The oral history of the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames: Part Two

Adam Proteau
Flames Oral History

In 1989, the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens competed in the Stanley Cup Final. It was one of the rare occasions the NHL’s two best regular-season teams collided in the championship round and the recent history between the two franchises – they had clashed in the Final two years prior, with the Habs emerging victorious – ratcheted up the tension before the series began. This time, however, the victor was different: Calgary won in six games and clinched the Cup on the road – the first time the storied Canadiens were ever defeated on home ice.

The Hockey News spoke to a selection of players and management members from that 1988-89 Flames team for an oral history of the 1989 Final – the last series to feature two Canadian squads squaring off for the Cup:

(This is part two of the Flames Oral History. To read part one, click here.)

GAMES FOUR AND FIVE: TURNING TABLES

The Flames were in the same position after three games in 1989 as they were in 1986: trailing the Habs two games to one and facing a crucial Game 4 in Montreal. Three years earlier, they lost the final two games. But their 4-2 win over the Canadiens May 21 – featuring two goals from Mullen and one from Gilmour – breathed new life into the dressing room and evened the Final at two games apiece.

By this point, the series began to burnish the legends of particular players in the Flames’ dressing room. Although Calgary could boast of employing future stars Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts (who both were in their early twenties), the 1989 Final was about the emergence of Gilmour and MacInnis, both of whom were just 25 years old and entering the prime of Hall of Fame careers.

TERRY CRISP Everybody always talks about Al MacInnis and his cannon shot. Yes, Al MacInnis had a cannon, but he also had a big pump step–around. He had a snapshot. He had a wrist shot. He could find either Nieuwendyk or Mullen for a tip-in or a one–timer off to the side. He was like a football quarterback. He had it all. Read more

The oral history of the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames: Part One

Adam Proteau
Flames oral history

In 1989, the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens competed in the Stanley Cup Final. It was one of the rare occasions the NHL’s two best regular-season teams collided in the championship round and the recent history between the two franchises – they had clashed in the Final two years prior, with the Habs emerging victorious – ratcheted up the tension before the series began. This time, however, the victor was different: Calgary won in six games and clinched the Cup on the road – the first time the storied Canadiens were ever defeated on home ice.

The Hockey News spoke to a selection of players and management members from that 1988-89 Flames team for an oral history of the 1989 Final – the last series to feature two Canadian squads squaring off for the Cup:

PROLOGUE TO THE FINAL

For the second year in a row, the Flames had finished the regular season with the NHL’s top record. In 1988, they’d won their first-round series against the Kings, only to be swept by the Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division final. Two years earlier, they’d made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, falling to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.

But in 1989 – their second year with Terry Crisp as head coach – the Flames proved a more resilient squad. And they had to be right away; In their opening-round series against Vancouver (a team that finished with 43 fewer points in the standings that season), Calgary lost key defenseman Gary Suter in the first game with a broken jaw, then found themselves pushed to the brink of elimination as the Canucks forced a heart-stopping seventh game – and overtime – and yet managed to move on thanks to astounding goaltending from Mike Vernon and the series-winning goal that banked in off Joel Otto’s skate.

TERRY CRISP, HEAD COACH We really dodged a bullet in that first round. You’re that close to being gone and maybe never getting another crack at it. When I look back, I think there must have been a divine destiny somewhere in the first round, because Vancouver took us right to the wall.

CLIFF FLETCHER, GENERAL MANAGER The pressure of the first round nearly did us in. We weren’t the hockey team we had been over the course of the regular season. We were very fortunate to win that series. Mike Vernon had to make three outstanding saves before we managed to shovel a goal late in the first overtime.

AL MACINNIS, DEFENSEMAN If Mike doesn’t make those saves, we don’t move on. But when we got by Vancouver, that’s when I think that pressure was relieved from us, and we felt just felt that, ‘Man, we’re really on our way.’ After that, we lost three games total in the next three series.

TERRY CRISP After that, the guys just put it into gear and away we went. Read more

Why P.K. Subban drinking beer out of “the Stanley Cup” is a complete nontroversy

Adam Proteau
P.K. Subban (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

There are garden-variety nitpickers, and then there are nitpicking hockey fans. Whether it’s their sheer volume of nits picked or their ability to find and pick nits where it wasn’t believed any existed, puck-loving pedants are a cut above most others. So it should surprise no one that Subban’s playful weekend in Montreal – in which he drank beer through a straw from a replica Stanley Cup at a Just For Laughs comedy event (see video below, starting at the 3:50 mark) – has some people grumbling.

That’s because the superstitions surrounding the Cup have grown to ridiculous levels. We’ve known for years now how averse NHL players are to touching sport’s most beautiful trophy, but when you can’t even have a little fun with the award that represents the pinnacle of success in your line of work, something is seriously awry.

It needs to be stressed that the Cup used at the Just For Laughs show was a replica. That fact alone should be enough for the complainers to cram it. But as we all should be aware, virtually everything Subban does comes under fire from deranged fans – in some cases, out of jealousy; in others, because of his race – and this is but another sad example. Read more

Milan Lucic on ‘pins’ and needles preparing for 2014-15

Ken Campbell
Lucic

The wrist injury Milan Lucic suffered in Game 7 of the Boston Bruins second-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens is healing quite nicely, thank you very much. But the ignominy he and the Bruins suffered in that same game, well, that’s taking a little longer to wear off.

Shortly after the Bruins lost Game 7 of that series on home ice and were bounced from the playoffs, Lucic underwent surgery to repair the wrist, which he said later got jammed in the first period of that game. Doctors just recently removed the pins and while Lucic has been able to do some lower-body training so far, he has not been able to do any lifting. He hopes to start very soon now that the pins are out of the wrist and it’s on its way to healing fully. Read more

Which franchise will be the next to win its first-ever Stanley Cup?

Wild-Blues

We recently sorted out our Yearbook predictions for 2014-15, which included projected standings and which team will win the Stanley Cup. Without giving it away, our anticipated winner has been to the promised land before. Which mathematically, should not be surprising. Only 12 of the NHL’s 30 teams have never won the league title and it’s hard to say who will be next. When the Los Angeles Kings won their first Cup in 2012, they broke a streak of futility that had stretched back to 1968 when the team originally entered the league. The following teams would like to join them:

Read more

Don Metz’s cameos always paid off for Maple Leafs

Don Metz

For almost a decade in the 1940s, unobtrusive career-minor-leaguer Don Metz strived to become a full-time NHLer with the Toronto Maple Leafs alongside his starry big brother, Nick. But poor, beleaguered Don endlessly failed.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, over a nine-year span, Don, a Saskatchewan wheat farmer, became only one of three Toronto skaters to play for five Stanley Cup winners. (Hall of Famers Turk Broda and Ted Kennedy were the others.) “I was lucky that way,” Metz told me during a telephone interview I conducted with him more than 10 years ago.

Don was more than lucky. He was the right Metz at the right time with the right team. His older brother excelled for the Maple Leafs over 518 games compared with Don’s paltry 172 contests, but Nick never could top Kid Metz’s feat. Read more

Congratulations Dean Lombardi, now get back to work

Ken Campbell
Dean Lombardi

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi has done an outstanding job of keeping the core of the best team in the NHL so far. The key, of course, has been an uncanny ability to identify which players are essential to the cause and which are expendable.

And Lombardi has done a masterful job at that. Only six players that were a part of the 2012 Stanley Cup team were not around to hoist it two years later – defenseman Rob Scuderi, forwards Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson, Simon Gagne and Andrei Loktionov and backup goalie Jonathan Bernier. It would be difficult to make a case that the Kings have missed a single one of those players and that the ones with whom they replaced them, both from acquisitions from other teams and within the organization, aren’t actually better. Read more

On the anniversary of Brett Hull’s infamous goal and team’s low point, Sabres’ future is looking blindingly bright

Brett Hull (Joe Traver)

It’s been 15 years to the day that the most infamous game in Buffalo Sabres history began: On June 19, 1999, the franchise squared off in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final – and when it ended in controversy and anguish in the wee hours of the next morning, with Brett Hull’s foot, the rest of him, and his Dallas Stars teammates celebrating their championship on the ice of the then-named Marine Midland Arena (now known as the First Niagara Center), Buffalo fans might have believed they were at their nadir.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, the next decade-and-a-half hasn’t been much better. Sure, they enjoyed a brief resurgence after the 2005 lost lockout season, making two appearances in the Eastern Conference Final. However, in fourteen seasons after playing in the 1999 Cup Final, Buffalo missed the playoffs eight times and made it out of the first round on just three occasions. More often than not, the biggest news coming out of the organization has been about players leaving, ownership changes and management blunders.

That’s the bad news. The good news? Virtually all the circumstances that went on to affect the Sabres in that time have changed. Consequently, the next fifteen years are likely to be much better to Sabres fans. And I mean much better. Read more