head, this after Ballard had fired and quickly rehired Neilson in 1979. (Both appear elsewhere on the list.)

And as much as it pains us to exclude them, the Oakland Seals' white skates, the expansion Washington Capitals, the track suit New York Rangers coach Jean-Guy Talbot wore behind the bench, the Hartford Whalers' Brass Bonanza theme song, pretty much the past 10 seasons of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks' Crayola V jerseys, the foot-in-the-crease rule, the Rodmanesque photos of Alexandre Daigle in a nurse's uniform and Doug Carpenter's incorrect lineup in his first game as Maple Leafs coach -- a sign in the Gardens that night read "Wait Til Next Year" -- also didn't make the cut.

Then again, neither did the Seals, Eagleson, Daigle nor Carpenter.

1. Steve Smith's own goal: April 30, 1986

This is the NHL's Bucknerian moment. In Game 7 of the 1986 divisional finals against the persistent Flames, the Edmonton Oilers' rookie defenseman, trying to clear the zone from behind his goal line, banked a puck off goalie Grant Fuhr's left leg and into the net at 5:19 of the third period. The final: Calgary 3, Oilers 2. Smith lay on the ice afterward, crestfallen.

While Edmonton had more than 14 minutes to tie the score and force overtime, Flames goalie Mike Vernon stoned them. The gaffe became the defining moment of Smith's career, but, like Buckner, he was a player of the first rank, a member of Canada's 1991 Canada Cup champion and a steady defender for Edmonton and later the Blackhawks.

The mistake -- again, like Buckner's -- was in the context as much as the commission. The Oilers, who had won the past two Stanley Cups, were poised for their third straight. They would have been overwhelming favorites in the finals against the rookie-laden Montreal Canadiens, who would go on to defeat the Flames in five games.

Edmonton would win the 1987 and '88 Cups, Smith's own goal having cost the Oilers a shot at five straight, an achievement that would have matched the 1956-60 Canadiens juggernaut. Five straight Cups would have redefined the history of those spectacular Edmonton teams, elevating them into hockey's pantheon: The 1980s Oilers might have been known as the game's most impressive dynasty rather than merely the most entertaining.

2. John Spano buys the New York Islanders: January 1997

The check was in the mail in the spring of 1997. Yeah, right. The $168 million deal collapsed like a tubercular soprano in the final act when Spano, a Dallas businessman and fraud artist who had snookered the league big time, actually had to pay up. This was a financial farce, an opera buffa reported splendidly by Newsday, a Long Island newspaper. Now, maybe the Spano mess wouldn't have happened if the NHL had spent more than $750 doing due diligence on Spano, who proved to be to scams what Pavarotti was to arias.

Spano was trundled off to the hoosegow, a place not unfamiliar to NHL suits. You could ice a power play with men of power and influence (or in the case of one, influence peddling) who have pleaded guilty and were sentenced, or are awaiting sentence, for their transgressions. In addition to Spano, the aforementioned Ballard was convicted of theft, fraud and tax evasion. Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall spent 57 months of his original 70-month sentence in stir for his fraud-related crimes. Buffalo Sabres owner and Adelphia founder John Rigas was convicted of conspiracy, bank and securities fraud. And former NHL president Clarence Campbell spent one symbolic day in jail and paid a $25,000 fine -- reportedly the league paid it for him -- when he was found guilty of conspiracy and influence peddling in what is known in Canada as the Sky Shops Affair.

Maybe these guys can't figure out how to get big TV numbers in the United States, but they have the perp walk down cold.

3. Marty McSorley's and Todd Bertuzzi's on-ice goonery: 2000, 2004

Sure, different years, different cases. But like a D. Wayne Lukas entry at the Kentucky Derby, they go so well together. McSorley and Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi and McSorley. The videos of the two incidents became so familiar after being shown in slow motion many times, you would have thought they had been shot by Abraham Zapruder. The incidents jerked hockey off the sports pages and into the national conversation -- and not in a good way. Whenever talk turns to hockey's basest instincts, the names McSorley and Bertuzzi always resurface.

First, McSorley. On Feb. 21, 2000, the Boston Bruins enforcer tried to perform what is thought to be modern medicine's first Sherwood lobotomy on the apparently unsuspecting Donald Brashear, who had whipped McSorley earlier in a fight in this ugly Bruins-Canucks game and didn't feel like a rematch as the dying seconds ticked away. McSorley stalked Brashear up the ice and took a baseball swing with his stick, striking Brashear in the head, poleaxing him. (A judge would reject McSorley's argument that he was trying to hit the Vancouver player in the shoulder.) A Canadian court found McSorley guilty of assault with a weapon.

Now, Bertuzzi. He was sticking up for his friend and captain, Markus Naslund, but given the consequences of his act the Vancouver right winger's attack on Colorado's Steve Moore was even more vicious than McSorley's. On March 8, 2004, Bertuzzi skated up from behind and sucker-punched Moore -- who had nailed Naslund with a questionable but unpenalized check in an earlier meeting -- and then drove his face into the ice. Whether the injuries occurred from the assault or the dogpile that landed on Moore is best left to the forensics folks, but the Avalanche player wound up with three broken vertebrae in his neck. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to assault in a plea bargain.

For a league that has fought to overcome its reputation for cartoonish violence, the two criminal assaults were disasters.

4. Philadelphia general manager Bob Clarke and "goofy" coach Roger Neilson: Dec. 21, 2000

The Reader's Digest abridged version of the story: Neilson is diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an indolent but deadly cancer, and he steps down for treatment, which includes a debilitating bone-marrow transplant. Recuperating more quickly than any man would have the right to, Neilson wants to resume as head coach, but Clarke declines.

A sad and delicate situation, but not inherently embarrassing.

Oops. In December 2000, on the Canadian sports network TSN, Clarke says this: "The Neilson situation was when Roger got cancer. That wasn't our fault. We didn't tell him to go get cancer. It's too bad that he did, and we feel sorry for him, but then he went goofy on us."

Clarke can have a tin ear at the best of times, but this time he took one of the most beloved figures in the game and, essentially, ridiculed him. The statement was insulting to Neilson, and insulting to anyone battling the dread disease. Forgetting the name of the player you are about to take in the first round of the 2006 draft, which Clarke did, is a brain cramp. Belittling Neilson was grossly insensitive.

(Remember, because we have excluded international hockey, Clarke's vicious hit that broke Valeri Kharlamov's ankle during the 1972 Summit Series gets a pass. Of course in Canada, many people see it as patriotic, not embarrassing.)

98 Posts
I would have to agree with all of those....a couple of others that quickly comes to mind....Ulf Samuelsson's cheap dirty hits on long list of players wrecking their knees like Cam Neely for well the Philly fan who jumped in the penalty box to take on Leafs tough guy Tie Domi.

6,099 Posts
I don't like Michael Farber at all, but I can't really argue with this list.

Patrick Roy's statue of liberty. :laugh: I remember that one like it was yesterday.

So does Detroit. I think the Avs could have won the Cup had he not done that,
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