I still remember it like it was yesterday. It’s amazing what a Stanley Cup Championship can do to a hockey fan.
Exactly 20 years ago today, the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals to clinch a 4-2 series win and become the first (and only) team to win the Stanley Cup on the road in Montreal. I’ve never cheered so hard and so loud and for so long as we did that day.
There’s a great article from SLAM! Sports about it today. For posterity, I’ve pasted the text here:
Hockey fans love to blame the mid-90s’ New Jersey Devils for inventing the trap.
But as the seconds ticked off the clock in Game 6 of the 1989 Stanley Cup final series at the historic Montreal Forum, Calgary Flames centre Doug Gilmour thinks he caught a glimpse of the widely despised defensive system.
“There wasn’t much of a trap system in those days, but I think if you watched that last 30 or 40 seconds, it was pretty much the trap,” Gilmour said.
“Just try to stop them and get it out.”
Nobody in Calgary was complaining.
Not with their beloved Flames, protecting a two-goal lead after Gilmour scored his second of the game into an empty net, on the verge of beating the Montreal Canadiens to capture the Stanley Cup.
Gritty winger Colin Patterson and co-captain Lanny McDonald had also lit the lamp for the Flames.
Now, they just needed to keep the hometown Habs from mounting an improbable comeback.
“It was like, I don’t care if we never touch the puck –we just can’t let them ever get close,” McDonald said. “But when that buzzer went to end it, oh my God, what a great feeling.
“When you’re beat up from a long season but you know you’ve accomplished something that has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and sacrifice along the way, it’s pretty cool.”
It was 20 years ago today, on May 25, 1989, the Flames celebrated that 4-2 victory over the Canadiens, capping what remains the only championship season in franchise history.
It was the culmination of an exhausting journey — a quest to catch up with the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers, to silence the doubters, to deliver a Stanley Cup to Calgary.
Towering defenceman Al MacInnis claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy after becoming the first blueliner to win the playoff scoring race, earning the nickname Big Mac.
Gilmour, soft-spoken sniper Joe Mullen and super sophomore Joe Nieuwendyk, who suffered a broken wrist in the second period of the deciding game, scored big goals.
Joel Otto won big faceoffs. Mike Vernon made big stops. McDonald and fellow co-captains Tim Hunter and Jim Peplinksi brought big, booming voices to the locker-room.
That night in Montreal, they celebrated the biggest on-ice achievement of their lives.
First-year assistant coach Doug Risebrough won four rings during his playing days with the Canadiens, but he’d never seen anything like this.
“I remember it distinctly, that it was one nobody would ever forget,” Risebrough said. “It was the whole experience — for the fans, the city, the team … It was all firsts. It was a first for everybody.”
The 1989 Stanley Cup final was a rematch of the ’86 championship and a showdown between the NHL’s top two regular-season squads.
The Flames, fresh off their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign, barely survived a first-round scare from the Vancouver Canucks before breezing past the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Canadiens, backstopped by hot-shot netminder Patrick Roy, couldn’t stop them, either.
“The playoffs are a little bit like having a baby. Nine months seems like a long time, but when it’s over, you go ‘Oh boy, that was quick,’ ” Peplinski said. “A series goes by awfully quickly and so does two, and three seems to go by quicker than two, and four seems to go by quicker than three …
“It’s like life, it just goes so fast. You need to really, really enjoy it.”
Enjoy it, they did.
They celebrated with their wives, girlfriends and parents. They celebrated with the owners, scouts and support staff.
As the team boarded a charter back to Calgary, assistant trainer Al Murray snipped the locks on the Stanley Cup carrying case so they could continue to celebrate with the shiny trophy.
The party was on.
“I think (the party) is still going on, in some ways,” Nieuwendyk said. “It went on for the entire summer. We had a lot of good times — no question.”