Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Four Games all with the same 6 – 5 score

January 24, 2006 is a bitter sweet day for the entire world of hockey let alone simple fans of the Vancouver Canucks. On that day in hockey history Mario Lemieux retired as a player for the final time. My tendency to mark the passing of this moment in time is to remember three games played in September 1987 as arguably the best hockey ever played by the best players to ever play. The venue was the Canada Cup. The finalists were Team Canada and the Soviet Union. Canada’s team featured both Wayne Gretzky and Super Mario playing on the same team and eventually the same line. The Soviets had the KLM line (Krutov, Larionov and Makarov) at the height of their careers. The support cast for Team Canada included Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey who were joining Gretzky from the then three time champion Oilers. As well Mike Gartner, Doug Gilmour, Dale Hawerchuk, Larry Murphy and Ray Bourque rounded out team.

The Soviets won Game One 6-5 in OT in Montreal. The remaining two games were played in Hamilton. They also both ended in 6-5 scores with Team Canada retaining the Canada Cup with the better end of a three games series two to one. What is more important is how those games were won.

In Game Two at 10:01 of double overtime Super Mario scored the winner. He was set up by Gretzky who recorded his fifth assist of the game on the play. This game was in many opinions the greatest game ever played. One may have felt the earth move that night but what was to occur two nights later cast Wayne, Mario and the Canada Cup into the annals of hockey history.

Canada fell down 3 – 0 and 4 – 2 in Game Three. But they battled back with pure skill unlike the pure intimidation that was required to win in 1972. Canada was up 5 - 4 starting the third but the Soviets pulled even again. In the dieing moments with the score tied 5 – 5, Wayne and Mario took to the ice. They gathered the puck up off a face off in their own end and Wayne rushed down the left wing. Along with Larry Murphy they broke in three on one. The Great One hit The Marvellous One with a laser pass inside the Soviet blue line and Mario took his place as a legend of the game. With 1:26 left in the game, from the slot, Mario blew the puck by Soviet goalie Sergei Mylnikov. It was the prettiest play in the highest of pressure situations on the biggest of stages. If you are a true hockey fan close your eyes and think big goals. You see: 1970 Orr floating in air after the OT winner over the St Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup; and Wayne blazing down the wing, over to Mario, bam, Canada Cup stays in Canada. Big celibration on the boards in those classic one half a red maple leaf on white jerseys. The order is immaterial.

Four games 6 – 5? Oh yes on January 24, 2006 the local Can-knuckle heads dropped a game to some team called the Columbus Blue Jackets (CBJ’s) by that same 6 – 5 score. In doing so they disgraced the game. On the day after Mario retired the Nuck’s get no more mention other than “hey guys Detroit Thursday. You better think about waking up."

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