ELRR Graveyard

This blog is no longer active. It's pretty much just a bunch of drunken idiocy mixed with senseless ramblings. A more refined blog can be viewed at riraho.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Legend of Wayne Gretzky

Springtime, 1993.

The Los Angeles Kings enjoyed quite a postseason in the NHL playoffs. It began with victories over Calgary and Vancouver. The suprising Kings were led by all time greatest hockey player ever, The Great One Wayne Gretzky. Even with the Great One, the Kings were overacheivers to say the least. Along with Gretzky, the Kings were sparked by sniper Luc Robitaille, a very young Rob Blake, and better than he had any right to be goaltender, Kelly Hrudey. The victories over the Flames and Canucks were impressive, but awaiting the Kings in the Campbell Conference finals was a much tougher task. There, the Kings met the mighty impressive Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs were led by Wendell Clark, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour, Glenn Anderson---all in their primes, and rookie sensation goaltender Felix Potvin. The best Toronto team in 20 years. The Kings would have to have the greatest effort in their team history to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

The series that followed was a classic battle. Big goals, bigger hits, drama, everything that makes hockey the greatest sport. The underdog Kings suprised everyone with a gritty effort, but after 5 hard fought games, the Maple Leafs led the series 3-2. The teams entered Game 6 in Los Angeles, with the Leafs needing one win to move onto the Finals. The Kings needed a win, just to make it to Game 7 back in Toronto. Wayne Gretzky was held to little production in the first 5 contests. The Los Angeles media, and the entire nation of Canada seemed to think Wayne had lost his touch, lost his leadership and ability to be the difference in a big game. The Great One knew he would have to step up if the Kings were going to get past the Maple Leafs. While the Kings prepared in the L.A. room before their do or die game 6, Wayne Gretzky addressed his teammates. Knowing they needed to win or see their season end at home, Wayne called out his teammates. He asked for their help by giving their best effort infront of the home fans. The Great One asked them to win game 6, and he would take care of game 7. Inspired by their captain's words, the Kings battled through regulation and took the Leafs to overtime. Now it was truly do-or-die. One goal for the Kings, they get their game 7, one goal for the Leafs and they are in the Stanley Cup Finals. The end of the game came with a Kings rush into the Leaf zone. Luc Robitaille found himself in the corner with the puck, and saw a teammate infront of Potvin. He threaded a pass infront and found Wayne Gretzky for the winning goal. Robitaille and the Kings had come through for the Great One, and they were headed back to Toronto for the decisive game 7, and a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 7, Campbell Conference Finals. In historic Maple Leaf Gardens. Canada, and moreso Toronto, the hockey capital of the world, was seething in anticipation. The city was hungry for their first trip to the Finals since the 1960s. The nation of Canada hungry for a final between the Montreal Canadiens, who had already advanced, and the beloved Maple Leafs. Despite netting the game winning goal in the previous game, everyone still wondered if Wayne Gretzky could put up one more great effort and push his team to victory. It seemed that, despite the effort of the rest of the Kings, it was The Great One who was going to have to win it for Los Angeles.

The Game 7 that followed lived up to the anticipation. The game came off like a play, and was the last truly great hockey game played. The scoring began mid way thru the first period. The Leafs were on the power play, but an errant point pass was knocked clear by the King's Jarri Kurri. The puck slid loose and was picked up by the Great One. He and teammate Marty McSorley rushed into the Leaf zone. Gretzky fed a perfect saucer pass over a Leaf defenseman's stick to McSorely, who in turn made a nearly equal return pass to Gretzky who scored a short handed goal past goalie Felix Potvin. The Kings were up 1-0, and made it 2-0 later in the first when Tomas Sandstrom scored a goal set up by Gretzky. The period ended with the Kings up, making it look like they were going to upset the favored Leafs with ease. The beggining of the second period saw the Leafs battle back with goals from captain Wendell Clark and later Glenn Anderson to tie the contest. The Leafs had stolen the momentem the King's had enjoyed. Los Angeles coach Barry Melrose sensed the game was slipping away from his team, and signaled for a time out. He tried to settle the upstart Kings, and subside the Leaf's edge. Back from the stoppage, the Kings did not respond. The Leaf's dominated the next minutes of the game, and it seemed it was a matter of time before they took the lead. The Leaf's sustained a long rush in the King's zone, but another pass was broken up, and picked up by Gretzky. He fed a pass to defenseman Rob Blake and followed him into the Leaf zone. Blake left a pretty drop pass for Gretzky, but as Wayne neared the puck Leaf Kent Manderville closed in. In an instant Wayne let the puck pass thru Manderville's poke check, gained possession and moved toward Potvin. Wayne's beautiful move on Manderville left him alone in the slot, and he blasted a slapper past Potvin. Now 3-2, the Kings stole the lead and the momentem, and silenced the partisan crowd as the second period ended.

The begginning of the third period saw the resilient Leafs tie the game in the first minute off a Wendell Clark goal. The game was now knotted 3-3, and the rest of the third and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was hanging in the balance. The teams battled back and forth to the 15 minute mark, when scrappy forward Tim Donnelly scored a rebound goal to give the Kings the edge 4-3. Seconds later, with the Leafs fighting for their season, Gretzky stole the puck and moved into the Leaf zone. Wayne circled behind the Leaf net, and saw that no teammate had joined him on the rush. Gretzky saw Leaf defenseman Dave Ellet guarding the front of the net, and Wayne made a split second decision to backhand the puck off Ellet's skate. The puck bounced off his skate, past the shocked Potvin and into the net, giving The Great One the hat trick. The goal was huge for the Kings, because the Leafs would not go easy, getting another goal with a minute left to make it 5-4. The final minute ticked off with the Leafs scrambling in the King zone to tie the game, but time ran out and the Kings had won. They had made their first Stanley Cup Final. Wayne Gretzky finished with 4 points, including a Game 7 hat trick--a feat that hasn't been matched since. The Great One, who said he played the series like he had a piano on his back, had silenced his critics and dashed the hearts of everyone in Toronto. True to what he told his teammates, he had taken care of game 7, being the difference in one of the NHL's greatest games ever.

Current TV: Jay Leno
Current Snack: pretzels


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home