Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Where were you in '93? (And some Zezel memories)

Down Goes Brown has a reminder: Kerry Fraser still owes Leaf Nation one Stanley Cup.

It is 16 years to the day of Wendel Clark's greatest game and Wayne Gretzky's quote, unquote accidental high stick on Doug Gilmour. OK, so as injustices go, it's pretty small-scale, but it was as close as the Leafs have got to the Cup since you-know-when.

The amusing part is it only became a big deal after the fact, when the Leafs lost Game 7 on home ice two nights later. What everyone forgets is that fateful Game 6 started at 10 p.m. (it might have been 10:30). It was after 1 a.m. in Ontario when Gretzky high-sticked Gilmour, then scored the overtime winner a few seconds later (the L.A. Kings had started OT on the power play, but there's no need to look up the fact the Leafs had six more power plays in the series, 33-27). The way it's remembered is the next day, almost no one in school (I was in Grade 10 in the spring of 1993, but was able to grow a reasonable facsimile of a playoff beard) knew what had gone down.

Meantime, and there is no easy way to segue, it is hard to fathom the sad news about Peter Zezel, who was the second-line centre on that 1992-93 Leafs team. Kurtenblog had a very nice post about Zezel, touching on the fact he had potential to play pro soccer. Who knows, maybe if he had been born 20 years later, he would have ended playing pro soccer in Europe.

He was a memorable player, cool last name, solid two-way game, and by most accounts, was a good person. (A personal favourite bit of Zezel trivia is that he was an extra in the Rob Lowe hockey movie, Youngblood. Zezel was the Hamilton Mustangs played whom Dean Youngblood takes off before the final faceoff, so he can fight the other team's enforcer. Only in Hollywood do hockey enforcers play centre instead of on the wing.)

Zezel cut his playing career short to support a niece who was dying of blastoma. How many people would do that? Not to be preachy, but is noteworthy that as Sun Media reported, Zezel donated his organs, which more people in Canada should do.

Hockey loses Zezel (Lance Hornby, Sun Media)
Zezel's little niece gave mom the last tulip; Player knows he did right thing by leaving season for dying girl (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver Province, May 19, 1999)


eyebleaf said...

Here's my take on that fateful night:

Dennis Prouse said...

Oh please - are Leaf fans STILL whining about that? Gilmour dove like a European soccer player trying to get the call. Fair enough, as that is what all NHL players are trained to do once they feel a stick in the grill. He didn't get the call. Big deal -- there are literally dozens of non-calls over the course of a game, and I'll bet the Leafs benefitted from more than a few during that very game. If you wanted to apply the strict rulebook definition of hooking and holding, for instance, how many Leafs would have been penalized over the course of that game? Plenty. Different era, you say? Precisely.

The other reality is that the Leafs had Game Seven at home the following game. The home team typically wins Game Seven at home -- that's why you fight for home ice. The Leafs, OTOH, choked in that Game Seven.

The following year, BTW, the Canucks' Trevor Linden got smacked in the face with a Messier high stick right at the end of Game 6 of the Finals. That one was worse because it was deliberate, and took place far away from the play. No call, of course, because it was the playoffs, and it was Messier. Deal - that's just the way it is at playoff time. If you can't fight through adversity, go home.

sager said...

Losing Game 7 was the real burn, not the non-call. That's why the latter only became a big deal after the former occurred (and as DGB explains, it's a myth there was any conspiracy to help L.A., since like I pointed out, the Leafs got more PPs in the series).

eyebleaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eyebleaf said...

Sorry about above. Commenting fail.

Here's what I wanted to say:

We Leafs fans still got screwed. And when our whining annoys people like Dennis, it just fuels the fire, and makes us want whine some more.


Dennis Prouse said...

Why don't they put an oldtimers' game together, and settle the score that way? Heck, McSorley and Wendel can drop the mitts again. It will be like old times. Sort of like Rocky and Apollo having one last fight in the gym at the end of Rocky III.

sager said...

I was thinking more like in The Best of Times, when they replay the Taft-Bakersfield game.

eyebleaf said...

That's a fantastic idea. But only if Fraser isn't the referee.


Pension Plan Puppets said...

It's funny that fans of other teams always have to chime in on posts about the Leafs to offer up their two cents as if they have never complained about anything in their lives.

Dennis Prouse said...

It's just that Leaf fans are so easy to mock. (When you come into another team's building and boo their captain, you kind of put a target on your back.) You have the most obnoxious, pompous group of fans in hockey, making the appointment of Brian Burke as your GM entirely appropriate. Crying about the officiating is the traditional lament of losers everywhere, so Leaf Nation becomes a caracature of themselves by carrying on like this. "Laces out, Dan!"

kidkawartha said...

The comment above this one just perfectly illustrates and confirms PPP's case. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Sen's or Hab's fan. Now watch-
"It's just that (Hab's) fans are so easy to mock. (When you come into another team's building and boo their captain (Sundin, Gilmour), you kind of put a target on your back.) (The Hab's) have the most obnoxious, pompous group of fans in hockey, making the appointment of (Gainey) as your GM entirely appropriate. Crying about the officiating is the traditional lament of (candy-ass teams like the Habs) everywhere, so (the 23 people who make up the Sen's fan base) becomes a (sick joke of a group of fans) by carrying on like this. "Don't forget your smokes, Carey!"

sager said...

Dennis cheers for the Canucks.

Tim in London said...

Tim in London cheers for the appropriate use of apostrophes.